By the time the No Child Left Behind discussions got underway more than a decade ago, I was nearly a decade into teaching. I saw both advantages and disadvantages to the program, not least of which was the crowd of unusual suspects advocating for the legislation. I’d already come to know and love the work of Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and spiritual mother of the concept. In fact, I’d made her book, The Measure of Our Success, required reading for my students. But as the years went on and the policy was used as a weapon against learners and learning, teachers and teaching, I grew increasingly disenchanted with any of the Act’s redeeming qualities. Fast forward to a department meeting in which the subject of “faculty renewal”, a.k.a. replacement arises. Elbowing the colleague sitting next to me, I joke: What if we started giving workshops that Leave No Teacher Behind!
From that moment on to this present writing, the idea began to ferment and morph into something with wings. Between then and now, I have met with and dispatched waves of discouragement. I have proposed and or participated in, designed and or delivered more than a few webinars, retreats, and convocation sessions on the themes of genuine renewal, creativity, resilience, happiness, flow, the soul of a teacher, conscientizacao. Since then, I have contemplated other callings and careers, squirreled away notes and obtained a terminal degree, argued, prayed and sat in alternating poses of abject speechlessness and awe, waiting for a sign. Waiting for something or someone to give. What gave was my health. What I took from the test was a caution. As one beloved philosopher put it, “Don’t just DO something. Sit there.” To that end, I sit here, mindful, writing what few words may come, participating in the venerable tradition of witness passed down to me from Baldwin and Clifton, saints John and Augustine. What I share here is yet a further hope. What I share here is how my soul looks back in wonder at how I got over.