The meeting was held by the Portland Area Rethinking Schools group (PARS), a network of teachers who meet around issues of equity and education quality. The group holds a "Thank Goodness It's Friday" pot luck about every six weeks, and over the years the group's teachers have played an important role in education politics within the district, the city, and throughout the state. (See a related article on PARS in this issue.)
My first PARS meeting focused on the effect of a property-tax cut on education and how we could stop the budget-cutting madness. There was talk of publishing articles, signing petitions, lobbying legislators. There were plans for parent meetings and phone trees. It all sounded great. But I was too tired to do more than listen.
That was several years ago. I would like to say that listening to that energetic and committed group got me out of my isolation and exhaustion. But it didn't. Not because it couldn't, but because I wouldn't let it. Instead, I stayed in my classroom by myself, working day and night to create curricula about social justice.
I didn't go back to another meeting - until last year. What kept me away is probably what has kept other teachers in the city from coming, has kept other teachers in other states from creating similar groups. It wasn't that their causes weren't my causes or their goals not my goals. It definitely wasn't the people.
But I just couldn't figure out where they got the energy and the time to have all those meetings. My students always came first. I love teaching, and I put all I could into creative and critical lessons. There wasn't much left over for meeting and organizing and fighting back.