Thursday, June 1, 2017

To Our New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: We Plant Seeds by Mimi Ramirez


On days like these there is no reason
to use metaphors and similes,
except to show that my creative writing teacher,
at my public high school,
taught me exceptionally well.

Betsy,

Your smile sits like a white picket fence
surrounding a mansion where the American Dream
comes only to those whose heads rest
on feather pillows with Egyptian cotton cases
fluffed by the help.

Your manicured claws
are not sullied with the callouses of hard work,.
Your only scars are papercuts from
throwing money at problems,Ink stains on your fingers,
but only as deep as your concern
for the sons and daughters of your home state,
where school choice means choosing between
a private school you can’t pay for
and a public school nobody else will.

Let's be honest here:
The only people who should be profiting
from education are the students.
Not the cronies who bought themselves a President
so you could buy yourself a job.
The product of the school system
is education, not a trillion dollars worth of
lifelong debt, a mortgage on a future.

I have to hand it to you, since apparently
you’re accustomed to being handed things.
You’ve done a lot in Michigan's school system.
You can hide anything in fine print
when you don’t teach people how to read.

When you actually teach for a living,
you have to go to bed pretty early, so
issuing orders and announcing policies
in the middle of the night is a cunning stunt.
It must be nice to sleep in while
the Pledge of Allegiance is recited like a prayer
by teachers who don't know if they still believe it.

Your family tree is rooted in private schools
so tightly the branches strangle everything else.
The forest around you is sliced thin into certificates
that carry real weight but are
blown away easily by hot air.
Each of us who had to earn that paper know
that our credentials should be printed on gold,
but if they were worth money, you’d just buy one.

Your first day in office, you tweeted
that you didn't know where the pencils are
in the ivory bunker you issue your orders from.
You can’t hear the scratching in American classrooms
as pencils are sharpened into nubs,
teachers dread students making mistakes
because erasers get used up quickly when
everything around you is just slightly wrong.

The only schools you’ve praised were
built with gold bricks, not cinderblocks and sweat,
according to standards set by the lowest bidder,
lower than the morale of our teachers in a world
where the gatekeeper of knowledge can’t even
explain the rules of her own department.
“School choice.” It sounds nice,
makes perfect sense when you hear it, like
“separate but equal,” or “PATRIOT Act.”

You are the worm in my apple,
polished by an eager student
to grace the desks of teachers
too tired to chew and too busy to eat.
You said something interesting when you
set foot in a public school for the first time in your life.
You said the teachers there were "in receive mode,"
like they weren’t doing anything until you showed up.

But you're right.
We are all in receive mode.
Here are a few things we'd like to receive:
Pay proportional to the effort it takes
to be even a mediocre teacher.
Contracts that don't assume our working hours
are anything less than our waking hours.

Testing that tests how we teach instead of
testing how well we teach the test.
Respect and support from parents, since apparently
we won’t be getting it from you.
Enough of a budget to educate our students
in a clean, safe environment
that isn’t safe because we’re armed
and isn’t clean because we turn away the huddled masses.
Meals for students who could open their minds
if somebody would fill their stomachs.

And time.
Not much of it, just more.
Time should be all we need if
Time is money, money buys power,
And power is a substitute for education.

About the Author: Mimi Ramirez has been teaching Art for 3 years after many small gigs at small art centers. She has wanted to teach since she was 4 years old, and couldn't have done it without the support of her teachers growing up. Her experiences led her to become for her students what she needed as a teenager, and she often challenges her students to challenge anything that affects their future. She believes public education serves all students and deserves respect. She is pursuing a certificate in English, in case art programs are unceremoniously cut, but jokes that only if she can teach poetry.

1 comment:

  1. Good job. Specifically, nice flow and well messaged.

    ReplyDelete