Skip to content

What Students Remember Most About Teachers

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,

I saw you as you rushed passed me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.

“Oh, fine,” you replied.

But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?

You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do

View original post 739 more words

Two Days After My Latest Post, the Boy from Florida Dies…

There are lots of reasons why I love Diane Ravitch. During the past 9 months, since The Indignant Teacher was born, I have had the pleasure of getting to know her through email and video conferencing. She amazes me. I hope to meet her in real life this summer when I am back in the States, but even if I don’t, I am blessed to have come to know her at all. Like I assume many edu-bloggers likely feel, Dr Ravitch is a mentor – she is an inspiration and a leader in every sense of the word. As someone who has had an extensive (and some may say, impressive) educational history, I can say with certainty that the very best was the one she unknowingly provided me.

Last week, I posted a horrifying story about the boy in Florida who was dying, and with controversy about his inability to take the FCAT. Two days later, I learned, he died. My condolences to his family…as a mother myself, I cannot fathom having to deal with the loss of one of my sons. It is tragic, unspeakable, and unthinkable, and I pray his parents can somehow find the strength to go on.

Diane Ravitch used this case to call on Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush, asking where their priorities are, and challenging them to answer one question. Will they? Unlikely. No one in the Obama Administration is likely to accept any of her offers to have a conversation…why? Because they will lose. They will be torn apart. And they know it. 

The Indignant Teacher hopes that one of these days, someone decides to answer Dr Ravitch. Maybe when that day comes, the tide will finally turn. Until then, kudos to Diane Ravitch, for being the amazingly inspirational woman that she is, and having the (you-know-whats) to fight the good fight, at any and all costs.

People Ask Me What’s Wrong with American Education…Here’s What…

Thank you, Valerie Strauss, for this one…utterly horrifying as it may be…

Parent of dying boy has to prove her son can’t take standardized test

Andrea Rediske’s 11-year-old son Ethan, is dying. Last year, Ethan, who was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was forced to take a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test over the space of two weeks last year because the state of Florida required that every student take one. Now his mom has to prove that Ethan, now in a morphine coma, is in no condition to take another test this year.

Ethan wasn’t the only brain-damaged child in Florida to be forced to take a standardized test; I have written in the past about Michael, another Florida boy who was born with only a brain stem — not a brain — and can’t tell the difference between an apple and an orange, but was also forced to take a version of the FCAT last year. (See herehere and here.) There are many others in Florida and across the country as well.

Why does Florida — and other states, as well as the U.S. Department of Education — force kids with impaired cognitive ability to take standardized tests? Because, they say, nearly every child can learn something and be assessed in some fashion.  Even, apparently, a boy born without a brain.

Publicity last year in Florida about some of these cases sparked interest among some state lawmakers to pass legislation to make it easier for severely disabled students to get waivers from taking these tests. The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter warning lawmakers to keep assessing all children, and one Florida Education Department spokesman told me that “waivers do not apply to students with a chronic situation.” Legislation did get passed but it wasn’t what some had hoped. It allows parents to request a waiver (Michael’s parents abandoned him shortly after he was born, and he lives in an Orlando care facility for children called the Russell House), and the state has set out a long series of actions that have to be taken — including approval by the education commission — to get a waiver.

Ethan got a waiver, but now there is a new obscenity transpiring. His mother sent an e-mail Tuesday to Orange County School Board member Rick Roach and to Scott Maxwell, who has movingly written about Ethan and similar cases for the Orlando Sentinel, that the state is requiring her to prove that her son still can’t take another standardized test and can therefore keep his waiver. The e-mail says:

Rick and Scott,

I’m writing to appeal for your advocacy on our behalf. Ethan is dying. He has been in hospice care for the past month. We are in the last days of his life. His loving and dedicated teacher, Jennifer Rose has been visiting him every day, bringing some love, peace, and light into these last days. How do we know that he knows that she is there? Because he opens his eyes and gives her a little smile. He is content and comforted after she leaves.

Jennifer is the greatest example of what a dedicated teacher should be.  About a week ago, Jennifer hesitantly told me that the district required a medical update for continuation of the med waiver for the adapted FCAT. Apparently, my communication through her that he was in hospice wasn’t enough: they required a letter from the hospice company to say that he was dying. Every day that she comes to visit, she is required to do paperwork to document his “progress.” Seriously? Why is Ethan Rediske not meeting his 6th-grade hospital homebound curriculum requirements? BECAUSE HE IS IN A MORPHINE COMA. We expect him to go any day. He is tenaciously clinging to life.

This madness has got to stop. Please help us.

Thank you,

Andrea Rediske


Did The American Federation of Teachers Really Do This???

