All of us get lost in the darkness/Dreamers learn to steer by the stars/All of us do time in the gutter/Dreamers turn to look at the cars--Peart, Neil 1989
I have this habit of waking up at 5 AM and checking my phone for the latest emails and news. When I clicked on the NY Post app on my phone I saw and read a story about Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, the principal of the Teachers College Community School had killed herself back in April on the same day that someone at her school reported her she had cheated on the standardized tests.
The first thoughts on my mind, as well as condolences, go out to her family and friends. This was a needless, senseless death that never should have been. She is someone's wife, mother, daughter, grand-daughter, niece, friend, principal, teacher, etc... No one has won here except Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Fariña.
As I lay in bed thinking of this, my thoughts went back five years to a teacher in Los Angeles, Rigoberto Ruelas, a teacher that suddenly found himself ineffective due to a Los Angeles Times reporter, Jason Felch becoming the story and not reporting on the story. Rigoberto after he was outed by Felch, committed suicide.
I know there are some out there who no matter what would see this death as some type of vindication towards their goals but I do not. This death if nothing should bring all educators in New York City and New York State closer together and fight as one against the marauders of education in Albany and at Tweed. For whatever Ms Worrell-Breeden has been accused of doing it did not happen in a vacuum and was completely avoidable.
The pressure from Albany as well as from Tweed to more or less tie everyone's job, their pay, their own self worth to whether or not that person can be the next coming of someone's fantasy teacher that only exists in the movies is an impossible ladder to climb for almost anyone. God only knows what was going through Ms Worrell-Breeden. Not only to allegedly cheat, but worse, once confronted with this information, to jump in front of an oncoming B train and kill herself.
This sick, unrealistic method, test, test, test, punish, punish, terminate, embarrass, ostracize, method of educating children and evaluating teachers must end and end soon or we will have many more Jeanene Worrell-Breeden's.
Last Sunday night we were in Corning NY and had dinner with another couple. The wife, who I won't mention, is very prominent in BATs and the AFT. Both her and her husband on two of the most real people I have ever met in my life. In the many topics of discussion that evening we touched on what teachers need and what can or should be done for them.
There are false prophets seeking false profits preying off the backs of teachers that are down to their last act of strength in fighting back against the same forces that Jeanene Worrell-Breeden was fighting.
What support are they given? "Oh here, this is how you file this." Or, "This is what you do when this happens to you." Maybe they get a, "You need to do this." But this is the simple advice.
Now mind you I am all for fighting back and blowing the whistle. But the trick that I learned so long ago is not everyone when they need to fight back can or wants to.
Sometimes the best thing one can do is just to be there. Someone to be there for that teacher to have a shoulder to cry on, someone for that teacher to vent to, someone for that teacher to divert their mind from their troubles. I doubt Jeanene Worrell-Breeden had someone like this. Or someone who could tell her she could have fought back. But the trick between being supportive and being one who can lead someone to fight is a fine line and one must have the EQ to know what is the difference and which one to use.
Teachers and principals are sick if this. Yeah, I said principals. How about this? Educators are sick of this pressure. If we, not them, but WE, do not start supporting one another the best way we can for each and every educator and stop from projecting our ways of settling old scores onto them we will be just as guilty to their emotional and physical demise as the powers that be in both Albany and Tweed.
False hope needs to end immediately to teachers walking the precipice. The testing pressure, the culture needs to end.
The whistleblower did the right thing. For some reason Ms Worrell-Breeden thought she was doing the right thing. But neither of them are to blame for her death. The people to blame are the ones hiding behind the dollars and the sense of self-importance and self-righteousness they have.
I do not want to hear of anymore educator suicides. Enough is enough.
It will and can get better.