I’m the biggest bully around around.
By Levi B Cavener
About this time three years ago, my state’s superintendent pointed the finger at Idaho Education Association’s members as being responsible for a reprehensible act of vandalism and intimidation. He told reporters that those “union thugs” were to blame, despite the fact that neither he nor the investigating Nampa police department had even a modicum of evidence to base this assertion on.
I am a member of the IEA, and at the time I was left more than a bit steamed. I was steamed that a person, or perhaps a group of people, honestly thought that positive discourse could be achieved through blatant intimidation. I was even hotter that the person who was supposedly leading my state’s profession was castigating all IEA members as somehow being involved under an umbrella of guilty by union association. Even more, I felt the pressure boiling that somehow my association with the organization branded me as a thug.
Yet, that very week a student in my classroom also called me a thug. When I inquired why the student came to that conclusion, the student articulated a surprisingly apt response.
I always made the class work, he reported. Everyday. Free days were unheard of.
I never let students slack off. In unspeakable evil, he reminded me that I had no problem taking away electronic devices. Hoods and hats weren’t allowed. I even (gasp) enforced all the other dress code rules.
Other atrocities were listed: I had an actual seating chart that I expected students to utilize. I made students repeat a word they stumbled over while reading over and over until they arrived at the correct pronunciation. My goodness, I even took the time to ensure the students understood the vocabulary they were reading.
And truly, in the largest violation ever to be committed in a classroom since the invention of public schooling, I expected students to read and write daily. In an English classroom of all places! Can you imagine the trauma I was causing?
Yes, truly I was a thug. An academic thug. I had no problem arming my students with literacy skills. Unabashedly I required that they treat myself, their peers, and even themselves with respect. I pushed them to work harder, to expand their thinking by making connections to other texts and their own lives. I was even known to call home when I was concerned. Talk about hard knocks.
I learned to embrace the counterculture’s slang. It’s been reported I say “word” after analyzing a particularly moving sonnet. I allowed students to rap to demonstrate their understanding of rhyme scheme. Yes, thug life was alive and well in my classroom.
So let me take this time to briefly excavate the time capsule of the 2011 legislative session to remind my fellow academic thugs of some events that they shouldn’t forget as new legislation is drafted and new election campaigns are waged.
Those “thugs” Luna were referring to were outraged not just at the package of legislation that was rolled out. They were upset that they were completely left out of the process or given a chance to provide input.
They were upset that the reforms that were rolled out were not mentioned during the election campaign which made them feel that their leader had been disingenuous.
They felt like the state leadership was actively working to alienate teachers, and this schism only became more pronounced when ill-tuned disparaging comments like thuggery were coming from their elected officials.
A funny thing happened though. Somehow those thugs turned out to share the same beliefs as citizen thugs. In a truly brazen instance of thuggery collaboration, Idaho’s thugs overwhelmingly repealed that set of legislation.
So there are a few things this academic thug wants to share with our state’s leadership. Continue your effort to include us thugs in your decision making including elements like the Governor’s Task Force that brought stake-holders together.
For example, when you announce that the only item from the task force recommendations you won’t root for is increasing teacher pay, and then you suggest those dollars set aside for an increase will be used for anything other than increasing those salaries, it make us academic thugs believe that we are back in 2011.
Treat everyone in our state’s classroom with respect, even those teachers like me in the IEA. It’s strange, I know, but when we all sit at the same table more seems to get accomplished.
Be transparent during elections. If you think you have an innovative new idea, then platform on it. Don’t pull legislation out of a magic hat that you have never mentioned during the campaign.
Oh, and make sure you support the awesome academic thugs in the classrooms across the state who invest their lives to help their students achieve their dreams.
Thank you, Levi B Cavener for writing this! Thank you for articulating the reality of some of frustrations we have been forced to deal with thanks to our State Superintendent of Public Instruction and some legislators along with our governor. Their thuggery has wasted too much time, energy, money, and ultimately the education of the children of this state! May we all have good memories and keep those who are supposed to be serving the public’s interests accountable. I am an IEA member and proud of it!