Over the last three school years we have had to adjust to so many things. We have re-imagined teaching and learning under a dizzying collection of guidelines, protocols, and shifting demands. We have had to maintain our own health and safety while working to support students and our own children through this new approach to learning. We have had to cover for our colleagues and friends during a pandemic when the substitute teacher force nearly evaporated.
Throughout it all, while I never quite felt prepared enough to always get it right, I knew that those challenges were worth it. Always, somewhere within the past three years, I could find satisfaction and pride to balance my fatigue and frustration and fear. The job was harder, but we were still doing good work.
However, increasingly over the last year and a half, the adjustments we had to make when the pandemic began, have given way to an exhausting wave of attacks. We have been asked to patiently listen to poorly-informed perspectives about what teachers could and should do better. We have been asked to silently accept insults to our profession. We have been asked to uncritically censor ourselves and our lessons and our learners for fear that we might challenge one of our learners to think in a way that is somehow and inexplicably wrong. And most intolerably, we’ve been asked to accept that we are part of a larger conspiracy to brainwash, indoctrinate, and harm our children, and when we explain that we aren’t, we are called liars.
It’s a lot to take. It almost got to be too much for me – and I know that for these and other reasons, it became too much for some dear friends and colleagues to take. So, when our current school board made the brave decision to counter the argument that CRT was being taught in our schools by not adding to the regulation and the policy that we would then have to live with, I felt some oxygen rush back into the room.
I felt trusted.
While two of our current board members continue to bring up and entertain challenges to Social Emotional Learning and the concepts of diversity, inclusion, and equity, five members have consistently stood with our schools, with public education in general, and with teachers. Heather Jackson and Robbe Lehmann are up for reelection in November. They have an established history of supporting schools by visiting classrooms, by thoughtfully investigating and asking questions, and by engaging personally with teachers and kids. The candidates who challenge them seem to believe that rather than trusting us teachers to fulfill the Jeffersonian dream of public education for an engaged democracy, we need to be controlled.
The third seat, will be filled by a new board member. Roberta Butterfield joined the race when there was only one candidate running in her district. As a former employee of DHS and the mother of two recent DHS graduates, she wanted to provide voters with the choice of a candidate who values what public schools do. Butterfield faces a primary election in June. If one of the three candidates secures 50%+1 of the votes cast, that candidate would win the seat on the board. If there is no majority winner, then the top two vote recipients would be on the November ballot.
My 22 years as a teacher in this community, and what I have learned in the last three years have shaped my view on this upcoming election. As I work to check myself and my own biases at the door when I arrive every day, I want school board members who will do the same. For this reason, I feel called to take a more active role, and to share what I know, what I’ve learned, and what I believe. I can help answer questions, I can share my perspective, and I can help organize like-minded citizens. Please consider adding your voice in support of public schools and those of us who do the daily work of loving, guiding, and teaching the children of Douglas County.
Mena Dedmon is an AP U.S. government & politics/honors English/student leadership teacher at Douglas High School