How One Teacher Took a Stand and (so far) has Held onto His Job
By Mr. Mell
Almost forty years ago I got arrested for protesting nuclear power. Since then I have done nothing but grumble about the things that irritate me. Then came the standardized tests. To avoid getting into trouble, I’ve tried to remain diplomatic (never easy for me) and adopt the “grin and bear it” attitude that prevails at my school.But every night I would complain to my husband about the effects of so much testing on our school and on the kids. At some point he got tired of listening to me and told me I needed to start a blog. A blog? I didn’t want a blog, I just wanted to complain. But I did start one – mostly because I was so pleased with the name that I came up with: graspingatsporks.com.
Nobody except spambots visited, selling Michael Kors purses and Nike shoes. But in a moment of self-promotion, I sent the link to some education bloggers and to Diane Ravitch, who did promote it, and suddenly I had actual people writing actual comments about things that I said. I felt the vitality of speaking the truth, and of connecting with others. The more I read, the more I realized that this battle against over testing is about far more than wasting class time. It’s about the very nature of what public education is and where it seems to be headed.
A former graphic designer, I like designing stuff like bumper stickers, so I decided to make one for my car. Originally, I just wanted one, but I ended up with 1,000. I also created a website, www.TestedToDespair.org, to publicize not just the bumper sticker, but the message. Along the way, I reached out to some other bloggers and found smart, dedicated people who were happy to help me find my feet and my voice.
I have tried to remain relatively anonymous because, despite the scourge of too much testing I love being a teacher. So here are some of the things I’ve done to take a stand while keeping site of the fact that I have a lot to lose.
• I don’t name my school or town but, more to the point, I don’t badmouth them, either. This is not about my school (which I love) or my administrators (whom I admire).
• I have worked pretty hard to keep my real name off my websites and my correspondence. It was fun coming up with an alias.
• I NEVER visit any website (from any computer) at school except to check my email.
• I work from the safety of a pseudonym. I think of the teachers at the Garfield School in Seattle. Would I have enough guts to do that? Maybe someday.
Until then, I remain
Mr. Mell is the pseudonym of a public school teacher. She chose the name from Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield. Mr. Mell was David’s teacher and one of the only adults in the novel who was kind to him.