This letter, from my friend and colleague Jenny, should be read by teachers and parents alike. After you read it, share it with a teacher, an administrator, your local School Board, and your legislators. These heartfelt words can help keep the tide turning away from profiteering and back toward what’s best for children.
As I walk the halls and parking lots of our schools I hear your cautious voices, your pleas to make sense of political madness, and your cries to create an educational system that makes sense again. I can see your tired eyes and your worry lines. I know that you are balancing the needs of my children, the demands of rigor, and the pressures of high stakes testing and accountability. I know you feel like you cannot do everything. I know that too often you feel you are failing someone – and most days, you are sad to admit, that it is children whom you fail the most. I see and hear your daily struggles between what is right for children and what is asked of you. And so I am writing to tell each of you to stop. Stop playing a game you will never win and start standing up for children.
You see the children don’t know Marzano, or Pearson, or VAM or FSA or EOCs. They only know you. They don’t remember their spelling words or if they have homework. But they remember your smile and laugh. They know you prefer coffee over tea and a Diet Pepsi after lunch. They’ve memorized each curve and wrinkle of your face and know the meaning behind all of your facial expressions. They carry your words of wisdom or encouragement with them throughout the day – and, if we’re lucky, your thoughtful lessons throughout their lives. The children won’t remember whatever high stakes test is in front of us today. But they will always remember how you touched their heart…how you supported their dreams…how you shaped their world. Don’t ever feel that you have failed to prepare a child, my child, for a test. Let me simply take that pressure away as it is not the measure of your success. I just do not care if my children can shade in a bubble correctly. We do not accept this as an indicator for the teacher you are. And we do not accept it as a measure for the person each child is striving to become.
So as you fight this battle with your inner self and between the forces that impact your day, remember…you cannot be defined by the limitations of a test nor by any perceived successes on a test. You see, to our children you are already more than a test. The first moment you smiled, or laughed out loud, or wiped a tear, or provided a safe place for them to grow you became their champion! So I ask you to stand for our children. Stand up for them during this time of change and be the champion they need. Keep playing in kindergarten! Keep instruction child-centered and developmentally appropriate. Go to recess! Color and paint and build things of beauty. Sing and dance and talk about real life. Make decisions based on the children in front of you!! Stop worrying about state bullies and outside influences because if you can stand for our children we will always stand beside you. We can also be your advocate, your voice, and your hero. We got your back because without it how could we possible expect you to fight for our children! Be brave. Be strong. Be loud. But don’t fail our children…not now. They need you more than ever. Don’t let politics change the teacher you dreamed to be. Because to them…you only fail when you fail to do what is right by them!
And remember these words of support over the next few weeks when parents come to you about concerns with testing, questions about opting out, and refusing to put up with anymore useless wastes of instructional time. Let us stand together as a team! Share in our worries and have difficult and honest conversations with us. Shape our perspective. Teach us. Listen to us, educate us in your truths, and help us find answers that protect and support our beautiful children!
With much hope and respect,
Mother of sixth grade, kindergarten and preschool children in Seminole County Public Schools
Peace for the children.
Peace for their parents.
Peace for their teachers.
(and peace to you, friends)