I earned my B.A. in English Literature, along with my PA Secondary English Teaching Certificate (now at a Level II), from Lycoming College in 2003, and was hired by my first district before I even received my diploma. I taught for three years in a middle school Language Arts classroom until I was hired by my home school district. I was teaching alongside people who taught some of my high school classes. I earned my Master of Education in Educational Development and Strategies from Wilkes University in 2010, and I later earned 60 graduate credits in addition to my Masters. In the meantime, I was teaching grades 7-10 at a very small middle/high school campus and wondering year after year just how much more they were going to pile on us: changing standards, mandatory technology-in-the-classroom training and credit hours, more changing standards, more paperwork for the special education students because we moved to a co-teach setting and my particular building did away with our resource room and social/emotional support classroom, and so on and so on. Each year, I looked at my husband in August and apologized for the chaos and tears and stress that were looming on the horizon. Again.
While I can’t say that I ever loved teaching, I absolutely did love interacting with and getting to know and support so many students over the years. There really is no better feeling than seeing a kid get a concept that you’ve been trying to teach for weeks. There is no better feeling than watching a struggling writer become a confident writer. But, it was the teaching environment that I was immersed in that was not what I had signed up for: I definitely am a supporter of the “Just let me teach” movement. Even during my student teaching experience, I didn’t know how much bureaucracy, politics, and stuff other than teaching would get in my way on a daily basis. I didn’t know it would be a process to talk to an administrator to try to get more books when we didn’t have enough. I didn’t know a parent could alter my entire world because I was offering her student extra help after school and made the mistake of referring to it as “remediation” (her son did not need remediation, and who did I think I was, trying to “remediate” him?) and soon found myself in many closed-door meetings with administration and union reps simply because I was trying to help a kid.
There are countless reasons that I started looking for an alternative to being in the classroom; namely, the insanity of high-stakes testing and the standardized tests that cripple teachers and stop learning in its tracks. When education became more about assessing than about teaching, my passion for an already impossible career diminished. I thought I would get a break from the pressure to get kids to perform when I was hired as a secondary literacy coach for one school year (only a one-year position because the funding was drying up after that) by my district. I thought I would get a chance to be a resource for the teachers who wanted new strategies and ideas, a sounding board for their frustration and anger, and a bridge between administration and teachers; instead, I was tasked with aligning curriculum to the Common Core and found myself jumping through a lot of hoops that were not meant for a person in my position. The best part of that experience was seeing that teachers, who often teach in isolation and don’t have time to collaborate, really need a place to talk TRUTH and a place to go for resources that get them away from the standards and testing and back into teaching for the purpose of learning.
That’s why, after hundreds of students grades 7-11, dozens of PA and national standards, eleven years, five co-teachers, three classrooms, two school districts, and one leap of faith later, I have decided that reading and writing with a roomful of teenagers in this current educational climate actually may be considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment for all parties involved. Joining the world of freelance writing and blogging, I am following my original passion for writing; even better, I have the platform and experience to use my voice to give other teachers a voice and a resource center to help them get back to the business of teaching and learning.
Additionally, when I wrote “An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave” at the beginning of August 2014, I never imagined the outpouring of support I would receive. The letter has gone viral, I have received hundreds of emails, and teachers continue to comment and speak out on the original blog post. In all of the correspondence, one thing has become abundantly clear: teachers need a voice but are afraid to speak up because of backlash from the public and their administrators.
So, I am proud to announce TRUTH In Teaching. I have a passion for helping teachers in every way that I can to combat education reform, high-stakes testing, and the war on teachers. I know this will not be an easy journey, and I don’t expect to influence policymakers and big businesses who are trying to take over public education… at least, not right away.
But, I do hope to keep the discussion that started with the letter going. And, I hope that teachers will feel more confident in joining the discussion to get out the TRUTH about what it’s like to teach in today’s public education system, so that parents and policymakers alike can start shifting the conversation back to education and learning and away from the numbers. This site exists solely for teachers, but I do hope to be able to bridge the gap between educators, parents, and policymakers to advocate for a culture of learning instead of assessing.
In my spare time, I try to keep up with my original blog, Life Under the Ponytail, by reflecting on whatever life throws at me and my ponytail with a whole lot of sarcasm and honesty (yes, those two things can go together) all wrapped up with a neat little “What the Hell?” bow.