18 Jun 2013

Why A Public School Teacher is Choosing to Get Arrested

Posted by dandydust

Holly Speaks at Moral MondayToday, June 17, 2013, North Carolinians gathered for the seventh “Moral Monday” protest at the North Carolina Legislative Building.  Since late May, thousands have protested the General Assembly’s ultra-conservative agenda and over 450 people have been arrested as part of a growing wave of non-violent civil disobedience.  Holly Marie Jordan is a public school teacher from Durham who was arrested as part of today’s protest.  Her testimony is below:

As a public school teacher in North Carolina—not an “outsider” that Governer McCrory alleges is at the helm of the Moral Monday protests, but an educator grounded in and devoted to the community of Durham—I am ardent to stand up for the future of my students by getting arrested at Moral Monday.

When I came out of college straight into teaching seven years ago, I believed that teaching English was going to be about, well, teaching English.  I thought that my task was to impart in my students a love of, or at least a less fervent dislike for, Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Within a few short weeks I learned how mistaken I was.  Sure, there was still room for Boo and the Bard, but teaching was really about providing stability, respect, and compassion to teenagers desperate to learn in a system that was failing them.  It was about talking to K about why he shouldn’t drop out.  It was about visiting J in the hospital after her miscarriage.  It was about tutoring 15-year-old T so he could move past a fifth grade reading level.  Because that was what my students needed, that’s what teaching became for me.  It is what teaching means for thousands of teachers, counselors, teaching assistants, and other public school workers across the state, as we prepare our students for successful futures, not just academically, but in every way.  We work long past our salaried hours to create instruction that challenges our students to grow as critical thinkers.  We advise clubs where our students can express themselves.  We coach sports to promote health and self-discipline.  We counsel the crying, laugh with the happy, protect the bullied, and motivate the discouraged.  We are honest with our students about their struggles and successes, and about our own.  We do all this not for professional gain but because we firmly believe that these children are worth everything we can give them.  We do it because what we teachers want is no different than what our students need.

Holly Handcuffed

What the General Assembly wants, however, is in stark contrast to what the children of North Carolina need.  In their pursuit to destroy public education via budgets that cut funding, school vouchers that favor private companies, and the elimination of master’s degree pay, the legislature shows how little they care about the quality and longevity of those educating our kids.  I am a seventh year teacher whose pay is frozen at the second year rung of the pay scale, in the state with the 4th worst teacher pay in the country.  I have seen dozens of excellent teachers move on to other professions or other states so they could sustain themselves and their families.  At my school, students regularly ask new teachers “will you be here next year?” because they are so used to our terrible turnover rates.

It’s not just education legislation that is bent on destroying our most vulnerable communities through persistent instability.  The General Assembly is curbing voting rights, letting unemployment benefits expire, and repealing the Racial Justice Act, all while giving tax breaks to corporate giants.  My students aren’t naïve.  They know that their communities are being marginalized.  Last year, a student at our school was murdered.  In the weeks that followed, my students and I cried out in anguish and anger and asked the toughest questions one could imagine: Why did this student end up where he was?  What could any of us have done?  How can we keep this from happening again?   Our teenagers know to ask these critical questions, but the leaders in Raleigh have failed to ask them: How do we make sure justice is served for all North Carolinians?  How do we transform struggling communities into havens of health and stability?  My students create solutions, like organizing a march to the early voting polls and memorial for their classmate.  Meanwhile, politicians ignore humanity and count capital.

Next school year, as I always have in the past, I will tell my students every day that they are important and loved.  What I wish I could tell them is that the people in power agreed—that our General Assembly believes in their futures just like I do.   Unfortunately, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to do that.  I will get to tell them, however, that thousands of North Carolinians testified to their worth during the Moral Mondays, and that a movement that believes in them is coming.  This movement is not the work of “outside agitators,” as the Governor believes, but the best and bravest that our state has to offer.  It’s a movement led by and fighting for the well-being of 9.7 million insiders—the people of North Carolina who desire a healthy, sustainable future in our state for generations to come.

Holly Jordan has been a resident of Durham and an English teacher in Durham Public Schools for the past seven years.  She is a National Board Certified Teacher and a member of NCAE and People’s Durham. 

Photos courtesy of Andrew Nye of the Winston-Salem Journal.  For more information about today’s protests see this article.

