I woke up this past Sunday Morning with a lot on my mind. When I opened the Internet on my phone, I was bombarded with social media commentary from the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. fight, as well as a plethora of Nate Robinson memes, clowning the former NBA player’s failure to deliver in his highly anticipated boxing debut. Although I’m a fan of all three athletes, I couldn’t help but wonder how many folks switched the channel to witness the real life boxing match where countless teachers, school leaders, and students are getting TKOed at the hands of COVID-19! While millions of folks spent their morning creating memes, I embarked on my own challenge and searched through Google to discover the names of all the educators and students who have lost their lives to the virus. In a one-hour span, I was able to find 48 individuals who fit that criteria.
Shortly after this discovery, I went on Instagram LIVE to share my personal thoughts about the pandemic and to affirm the lives and sacrifices of the 48 individuals I discovered. All of these educators showed up every day for their school communities only to be rewarded with the kiss of death. They were champions for young people and beloved by their communities. For many of them, they sacrificed their bodies for school districts that already viewed them as expendable employees.
As you may or may not know, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos has mandated that chief state school leaders should push forward with state standardized testing for the 2020–2021 school year in spite of the fact that COVID-19 numbers are continuing to skyrocket nationwide and thousands of students & educators have either contracted COVID-19 or have lost their lives as a result of this pandemic.
Although I’m not teaching this year, I’m still an educator at heart. I still have many friends and former colleagues who are struggling, overextending themselves, and facing the pressures of getting their students ready for standardized testing under these life-threatening circumstances. Their performance evaluations and livelihoods are tied to how their students perform on standardized tests continue to be culturally biased and disenfranchise Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students in our education system. I also have former students who are still struggling to adjust to remote learning and are fearful of returning to school with COVID-19 rates on the rise. Knowing all this, I have to speak up on behalf of them.
With a changing of the guard in the White House, we have a golden opportunity to make our collective voices heard like never before. Teachers for Good Trouble, a newly-formed education non-profit organization founded by Atlanta-based high school Economics & Government teacher Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, consists of educators, parents, and community stakeholders calling for the nationwide cancellation of all standardized testing as a means to prioritize the safety of teachers and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more about the organization, you can join the group on Instagram or Facebook. You can also perform the following actions:
1. Sign & share the petition with your educator friends, parents, family members, colleagues, elected officials, and community stakeholders.
2. Register for the Teachers for Good Trouble Virtual Summit on Tuesday, December 8th from 8:00–9:30pm EST. During this summit, a selected panel of education leaders will discuss a plethora of hot topics such as school reform, standardized testing, and the effects of pandemic leading, teaching and learning.
3. A national “Day Without Teachers” has been scheduled for Tuesday, December 15th. On this day, there will be a series of national teacher rallies & protests taking place to call for the cancellation of standardized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Confirmed cities include Atlanta, DC, Newark, New York, and Los Angeles. More cities will be announced in the coming days. Atlanta-based citizens can register for their rally at this time.
4. Donate or buy Teachers for Good Trouble merchandise from the teacher lifestyle apparel line, Alfred’s Laundry. Proceeds from the sales will create a teacher safety net fund for teachers who may be adversely affected as a result of their protesting, demonstration, and involvement in the rallies.
5. Get involved with the organizing efforts by joining the private Teachers for Good Trouble GroupMe group.
If any part of this piece resonates with you or hits your spirit, I humbly ask that you do, at least, one of the aforementioned actions. It will go a long way in saving the lives of our educators and students. To be clear, this is not a demand but rather a request for your support.
In closing, as you spend time with your family members during this holiday season, please be mindful that the families of Honestie Hodges, AshLee Demarinis, Tom Slade, Demetria Bannister, Dez-Ann Romain, and so many others are still grieving over their losses.