In the last month of 2007, I finished my first real semester of being a teacher. It was an accomplishment that I chalked up to being my most difficult and most rewarding. I couldn’t wait to start the next year, and I worked all summer to prepare for it–going over the things I didn’t like and beefing up the things I did like. Most of all, I couldn’t wait to spend another year with preadolescents, a group of misunderstood people that needs our attention more than most. The challenge of getting them to see the world the way they did when they were younger was the most important in my book as a science and math teacher, and I reveled in every victory.
I will occupy the DOE in April because that has all been stripped from us. I’ve been through the most disheartening experience as I watched myself and my colleagues pressed under the new weight of heavier and more crushing mandates, which told us that we simply didn’t have time anymore to let our kids find joy and meaning in their learning. If we chose to “go rogue,” and simply close our doors to the orders from above, sooner or later we would be caught and corrected. Not only that, but now our kids were being forced to take more and more harmful tests, and their scores would partly determine their teachers’ continued employment and their schools’ continued operation.
I will occupy because I have to stand in front of the building that makes the laws that were paid for by the corporate education reformers and the tellers of false stories. I have to be part of the voice that collectively says that we know this is wrong. I have to be part of the voice that strongly speaks for our kids and their futures. I have to speak for the profession of which I loved to be a part and tell those who are so deaf to our plight that they are ruining our kids’ lives and the security of America’s future. And I have to be there when our voices tell them that we will not allow this to go on.
Finally, I will occupy to try to share my history and the things I’ve learned with those with whom I have shared so much already. I will occupy in order to learn from them and to gain new contacts and friends as we move forward with our movement. I will occupy to see the eyes of my fellow fighters–to see their caring, their fear, their anger, and their motivation. I know that when I return home, I will be energized to fight harder, and with new will and ideas.
If you haven’t chosen to go, or haven’t really thought about it, I urge you to be a part of this most important of events. We will let the Department of Education and all who work in their sphere of influence that they will not be allowed to take our country or our kids without going through us first. Arne Duncan was only right about one thing: this is the Civil Rights issue of our day. And we will not allow him or his cronies to dismantle what so many freedom fighters before us gave their time, energy, and lives for.
I can’t wait to see you all in D.C.
Kris Nielsen is a former teacher with Union County Public Schools in North Carolina. After his resignation letter went viral internationally, he chose to continue his fight against the trio of powers that are ruining public education for our students and their teachers. You can find his work at http://www.mgmfocus.com. Title and description of presentation: This is How Democracy Ends. Kris will speak about the three main parts of education reform that are working together to do the most damage to our public education system and what we can do to fight back. Kris will speak on Thursday, April 4th at 1 p.m.
Official schedule for our second occupation of the Dept. of Ed. in D.C. from April 4-7, 2013, is available HERE.
Official press release is HERE.
Donations are accepted HERE.
Official poster HERE.