Denver teacher offers her take on Won’t Back Down movie

Won’t Back Down is a work of fiction that looks to parent trigger laws as a strategy for school reform. I want to emphasize the word fiction for anyone who missed it the first time. Much has already been written about the film, for or against it. I will share what I know to be non-fiction, based on my 25 years of practice as an accomplished teacher. These things I know…

I am one of “those” kids. When speaking of kids living in poverty, many people refer to “those” kids. This is not a reason to feel sorry for them (or me) or to make excuses about why we cannot learn. But it is the first step in creating separation between people and factions.

In Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children, she suggests that as long as we consider “those” children as other people’s children and not “our” children, we will never provide all students the education that they need and deserve. Pronouns can mean a lot. I have been one of “those” kids and can speak from experience about what “we” need and what we don’t. But even those whose demographic data is different can help support our children. All of them.

Perpetuating separation and divisiveness maintains the status quo. Pitting parents against unions, teachers against parents, Teach for America teachers against career teachers, veteran teachers against novice teachers and ed reformers against unions ensures that we stay mired in division that simply maintains the situation as it is. Casting blame and shame only perpetuates the false dichotomy of us versus them. Meanwhile, our kids sit by day after day while adults play power games at their expense.

Meaningful change requires collective action. Margaret Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, suggests that, “Real change happens…only when we take time to discover what’s worthy of our shared attention.”

As it turns out, it’s not so difficult to identify factors that are worthy of our shared attention. For example, teacher evaluation must improve to encourage individual teachers’ growth and, when necessary, allow for dismissal.  School leaders need to be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to support teaching and learning. We need to rethink school design so we can tailor instruction to students’ needs.

But creating systemic and sustainable change will require us ALL to work together to redesign the system for our kids. And teachers must play critical roles in identifying solutions—for we will be the ones who bring the changes to life in the classroom each day.

We WILL change the system when we actually muster up enough will to do so. As long as all of the different factions involved in education hold tight to oppositional roles, we will not muster the will to actually change anything. When we REALLY decide that ALL students deserve a quality public education—when that becomes our genuine priority and is the outlet for our energy and motivation— then we will make that change happen. It is as simple as that.

Our kids and our country deserve better.

I, for one, am ready to collaborate. Are you? I don’t care what factions you’re part of, what label you wear, or what your history (or your organization’s history) may have been. I am willing to work alongside all who are truly dedicated to supporting the collective action and systemic change that is so sorely needed by our most vulnerable kids.

Our kids do not have time to waste on adults slinging mud like children. Our kids and our country deserve a better public education system and I intend to help provide it for them.

Who among us is willing to lift yourself up out of the divisiveness, connect around a common vision and create a system that works for all children? While some “won’t back down,” I Will Stand Up for our kids, for our community and for my profession. Will you join me?

Lori Nazareno, NBCT
Teacher in Residence, Center for Teaching Quality
Denver Classroom Teachers Association-CEA-NEA Member

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