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25 Responses to “Why A Public School Teacher is Choosing to Get Arrested”

  1. So proud of Holly and the other teachers for standing up for the students! Our country used to value education. I do not understand why this has changed so dramatically. Teachers should be allowed to do their jobs AND be paid fairly for the wonderful hard work they do!


    Terry Sue Roper

  2. Thanks for putting so much of yourself out there! As a retired school counselor, I whole heartedly agree with your beliefs. I, too, quickly learned that all students need the care and attention that they don’t get anywhere else that will assist them to be successful citizens. I admire risk takers like yourself that are willing to fight for what is right! Kudos!


    Bonnie Stevens

  3. As an experienced educator new to NC, I have taught in a middle school here since January, I am amazed at how low this governor has stooped in the past seven weeks. Pick up the ball governor before you get hit with a line drive between the eyes come election time. Wake up North Carolina!! These legislators are going to kill your education system so that only the Rich can be educated. Act now or kiss your childrens futures goodbye!!


    Dan Suse

  4. I retired this year from teaching at age 67. I started teaching at 52. For one-third of my career, my salary was frozen, and the government worked to enlarge class size at our school. It is true, the legislature & governor DO NOT care about either our children, or the future of the State of NC. They are only interested in narrow, partisan ideology, and supporting their corporate bosses. Thank you for protesting. I hope to join you soon.


    Howard M. Du Bose, Jr.

  5. Thank you, Holly Jordan. You are the teacher I want every child to have, all the way from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The teachers I knew during my career in Wake County Schools were made of the same material. We worked incredibly hard to meet the needs of our students. We came early and stayed late and used our weekends to plan and make materials so that the children in our classrooms would learn more effectively. We went beyond the schoolhouse doors to talk to families, to comfort overwhelmed mothers and grandmothers.

    Every year, when administrators trotted out the newest reform, the flashiest evaluation instrument, the latest computer program, we sucked it up and changed what was already working, because we didn’t want anything to interfere with the children in our care.

    Thank you for what you do every day —- and I know all about these “summers off”. Thank you for speaking up, for putting your passion and commitment on the line, Ms. Jordan. You, as well as the young people you teach, are our future. I am grateful.


    Kathy Bundy

  6. I retired two years ago after 32 years teaching in NC. I can only pray for continued courage and strength for you and your peers as those years unfold for you. I also pray that the picture of you being cuffed is picked up by all the wireservices. It is eloquent and heartbreaking. With gratitude…Christine Merriman


    Christine Chambers-Merriman

  7. I have so much respect and honor for you Holly. I am proud to work with you. Your words are true and your actions heroic. I’ll be there next time! As I marched with you for the early voting and for the memorial, I will stand by you and all teachers for this fight for education. The legislature needs to take the blinders off, look at the whole picture and not just what they choose to see. I love teaching and my students, they deserve more from their government.


    CarolAnn Zar

  8. Holly never questioned should I, could I, would I make a difference? She just went out on Moral Monday totally committed as an educator and did. Unfortunately this seems to be the only way to get the attention of the NC legislature. Her students are her life. She thrives on seeing them succeed. All any of the protesters are asking for is a little assistance from their government.


    Terry Herold

  9. Without question, public school teachers are under siege right now by a ultra conservative group, who know almost nothing about teaching kids. We must unite and be loud. Unlike them, we know our students’ needs and we’re partners with their parents and communities. Suddenly, “data” is bad. Personalized instruction is bad. Teaching the “whole child” is bad. 21st Century skills are bad. And don’t get me started on the insidious Common Core standards. Would these groups tell a surgeon how to perform surgery or a minister how to preach? Of course not. We’re easy targets, busy investing our lives into teaching the children we love dearly. No more….I’m ready to fight back. Holly has my respect – just sorry that I couldn’t have joined her.


    Melissa S.

  10. I had the privilege of hearing your brief but powerful speech at the church yesterday and being jailed with you. Your article should shame every one of the legislators who are working against the interests of teachers and students. Thank you for your clarity, your courage, your commitment and your caring.


    Betsy Bickel

  11. I was in the crowd when you gave this speech. It was powerful, moving and heartfelt. I was holding up a sign which said on one side, “Respect Teachers”, and on the other, “Education First”, and was cheering you on. Thank you!!


