Peggy Robertson is an elementary school teacher in Colorado. She is founder of United Opt Out. She is an outspoken defender of children’s right to learn without coercion. She must have been a thorn in the side of her school and district officials, because they eliminated her position.
My position at Jewell was eliminated. In addition, Jewell no longer is a healthy working environment (for teachers or students) and I would not be able to work there unless we were able to return to our previous work as an inquiry-based democratic school. We are now a Relay Leadership School which focuses on teach to the test practices that are not good for children. Relay Graduate School is run by non-educators and lacks pedagogy – it is an embarrassment to the teaching profession. It is unfortunate for Aurora’s children that APS has gone in this direction. It is also unfortunate for the teachers at Jewell who were forced to implement 100% compliance models of discipline with continual teaching to the test and skill/drill. The teachers at Jewell this year (2015-2016) were the most unhappy teachers I have seen in my 19 years in public education. They wanted to file a grievance against the principal but were afraid for their jobs. I no longer can work in such a toxic learning/teaching environment. Aurora unfortunately seems to be going in the direction of “no excuse” charter models which do not develop or support the growth of problem solving citizens. Rather, these charter models, which Relay supports, promote racist practices specifically directed towards black and brown children in urban diverse schools. These charter practices promote the school to prison pipeline. I joined APS four years ago with great hope and excitement because the professional development and respect for the teaching profession in APS has always been excellent; that is no longer the case. I am sorry APS has chosen this path. I will miss my colleagues and the children.
I suppose you could conclude that the public schools of Aurora learned “best practices” from charter schools, which require “no excuses,” tough discipline, strict obedience, and teaching to the test.
Peggy was never one to bend to authority, especially when the authorities were wrong about what was best for children.
In another post, Peg expresses her astonishment to learn that children in her former school have been told to eat their breakfast while sitting on the floor in the hall.
As you all know by now, I am no longer working at Jewell Elementary in the Aurora Public School District. However, I was recently alerted to a new policy regarding breakfast at the school. The school day starts at 9:25 a.m. This year, if children want to eat breakfast they must get there at 9:15 a.m. If they ride the bus I guess they’ll be rushing in the door to eat in five minutes or so as breakfast time now ends at 9:30.
And there’s more. There are two options: the children will be eating on the FLOOR in the carpeted HALLWAY outside the classroom OR the teachers can graciously give up some of their morning planning time and invite the children to come in and eat at their desks.
Let that sink in for a minute. I know your mind is racing, as mine did, as I tried to think through the implications here – and there are many.
The first thought I had was – what would ever cause anyone to even consider – fathom – such a policy, as children eating breakfast on the dirty carpeted floor like dogs? I am horrified that this policy was thought of and considered “rational.”
Then of course, I tried to imagine what that policy might look like in action. Hallways lined with children with backpacks, coats, lunchboxes and juggling milk, juice, cereal and more. I tried to imagine how I would feel as a child if I was asked to eat my breakfast on the floor, without a place to properly set my things in order to manage it all. I thought about how that policy might impact my own personal beliefs about my self worth, if I were a child at Jewell. I thought about the racism that is inherent within the behavior policies via Relay Graduate School. I thought about the way the children at my school are expected to demonstrate 100% compliance, and how this breakfast policy smacks of that compliance. Sit. Eat. Comply. On the floor. Where is the respect for the child? Where is it? How can one create a policy so unkind and so disrespectful of a child?
I thought – are the white children in the burbs sitting on dirty carpeted floor eating breakfast each morning? You know the answer to that.
Peg Robertson is now blogging at Tim Slekar’s website “BustED Pencils.” Now she has more time to write and more time to organize the resistance to insane and harsh policies that hurt children. I am sure she would rather be in the classroom, which she loves.