“WHY I TEACH AT BASIS.ed”

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Recently, a fairly well known education blogger published a piece from a parent at a BASIS.ed managed school, BASIS Mesa, criticizing our programs and teachers.

We, at BASIS.ed, are used to such criticism – even when, like this blog post, it contained a number of suppositions and statements that are simply not true.

However, we shared the piece with our faculty and, upon seeing it, one of our BASIS Mesa teachers penned this response, which we thought we’d share with you. Here it is:

After spending a significant amount of time reading a recent post and accompanying comments about BASIS Mesa on an education blog, I began to reflect on why I teach at BASIS and BASIS Mesa in particular. While I know the origins of the blog post, and of the half-truths, misrepresentations, and one-sided views that it contains, my reflection is not about those statements. It instead focuses on the amazing teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and students about which the parent in the post wrote.

These people care. These people, myself included, work hard for our kids. Yes, I wrote our kids because each and every one of them will always be my kid whether they earned 20% or 105%, whether they broke my heart or made my day; they, and their success in both school and life, are important to me, vital, always.

I do not know a single person inside our BASIS Mesa school building that would say anything different. No system is perfect and works for every child, because each child is different, is truly unique. I know you know this.

The BASIS Mesa I know teaches every student who steps through our door. Do they all stay? No. This school (like any school) is not for everyone. But, could they all stay? Yes… and that’s what I love about teaching at BASIS Mesa in particular.

BASIS Mesa is diverse: ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically, educationally, and experimentally. The students who step through our doors are amazing in their own unique ways, not because they are excellent memorizers or regurgitators who study for four or five or more hours each day, but because they care to learn something more about our world. They ask incredible questions, they desire to make a difference, they are passionate, they are unafraid to be themselves, they know how to be silly one moment and in the next dream of a world without conflict. This is why I believe that any student can “do” BASIS. Because any child or any teenager, no matter how shy or self-assured, prepared or unprepared, can simply “feel” or “do” those things. That is, any kid can ask questions, can be curious, can learn to be unafraid, can learn to love to learn.

Every day that I go to work I see one of my kids or colleagues do something amazing. And I love them for it. Now, “amazing” does not have to be teaching a class comprised of only excelling students or teaching a student who earns no less than 97% on every test in every subject. “Amazing” can simply be the moment the light bulb goes on – POOF! — on a difficult concept. “Amazing” can mean earning a passing grade on an essay, after struggling on each previous exam or homework assignment. “Amazing” can mean debating with a peer about a current issue while you eat your lunch, or progressing from understanding what something means to explaining why that something matters. “Amazing” for me was having a student tell me that, thanks to my class, they understand that people have different opinions from their own and how they should always be respectful of that. And “amazing” means hearing from my kids that my caring for them, about them, helps them make it through the tough days, and adds to the good days.

Every student can grow and improve at BASIS Mesa and all BASIS schools — even the ones who decide to leave, or who stay and do not earn all “A’s”, “B’s”, or “C’s”. Every student can learn something that can one day change the world for another person… or merely for themselves… and isn’t that all that a chain reaction takes?

Charter schools generally, and BASIS.ed school in particular, were very new to me moving from Virginia to Arizona. I grew up and received my education in an amazing community in a traditional public school. I was well prepared for my life outside of K-12 education and my goal is, and always will be, to do the same thing for my students no matter where they decide to go upon leaving my classroom. I gave back to the community I grew up in by teaching at my old high school. I love that school and community but each year that I taught there got a little more stressful due to the growing pressures and demands placed upon teachers. The lengthening list of requirements and paperwork — which would typically not be stressful by itself – began to feel like a mountain I could never, ever climb. Many of the demands felt as though they did nothing to help our students grow in their education, but, instead, actually took time away from teaching our students. These demands prompted me to question whether or not I could continue in a job – a job I had always dreamed of doing for the rest of my life — for the next 30 years. And that scared me. Could I feel good about what I was being asked to do when I knew many of the requirements would have negative impacts on my students?

I teach at a BASIS.ed school because this is not the case. Yes, I have numerous requirements and responsibilities I have to meet and it can often be quite stressful — but I am not asked  to do things that take away from my primary role, which is to provide my students with an excellent, and well-rounded, education. Yes, I have an intensive curriculum to teach and it is far from easy. But whether it is teaching AP to 9th graders or a Comp course to 6th graders, I have the freedom to choose how and when I am going to teach the material. There are expectations I have to meet but it is up to me how to get us there – and my expertise is understood, and my passion for my kids is a positive. In my direct experience, this is not always the case in traditional public schools today.

But this is the magic of BASIS.

I get to teach my kids!

A teacher who gets to teach, to focus on teaching!

I get to do things that I know will work best for them. And, guess what? If it doesn’t work, I can change and try something else. This is something that was starting to get lost when I left Virginia, and it broke my heart.

I teach at BASIS because I know that I am doing something good and meaningful. Yes, I could perhaps find this elsewhere, but I have found it at BASIS Mesa. Yes, some days can and will be challenging –but that’s life, and challenges are a part of it, often a very good part. Some days I go home, and beat myself up a bit, while other days I go home on top of the world — but I always return the next day, ready to go again, to try something new, different, or unique because my kids deserve the very best from me.

I made a promise that I would work with each and every kid who sits down in my classroom, no matter what ability level they walk in with, and do my best to help them earn a quality education because they deserve it. My colleagues do the same. Truly, I don’t challenge my kids to reach for the stars because it’s what BASIS.ed requires of them or because a letter on a piece of paper defines who they are but because they deserve to go out into the world with a quality education, prepared for what the future holds… prepared, even, to change the future… to make a positive impact.

The system may not be perfect; I do not believe a perfect system exists. But our kids deserve my best and I have made a promise to give it to them. I, along with each and every teacher in that building, want our kids to succeed.

My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time reflecting and ruminating on the activities, lessons, discussions, struggles, and happy moments that occur not just in a school day but in a single class period so that we can be better teachers for our kids the next second we see them. It’s why I have spent two hours putting these thoughts down on paper. It’s why I am taking the time to articulate how much meaning the students, my colleagues, and what we do each and every day at BASIS Mesa delivers to all of us, and to education in America as a whole. We might not be able to change the world for every student who walks through our door, but I know that we all strive to make a positive impact on the lives of our kids.

And I may not be the one to make the biggest impact on any given student’s life, though I will always try – and, more than likely, someone that I work with will make that impact!

And that is why I teach at BASIS Mesa.

Should you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us at BASISedBlog@BASISed.com.