    Norman Hill

  12. Holly, I am very proud of you. I saw you being interviewed on the news this evening and have just read your interview in Durham’s People. Holly, I just retired after a 30 yr career. I am so glad I left the N C schools and began work with Ft Bragg Schools. I was paid as a professional and protected by a Master Labor Agreement. After 21years with DoDEA, I am now ready to team up with Bob Etheridge and others who are ready to take our schools back! NC can become the progressive state it once was! Keep up the good work!


    Liz White

  13. This Pittsburgh, PA middle-school English teacher salutes you, thanks you, and has shared your beautifully written blog. You are an inspiration.


    Kipp Dawson

  14. [...] Also arrested on Monday was Holly Jordan for protesting the proposed cuts to education. “What I think is most important is that the liberty of millions of North Carolinians is being restricted by the bills that the legislature keeps bringing to the table.These issues are at the heart of the future of NC; as a teacher of NC’s future residents and leaders, I am most concerned for their freedom,” she said. Her full statement can be found here. [...]

  15. I too salute Holly and the other brave people who have protested in Raleigh each week. As a teacher in Durham for 40 years my heart breaks as I see our Republican legislature pass bill after bill to undermine our public school system. The majority of public school teachers I have had the privilege to work with care deeply about their students and work incredibly hard each day to help these students thrive. Our country was founded on principles of providing opportunity for all citizens. Unfortunately our current legislature leadership and governor only care about the special interests of the groups that helped elect them . I hope people in this state will wake up in the 2014 election and vote them out.


    Lori Marriott

  16. I am a middle school teacher in New York, and I have always been so proud that my oldest daughter has followed in the tradition and is a teacher in Durham. Today I released another wave of 8th grade graduates with waves of that feeling I get each year–the feeling that says, did I give them enough? Will they make it? Could I have done more? But never before have a felt their futures to be so uncertain, and so out of control. Never before have I felt that there may be more forces working against them than for them…and the exercise in futility that is public education will undoubtedly deplete them of every ounce of joy for learning and any semblance of passion for expanding their academic lives. Serendipity tossed me this article across my desktop and I actually cried as I read it to a colleague. She is a school media specialist who’s position has been eliminated next year– victim of budget cuts … What is happening in Raleigh, is happening in one way or another in every state across the map– Our values have become skewed, our priorities distorted. She is going on a job interview today–because she is a teacher… and no matter what…she will continue to serve children as her vocation dictates and I, I will continue as well. As teachers we made a solemn promise to do what is best for our kids. She will not quit. I will not quit. Thank you Holly, thank you Durham Teachers for staking the claim- and setting the precedent, and thank you to my daughter; I am prouder than ever.


    Peggy Sheehy

  17. The NC legislature should be paying attention to this story if they want to remain in office.


    Todd Finley

  18. [...] is what it means. It means joining the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina. It means fighting for your students [...]

  19. [...] the teacher who wrote this post, it means: I am ready to be arrested and go to jail for my students. That’s putting students [...]

  20. [...] Click here to read the entire post via Why A Public School Teacher is Choosing to Get Arrested | People’s Durham [...]

  21. [...] is what it means. It means joining the Moral Monday protests in North Carolina. It means fighting for your students [...]

  22. Solidarity from WI. Our public schools have been under assault since Scott Walker’s ascendance to the throne. Your legislators are as shameless as ours. No amount of insults, shaming, exposure or protest will sway them from their ALEC plotted course. Your only hope is to vote them out. Watch your elections carefully. Our gerrymandered districts pretty much guarantee a republican majority for most of our near future. That should be plenty of time to completely destroy our schools, deplete our natural resources and ruin the environment. They are like a plague of corporate controlled locusts that will leave only devastation in their wake.


    Chrissy Morrissey

  23. Thank you for saying so eloquently what many NC teachers feel. It is depressing and discouraging sometimes to feel so marginalized, and yet I think of my students and ask, “What can I do better for them next year?”


    Lee Besley

  24. I am so very proud of my high school English teacher! You are showing students and previous students everything you taught us… to educate ourselves, be ourselves and value ourselves. Job well done. – - Racquel Bethea class of 2010


    Racquel Bethea

  25. Holly, you are my hero! It makes me cry to see how brave you & your colleagues are, how fiercely you defend the kids you love and the learning you know they need. Thanks for taking up the banner! Leslie (Max’s mom :-)


    Leslie Doukas

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