When I was younger, I was always terrified by the darkness of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. It carried an almost apocalyptic sound, as far as I was concerned. It was just frightening. The worst part for me was when the kids would chant the refrain: “We don’t need no education/We don’t need no thought control.” Something about the communistic chanting just scared the bejeezus out of me. It was all very 1984 for me, like I was listening to a musical version of the two minute hate.
Anyway, that song resonates today with a different horror as I consider the contents of a conversation I shared with some colleagues this morning.
We piled into the teachers’ room for our mutual prep, maybe five of us, and the familiar qualms arose, about how, ultimately we are just numbers – not professionals with intelligent ideas. Now, we are incensed at the mayor’s proposition that 8,500 teachers will be let go should the NYS budget pass as it is.
I mean, here we are, all relatively young, many with less than 5 years of experience, potentially on the chopping block, should Bloomie’s apocalyptic vision come to pass. I, more than most, would be affected, given how low I am on the totem pole. But I’m a damn fine teacher, and regarded very highly by colleagues, supervisors, students, and families.
Sadly, though, I’m just a cog in the machine – a brick in the wall, if I may. It matters not that I am willing to work hard for substandard pay. It matters not that I provide unique experiences for my children on a daily basis – including my own content related songs that I write, and perform, for them, or the Mosaic Project (see above). My school loves me, but my employer – the NYC DOE – doesn’t know me from any other brick.
At the localized level – in the classroom – the uniqueness of the teacher results in meaningful impact in so many ways. At the institutional level, where Klein is systematically driving teachers mad with his insistence on test scores and smoke and mirrors achievements, the teacher is a tool. We exist only to make his machine work “well” – a term I use loosely because it describes his standards, not ours. Therefore, he and Bloomberg see no problem in possibly losing a teacher like me.
It’s sad to say that, in so many ways, the message to teachers is: “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.”