Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Caucus of WE: Who's listening?

The merry:
"The more, the merrier." This phrase came to me twice now (through email and voice) via the Caucus of Working Educators (WE), over the last two weeks. For those unfamiliar with WE, it is a social justice caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the AFT-affiliated union that represents staff within the School District of Philadelphia. WE is also engaged in a listening campaign and bid for union leadership.

The timing of "the merry" phrase is good, as the WE General Membership meeting is this Thursday, October 22 at 5:30pm @ Temple U: Tuttleman Learning Center, 1809 N. 13th Street, Hall 105, @ 13th & Montgomery. From the WE website:
  • Save the date for our next WE General Membership Meeting, where we will have updates from our listening campaign and campaign committee-- and lots of conversation on how to keep building the power and membership of our union.
  • If you are not currently a WE member, you will be asked to join before entering the meeting. (But what are you waiting for? Start getting members-only info and invites by joining today:
The anger:
Fig. 1: One model of the Sustainability Compass
I also received a WE email about the focus on "...anger, hope, and a plan" as a means to transform the Philadelphia education landscape. Anger is understandable, and we should acknowledge, rather than suppress, how we feel. For example, last month I visited a high school on Broad Street, and there were signs over the water fountain that warned, "Do Not Drink." Right next to the water fountain was a for-profit corporate vending machine that sold $1 water bottles. The "Do Not Drink" sign has been there for years. What does this messaging convey to students and staff?

I was angry, and I acknowledged that. But focusing on anger is no way to sustain teachers, and hope is a deficit model. I am a much better teacher and colleague when I am merry, and when I have conviction.

The sustainability:
When I think about socio-economic equity, curricular innovation, and sustaining teachers, I am reminded of the sustainability compass (see Fig. 1), something that brings it all together for me. We need healthy schools that have social policies that engage students and staff, provide clean air, water, and food, and foster the capacity of school communities to study and advance systemic wellness.

If we want to advance equity, innovation, and sustainability, we will be more likely to do so through intentional consideration of merriness and anger, and how each influences the decisions we make. Which of the two, merriness or anger, will be more likely to sustain students, staff, and the movement for social justice?

What should WE focus on?