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The Indignant Teacher Goes Viral…Thank You, Mary Calamia!

November 21, 2013

Hello again, America!!! It rained in Dubai today – the first time since last December, I’m told, and because of that the principal announced an early release at 10 am. We were all gone by 11:15. I think of the days in Boston when there was a foot of snow on the ground and we risked life and limb to come to school. Just another benefit of living and working in the desert, I suppose.

I am grateful today and thrilled that my little blog has exploded over the past few days – ever since I posted a testimony written by LICSW Mary Calamia of New York, I’ve had almost 200,000 views in the past four days alone. I cannot and will not take credit for this, bubecause of doing so I realize my voice could be heard.
I have a message for every elected official in the US, and I would appreciate all who read this please do his/her best to pass it along….
What is happening in the States in terms of education is a disaster. It needs to be stopped – and NOW. Do I consider myself to have all the answers? Do I think of myself as the end all, be all, as far as teaching and learning go? Absolutely not. But I DO consider myself having the experience, education, and understanding to say that this is all wrong. I say this as a parent before I say it as a teacher, by the way.
My sons are 9, 7, & 6 years old; they are in grades 4, 2, and 1, respectively. What is my priority in life? As any parent, it is their happiness, and for kids of those ages, school is the basis of their worlds.
Last April I resigned from the Boston Public Schools after 15 years in the classroom; I just couldn’t do it anymore. Watching the deterioration of the schools since NCLB was passed, I could not fathom staying in such a toxic world for another 20-25 years. I was born to teach; there was never any question about that. But now – at 39 years old – I had no idea who I was or what I could be. Blogging was great, but it didn’t afford me to put any food on the table.
Over the summer, I realized that – because I’m far from being independently wealthy – I needed to work. Because I honestly don’t know how to “be” anything but a teacher, I struggled with what I would do. Work at Yankee Candle, I thought? Yes, I imagined myself happy being surrounded by my favorite knick knacks and the wonderful scents, but, really, would it pay the extraordinary bills I had coming in? And honestly, with a Master’s Degree in Special Ed, would I be happy doing that?
My good friend Andrea was moving to Abu Dhabi to teach. I looked into schools in the United Arab Emirates – a place I truly was totally ignorant about – and decided to send along my resume to schools there. The pay and packages they offer Western teachers was pretty amazing, and, while never having lived outside of Massachusetts, and being the least spontaneous person I know, I decided I had nothing to lose.
By the end of the summer I hadn’t obtained a position yet, and so I opted to homeschool my own boys, rather than make them succumb to what was happening in the public schools. It wasn’t an ideal situation, and not something I “wanted” to do, necessarily, but because of what I knew the alternative to be for them, as a parent I felt I had no choice.
Two weeks into September I had a Skype interview with a private school in Mirdif, Dubai. I was offered a job on the spot as the Special Ed Coordinator at a private school here, and accepted. I will say it was the best decision I have ever made, both from a parent’s point of view as well as a teacher’s.
My children are thriving today. We have been here for almost two months now, and, for the first time in their lives, they LOVE school. No longer am I trying to deal with one or two of them screaming and yelling about not wanting to go to school on a daily basis. Quite the contrary – on weekends they tell me they wish they were at school!! The school uses the IB program (PYP and MYP), which has been challenging for me to learn, but they have settled right in. Better still, they are studying Arabic for close to two hours each day, and picking it up at a pace that I can’t even understand. Even after just two months, they are “talking” to each other in Arabic.
They are tested, yes, but on material that has been TAUGHT in the classroom. And that is what the problem is. The government needs to understand that the vast majority of teachers are those who, like me, were BORN to teach. We need to be trusted in what we can and will do. We need to be allowed to test our students on meaningful material in order to assess how well we taught them, and make changes as we see fit. The reality is, none of us went into teaching to get rich or famous. Come on. We teach because we want to better the lives of the next generation, and for no other reason beyond that. I can’t even wrap my head around what’s happening at times.
I intend to blog more when I have internet service at home, and doing so won’t cost me the fortune that it does now by buying 3G service, but I’m having trouble obtaining my work visa and can’t until I have. But for now, here is my bottom line. Bill Gates (& friends) should NOT be dictating what is happening in the schools. He (& they) now “own” the media, and voters need to understand that. Common Core, PARCC, and so on are making him (& them) richer and richer – While the rest of America struggles to make ends meet from one paycheck to the next. Shame on him. Please let people know. It astounds me still that, until I resigned and started reading and her links, that I hadn’t a clue Gates was behind it all. It sounds so far-fetched, but it’s the horrifying reality. It’s time we take back our democracy. I want to come back to America someday. I am totally homesick – I miss my parents, brother, sister, and friends, and hate not being there at times. I am a Bostonian through and thorough, and living in the desert couldn’t be further from who I am or what I know. But at this point, I really have no choice, although I realize I’m so fortunate for this opportunity.
I have one final thing to tell America. When I was coming here, the typical reaction was, “What do you mean, you’re going to the Middle East??? It’s so dangerous there – be so careful!!!”
The reality is, the Emirati population – the “locals”, Muslims, through and through, are without question the warmest, kindest group of people I have ever in my life met. They will bend over backwards to help you out. They are nothing like what we have been forced into ignorantly believing. I have never experienced the kind of people in America that I have here. Bottom line – believe nothing until you know for yourselves – about schools, or life in general.

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  1. Catherine Ellis permalink

    I too moved to the Middle East and couldn’t be more excited about teaching and enjoying a very welcoming and receptive society of warm, kind, and loving people. I too was a teacher in the states and made the painful choice to leave. I just could not take the deception of the American educational system any longer. I moved my family across the globe and I am so thankful everyday that I did.

  2. Angela Buckbee permalink

    You inspire me each and every day!! Wow!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Hal H permalink

    “In fall 2013, about 50.1 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools.” –

    I always want to know numbers. For instance, if 6% of people think something is true that has a certain meaning, different from 18%, which is different from 40%, which is different from 63%, etc., of course.

    If there are for instance about 35 million households with school age children, then 100,000 is of course about 0.3%, thus less than 1 in 100.

    What we would need to see to see real change: probably if more than 20% of families objected to something, then it becomes an issue. Less than 10 million families, but more than 5 million families. Just to try to get a sense of things. A poll would be good, but usually you need several polls to access something, since the form of the question is crucial to the result.

  4. Hal H permalink

    As pointed out in the post, the serious problems came from NCLB (no child left behind), and I think specifically in the methods of NCLB.

    That entirely predates Common Core.

    But of course, since Common Core is a long list of things to learn, when you combine it with NCLB, then you get an intensification of problems that arise from NCLB, since the curriculum is more challenging compared to the past for many schools.

    What would Common Core feel like *without* NCLB?

    Probably, like an interesting and valuable list of goals, to which schools, teachers, and parents could aspire.

  5. Mary Calamia permalink

    Cool! 200,000 views? Unbelievable! That’s better than either of us could’ve hoped for! Could you do me a little favor? My last name is Calamia…could you take out the ‘br’? Thanks!

  6. Beth permalink

    My husband has worked in the Middle East for the past 6 years. He too, feels no real threat when there. He says the locals that work along side him are very nice and welcoming and are always happy to share their food, customs and stories with him. He is however, very afraid of their driving and traffic rules haha!!

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