In 2007, I was given the MetLife Foundation Ambassadors in Education Award for "Supporting School - Community Partnerships" for a research project my students did on the role our school played in the Brown v. Board school integration decision. My students presented their case to the DC Board of Education, City Council, Congressional Black Caucus and the US Senate on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board. A description of their project was published in Writing for a Change and the Teaching for Change publication Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching. The students, their parents and the community were proud, but my principal was evidently not. I was transferred to another school. At Garnet-Patterson MS, where I went next, the principal informed me that she was aware of my reputation as an excellent teacher, but didn’t "want a teacher who is too political or one that taught students to question the status quo.”
After two months, I was transferred to Hart MS. This is my second year at Hart MS. Although the school didn’t make AYP, the teachers work hard to boost academic achievement with the limited support and resources provided by the school system. Although Hart has been restructured, we continue to suffer with teacher shortages.
For as long as I can remember, involuntary transfers of good teachers have been initiated by principals to silence teachers who have ideas that might be different than that of the principal or who teach to promote critical thinking in their schools. Rather than freeing the hand of principals, we need to be holding teachers and principals accountable to a clear definition of what good teaching is, making the process less arbitrary. We need a less autocratic and more collegial culture in schools. I think of excellent teachers like Emily Washington, Jeanette Feely and Art Siebens, just to name a few, who fell victim to arbitrary principal authority. Creative, critical thinking teachers who teach students how to become creative, critical thinkers are rapidly becoming a rare commodity. If we allow this trend to continue, our students will be the losers.