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Friday, June 17, 2016

Survivors wanted


One of my favorite students is leaving teaching today. She emptied her heart, emptied that beautiful soul, gave her children everything she had. The inhumanity of test and punish education reforms took a heavy toll on her heart too big for this see the score not the child education system. So we talked, we cried, and we understood nothing would ever be the same between us. She said I just can't take the test score bullying from administrators another day.  She talked about the Peoples March for Public Education and Social Justice. She is going, but she just can't teach any longer.

 Then she finally she said her biggest fear:
"Please don't hate me? Don't think less of me Dr. Turner,"
Then that ocean of tears released from a broken teacher flowed out. One of my own a thousand miles away, and no way to reach out and hold her.

"How could I think less of you?  

You gave 15 years of your soul to other people's children.  
You who created safe beautiful places for children to learn and grow in this age of children are test scores.
I could never hate you
I no more hate you, than I hate the early morning chorus of birds singing wake up Walking Boy.
You inspire me, lift me, and leave me with endless hope.
We all give what we can, it's not how long we stay it's how much we give.
I understand you must leave. you have given more than you had to give.  You have exhausted all that you have.
I want you to rekindle your fire to do good.
There are many ways to bring empathy and humanity into this world.
Teaching is only one.
Now I am asking you take some of that humanity and empathy you gave so freely to others, and give it to yourself.
Go walk in the sun, dance a little, and rest."
"I am  so sorry sir,
Who takes my place?
Who'll be there in September?"

There will be another.
No more crying,
Be proud of 15 years of selfless giving,
15 years of service to America's most needy children,
Pick up your head,
Stand strong,
Be proud,
Now, go walk into a new and better day,
Thank you,
Thank you,
Thank you."

Who will take her place?

So here I stand at 61, wondering who will take all the places of the exhausted, the beaten down, and the broken. In Night Elie Wiesel writes in " Night" about the words of the prisoner in charge of his bunk on his first night in Auschwitz death camp.  
“There's a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don't lose courage. You've already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don't lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer - or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.”
There is no comparison between the holocaust. But, at 61 I find hope in the works of Elie. He offers us humanity, he reminds us to muster our strength, not to lose courage, don't lose heart, and most of all we are brothers and sisters under the same smoke. Take care of each other. I don't know who will take her place, but I shall be her brother and his brother. 

Liberation from this evil that treats our public schools, children and our teachers like private piggy banks is coming to an end.
I do not know the day.
I can't give you the hour.
Know this one truth,
Justice is coming.

Wiesel said: 
“There is divine beauty in learning... To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.” 

I am a survivor, and so are you, and more survivors arrive everyday.
Justice is coming,
Someone is coming to take her place,
We are the sum total of the experiences and quests of all those educators for justice who came before us.
Wanted brothers and sisters of justice,
Wanted survivors.
Not ready to walk away,
Jesse The Walking Turner

If you want to know what this Walking Man crying is listening to's Van Morrison and the Chieftains Irish Heart Beat "Stay A While With Your Own Ones"  


  1. Many of us old "survivors" -- a little like this young lady -- are no longer allowed inside a classroom. But we have stories to tell! I hope her voice, and the voice of all teachers, young or old, will be heard. Even when the system viciously pushes us out, or makes it impossible to survive inside a modern-day classroom, we can all WRITE, SING, DANCE, FILM, PAINT or PHOTOGRAPH our way to school-reform transparency!

  2. Every one has a voice in the choir of change old, young, those that stay for a lifetime, and as long as they can. Ciedie. change is coming on the wings of those like you who write the revolution to take back our schools.