On Being A Non-Parental, Tax-Paying Educator

Real thing said to me on Twitter: “You don’t have kids, do you?”

The first time someone came after me on social media about my parenting status during a discussion about a particular education issue, I laughed it off. The second time, I got angry. Like really angry. I think that particular exchange was what led to me being blocked in some quarters. The last time it happened, I just felt incredibly sad. The speaker picked up on something I said or didn’t say and went for the jugular. I wasn’t empathetic enough. I didn’t communicate that I understood why she* was so angry. I wasn’t able to convey in 140 characters that she was heard. That I recognized she was frustrated and angry and confused about the changes she was seeing. And because I didn’t say what she wanted to hear, she came back at me in a way that was designed to hurt. Her anger doesn’t excuse it. The topic doesn’t make it ok.

Another real thing. Said several times: “You don’t have skin in the game. You don’t have kids.”

I started working at a summer camp for students with special needs when I was 13. I have my BS in Elementary Education, my MEd in Special Education, all of a PhD in Special Education except for that whole dissertation thing. I’ve taught in several grades and levels. I have my permanent certification. I’ve taken courses in psychometrics, statistics, and test design. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked with teachers, schools, and districts around rubrics, quality assessment design, and assessment audits. I’m published in peer review journals, newsletters, and am working on two books related to quality assessment practices. I have to know how quality assessment works because schools and teachers ask me to help them design better ones. Understanding standards, tests, and assessments is mandatory for my chosen career. A career that I adore, am grateful for, thankful for, and cherish. tl;dr My skin is in it. It’s literally my job to understand these issues.

Thing tweeted at me by someone who was, in fact, not my mother: “Once you have children, you’ll understand.”

Each time it’s happened, I’ve been tweeting with a stranger. I don’t recognize the face and I don’t know the name. Had it been a familiar face, they would have known that I don’t have children because I chose not to have children. My friends know I’m at this point in my life because this is where I wanted to be. If they knew me back in college, they likely remember that brief phase I went through where I announced to everyone that I was going to be child-free. It was a bit obnoxious but it was my truth then and it’s my truth now. I become extra familiar with my gynecologist every five years and I live a quiet life with my husband and cats. If this post does wander past the eyeballs of those who’ve used that phrase in discussions, I’d ask them to consider the impact of those words on someone who isn’t child-free, but is childless. Who wants to be a parent, but isn’t or can’t.

“If you had children, you would see why [Common Core, testing, etc. etc.] is a problem.”

I can do my best to empathize. I can my best to understand that there are things about the system of public education that I cannot understand. I will never sit across from a teacher in the parent chair. This, however, does not mean I don’t get a voice or am not allowed to disagree with parents. This does not mean that a parent’s reading of an assessment is more “right” than my reading. It does not mean I have to say, “you’re right. CCSS is forcing teachers to tell children that gay penguins are better parents than a mom and a dad.” There are teachers, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, and others who work with children without being parents. Being a parent isn’t a pre-requisite for understanding an issue or doing one’s job. At the same time, I know parents who support the Common Core or saw no ill effects on their older children when they took the state tests and sent their younger kids to school on testing day without tears or teeth gnashing. Let’s say, though, that the woman who said the quote above was right. Which group of parents should I, a non-parent, trust? What am I to infer around these issues when one group of parents opposes something another group of parents supports?

“Until [State Ed, the feds, the Governer] listens to parents, the opt-out movement will rise.”

Despite the death of NCLB and the birth of ESSA, 3-8 testing remains. Students will still be taking federally-mandated ELA and Math tests. The Opt-Out conversation here in NY isn’t over. It remains to be seen what it will take for white, suburban parents to opt back into the system, if the ESSA changes meet their demands. And make no mistake, I’m not saying parents shouldn’t speak up or are inherently wrong. Rather, I’m wondering about what we mean by “public education” and to whom that system belongs to. Even if I wasn’t immersed in assessment, I would still be a taxpayer who believes in a free quality liberal arts education for all children. What are the implications when one group of taxpayers is told their voice isn’t worthy enough?

There’s a distinct possibility that New York State is going to create a new set of standards, due in part to a backlash from parents about this thing called Common Core. When that happens, it will mean pulling apart and re-doing 3+ years of curriculum and assessment design. It will mean starting over with a new language and a new framework. And it will be exhausting and frustrating and put even more pressure on teachers. My fear is that it still won’t make some parents happy. I’m fairly confident that it’s going to keep us from, yet again, talking about the concept of “good schools” and the decisions parents make about moving into or out of certain districts.

I’m fairly confident that my right to participant in any of those conversations isn’t dependent upon the status of my womb or a signature on adoption papers.

*It’s always a female presenting Twitter user – based on avatar and name. Male-presenting avatars and names that offer a commentary on my comport speak about my tone or the way in which I approached them with a comment.

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