The divine Ms. Fran Brock has been a teacher for 27 years, all of which have been at Burlington High School, her alma mater. After a brief stint in English, she committed her career to the teaching of history. Over the years, Brock has served as a lead teacher and has advised the BHS Register. Her stalwart commitment to rigor and content is her legacy in the classroom. Brock served as the BEA president from 2016-2018, a tumultuous time. She led the BEA and our community through two imposed contracts and the teacher strike! For this service, we are indebted.
We must be the movers and shakers. We need to break from the old paradigm and be the creators of the new paradigm.Fran Brock
Words from Fran:
Of what are you most proud in your career?
I think really working with my department and developing a really good world history program.
I’m really proud of earning the National Board Teacher Certification. It’s not easy and it taught me a lot about how to evaluate myself. And I think that teachers aren’t really good at that. The National Board taught me how to do proper and constructive self reflection.
In terms of BEA, I’m proud of how we did have a strike, and the way that we all managed to keep it civil. For such a radical action, we were very successful at keeping it focused, and educating the public and bringing the community with us. Everybody should be proud. I have a clear conscience in terms of what we did, why we did it and how we did it.
What will you miss?
Working with the kids. Sounds trite but I always enjoyed working with kids. In a way we learn more from them. What I’ve always loved is when we’re covering a subject and they didn’t know about it before and they get indignant. I just love it. For example, when we study the 1927 Tulsa Greenwood massacre, every time I have kids read up on it then they say, “How come I don’t know this?” Well, you’re learning about it now.
What advice do you have to pass on?
Not to rush. To slow down. Think about what you really want the kids to learn or to understand and slow down. It’s only through repetition that any of us learn anything. We live in too frenetic a world right now. We have access to more information than any generation before. It requires more focus and more patience to understand what we have access to. Slow down. Be more focused and more patient.
We have to continue and really put focus on the humanities. Because as a society our civility and our civilization is based on how we understand ourselves and our society and the loss of humanity kills us. We’ve seen too much of a loss of humanity. You learn that through literature, history, philosophy, the arts, music.
What are your plans for the future?
Maybe doing some mentoring of new teachers because I think I can help young teachers learn how to manage a classroom and create curriculum.
I may get back to doing some writing.I really want to learn how to bake.
I have a dream. I want to take my sewing machine out of moth balls and learn how to sew again.
What hope do you have for the BEA?
I think the union has to become more proactive in sitting down and strategizing where education should be going. If we stay too bogged down with the traditional contract and the traditional structure, we won’t affect the necessary changes. We’ve got to start being proactive to ensure we are paid well,and have decent compensation and working conditions but that we also are treated and behave as professionals. We need to sit at the table as leaders in education, ready to face the changes that must be made because the paradigm in educating our young people has changed. We need to invite board members and administrators to work with us at confronting the paradigm shift. BEA teachers, we have to do it. It’s crucial that teachers really take their profession seriously. What’s crucial is the integrity of education, maintaining the integrity of teaching and learning. Some of that has gotten lost. The onus is on teachers to offer up solutions and new strategies, especially with what we’ve just gone through. It has to be the teachers who are given time and support to sit down and map out solutions. We have to figure out how to have administrators trust us so we can work constructively together.. We are teachers; we can and must teach administrators and the community to understand what changes are needed to insure quality education in this brave new world.
We must be the movers and shakers. We need to break from the old paradigm and be the creators of the new paradigm. Blow up contracts and maybe classrooms to ensure fairness and respect for teachers; and equity and quality education for the students.
Words from Colleagues:
As a new teacher, some of the most meaningful learning moments came from Fran Brock during five minute passing periods. Between classes she would throw out an idea for a lesson, explain her thinking, and then ask for my feedback. I am a third year teacher, and Fran Brock assumed that I had some perspective to add to her lesson. I will always aspire to Fran’s level of professionalism, curiosity, and scholarship. Andrew LeValley, English teacher, BHS
I just love Fran Brock. Fran is a no nonsense teacher who sets the bar high and works tirelessly to show every student how to get there. She is one of the last of a generation of teachers that prioritizes knowing content deeply. Fran is constantly learning and creating and pushing herself as a professional. As such, she pushes all of us to hold ourselves accountable to the highest professional standard. Fran has little time for people who diminish the profession with mediocrity. Frankly, I am unsure how BHS will fare without her. Fran also has a great sense of humor and perspective. She knows when to let things go and when to dig in and hold her ground. We saw this when Fran reluctantly stepped up to lead the BEA in 2016. She was like the Gladiator when Marcus Aurelius tells him he must be emperor and Maximus says that he does not want this honor. Aurelius tells him that is exactly why it must be him. Fran stepped up because we needed her and our cause was just. She had never held a role in the BEA before and she didn’t blink. We are all indebted to Fran for taking up that burden! Ultimately, I know I will miss having her kindred spirit right down the hall. Beth Fialko Casey, English teacher, BHS
History needs a story to engage the mind of students and teachers alike, and Fran is an expert at weaving that narrative. Nationally board-certified in history, she has been at the forefront of re-designing the BHS History curriculum three times in three decades, declaring most recently that she wanted to “blow it all up” and make it more lively. Burlington students are now in their fourth year of benefiting from the redesign she led. Fran finds practical, relatable materials to tell history’s story, having students trace the geographic and historical origins of their favorite foods, or asking them to understand the movement of commodities like cod and coffee through the centuries and the longitudes. Coming at the study of history from a background in journalism, her standards for writing are high, yet she is able to impart those writing skills in an accessible manner. She has led her department and mentored a whole crew of history teachers– a department that now must find its way in the world without her, yet will be grounded in the best practices she has coached. Dan Hagan, History teacher, BHS
I won’t forget the first time that I met Fran, because it was me introducing myself that I was going to be her Vice-President. From there, though, I’ve come to talk and learn from her over the years. Having really been a student of history and government, we began to talk more and more about that topic. In her classroom, I noticed that she had been doing some work on the Mongolian Empire, and I had just started doing some learning about that myself. A new topic to talk about! I had some students wanting to research that and she was the first person I went to. I have learned so much from her both in my union role but more so in how to approach and think deliberatively through things. The thing that I have loved, though, besides teaching advice, is talking about history, learning about Burlington, Chicago, the Mongol Empire, and so much more. I really enjoy our visits at Feldman’s and hope to continue that for quite some time. Thank you so much for everything, Fran! Andrew Styles, 5th Grade teacher, EES
During one of our BEA planning sessions prior to the strike Fran shared this picture of her mother leading a strike at CVU from the early 70’s. We were having a cup of coffee and I’m nearly crying as I thought of my dad who was an Industrial Arts teacher and Union member in New Jersey during the late 60’s. Here we were fighting similar issues our parents did decades earlier. Bob Church, Automotive Science & Technology teacher, BTC