Replay of an previous rant (July 2009)

A Failure To Communicate In the ECE World…
I’m a “mature” man.  I’ve been around for 50 years now and I’ve “played” a lot of games.  I’ve lost at least half of them.  I’ve yelled, I’ve boasted, I’ve acted, well, like a guy.  Chasing that orange ball (basketball is my favorite game to play) up and down, sometimes for hours, I’ve uttered the occasional inappropriate word or two or three.
And yet, when it really counts.  When “winning” for children is on the line.  When young children need us to shout and scream and be outraged… well, we don’t.  K-12 teachers raise their voices and march for their paychecks and reasonable class siz es (all well and good) – but they are less outspoken when kindergarten students take their english proficiency tests early in the school year, before they have developed a bond with their teachers.  LAUSD teachers comply with Open Court Police demands.  Preschool teachers ask children to name the colors of their crayons so that they may bubble in the child’s response on some form.  Directors implement canned curricula to appease parents that are already anxious about their 2 year-old’s academic progress.  And there are no shouts, no four lettered expletives. 
I know that you are concerned.  I bet that you are maybe even outraged by the trends in the “educational” lives of young children.  So go ahead.  Be inappropriate.  Be loud.  Communicate what you really think.  My heroes know what I think.  Betsy Hiteshew, Gay Mac Donald, Ora Alcox, Moises Roman, Marilyn McGrath to name just a few.  Betsy has come to sit next to me during a meeting, pat me on the shoulder, and re-word my fury into something more professional.  Gay has smiled, and abided my tantrums, knowing that my delivery might need some work, but my advocacy for children was true.  Ora has mentored me, putting me in places where my voice might be heard.  Moises and Marilyn smile and wink.
I know that sometimes you “can’t” say what you really think.  You “shouldn’t” say what you really feel.  I know that sometimes you worry that you might be considered unprofessional.  And hell, there ARE consequences.  I’ve been thrown out of meetings.  I’ve resigned from Boards.  I’ve been “written up” by supervisors.
But Ericka needs you to speak up.  Austin and Diego and Trevor have to take an entrance exam for kindergarten.  Lauren and Kyle will never learn that wonderful song or hear that wonderful story because they were absent yesterday and the script must go on.  Marisol will be labeled, Christopher will be suspended, Shalisha and Mari and Avi will remain invisible.
Because we failed to communicate assertively on their behalf.  Because we didn’t want to seem unprofessional.  Because we wanted to compete for those tuition dollars with the “Academic” programs.  Because we had a damn good-paying job with “the District”.
Teaching is more than that process that takes place between your morning health check and the departure graham cracker.  To teach, one must be willing to advocate for the well-being of the Whole Child. 
When you facilitate children in their early efforts to communicate, to advocate for themselves, you tell him, “Use your words!”  You encourage her to “Tell him that you didn’t like that!”  Well teachers!  Use your words.  Tell the world that you don’t like it when young children are given high stakes testing.  You don’t like it when a one-size-fits-all curriculum is mandated.  You don’t like it when your hard work spent developing a whole, healthy preschooler is tossed away in later years.  Tell the world that you are a teacher and not a technician.
Communicate dammit.
Maybe if we all said it aloud together we could make a difference.  In the meantime, Greg will continue to “act out” at meetings, to get “written up” by supervisors, to be “unprofessional”.  Because the children… these, our children, the ones losing recess and gaining weight… these, our children, the ones developing diabetes and thumb injuries from electronic gaming… these, our children being victimized by politicians and manufact urers… they deserve teachers that will shout out for them.
I’ve probably lost a thousand basketball games in my life… but I’ve never lost my love for chasing an orange ball up and down the court.  And I’ve never lost my love for the children that I’ve had the honor of “teaching”.  And if I sometimes use inappropriate language while wearing shorts and running up and down after a ball, then I will reserve the right to get just a little bit inappropriate with a bureaucrat about the future of childhood. 
And Betsy and Gay and Ora and Moises and Marilyn… well, they are perhaps sometimes disappointed by my choice of words, but they are rarely disappointed in the message.  And I will ever be honored that they believe in me enough to come sit beside me at a meeting and touch my shoulder and wink. 
Gregory Uba,
CAEYC Men In Child Care Chair
BCAEYC Public Policy Chair


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