Last month, Boston voters elected a new Mayor, arguably with a little help from a mysterious political action committee that dumped $480,000 into the campaign during its final days. One Boston confirmed to the Boston Globe this week that the American Federation of Teachers funded the group’s efforts to swing the race in favor of Mayor-elect Marty Walsh. Walsh denies knowing a thing about it.

The Indignant Teacher isn’t sure that the AFT even looked into what Walsh stands for as far as his education platform read, because as far as she’s concerned, it read as a corporate reform how-to manual. 
Here is his plan:
  • “Marty’s plan is to immediately build on current strengths within Boston Public Schools, and simultaneously develop and implement a long-term strategy based on equity, access, accountability, transparency  and collaboration to provide a top-notch education for all of Boston’s children. Success will require taking a hard look at current practice, the political will to make tough, necessary changes, and the collaboration of families, educators, and partners across the city to realize a shared vision.”
  •  In addition, Marty recognizes the achievement of students with disabilities can be accelerated by participation in inclusion classes with their differently abled peers. The Walsh Administration will continue support for current plans to expand the number of inclusion schools, and will increase support for principals and teachers to learn about co-teaching models, Common Core Standards and differentiating instruction.
  • Embrace and Support the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards – The Walsh Administration will ensure each and every school has a plan to integrate the Common Core State Standards into daily instruction, prepare teachers to teach the standards, and help students demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  • Selecting the next superintendent is one of the most important decisions facing the new administration. It is critical that the superintendent fully embraces the Mayor’s vision and is committed to its success. 
  • Maintain a Mayoral-Appointed School Committee – Marty supports an appointed school committee. This is the best way to ensure a body that fully reflects all the stakeholders in quality public education, including those with direct experience providing education, and those who understand the importance of prioritizing the needs of the whole child in an urban school setting. 
  • Central office departments will be redesigned into streamlined cross-functional units and held accountable for how well they provide support and service to schools. School supervisors will closely monitor schools in order to know which school leaders to support, which to push, and which to grant autonomy so that each and every Boston Public School is among the very best schools in Massachusetts. 
  • The Walsh Administration will focus on “deepening the bench” of potential school leaders who know how to work with teachers to improve instructional practices tied to the Common Core State Standards. 
  • Strong partnerships with local colleges and universities, and support for accelerated programs that prepare teachers for urban schools, such as those offered at the University of Massachusetts Boston, will be developed to supply qualified candidates. Systems and incentive will be implemented to retain strong principal and teacher leaders with appropriate compensation. 
  • The Walsh Administration will be aggressive in working with federal elected officials and agencies, the Massachusetts State House, and corporate and non-profit partners to increase revenues for targeted programs.

He also used the corporate reformers’ favorite catch-phrase “college and career ready” a whopping fourteen times.

Someone please help me understand this one
AFT, WTF were you thinking? To me, as a former BTU/AFT dues paying member for fifteen years, as well as a former BPS parent – never mind a former BPS student herself (Boston Latin School ’91), I cannot fathom why you would think a person with  this kind of mindset should be deserving of nearly half-a-million dollars – much less a half-dollar!
Let me tell you about the second to last bullet. UMass Boston has a program called Boston Teacher Residency, which doles out millions to “recruit” people looking for a career change, offers them a generous package and guaranteed teaching position within the City’s schools for a limited number of years in return. It’s TFA on a much smaller scale, and as far as I’m concerned, should be the first place the City cuts some costs. Someday soon maybe I’ll post about the program at length, but trust me, it’s a disaster that needs to go.
Apparently, AFT disagrees.
Apparently, AFT thinks a mayoral-appointed school committee is the best way to serve Boston’s students and teachers.
Apparently, AFT thinks we ought to embrace Common Core.
Apparently, AFT didn’t do their research very well on this one.
AFT, WTF were you thinking???
And the best part is, the money was donated in the sneakiest of ways – via a New Jersey PAC called One New Jersey, who then dumped the entire sum into One Boston.
The Indignant Teacher is stumped. She thought the AFT was on her side. This is beyond troubling.
Randi Weingarten, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this one. What were you thinking?? 

Massachusetts Halts Common Core Implementation

Massachusetts Halts Common Core Implementation

Thank God they’ve taken a step in the right direction…


Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson describes and explains the human connection necessary for the best learning to take place in schools…corporate reform is effectively eliminating that from every classroom in America. It’s time to end this nightmare before it really is too late.

The Indignant Teacher’s Unfortunate, Yet Enlightening, Experience

Last Thursday it rained in Dubai, as I wrote about in my last post…it was a day unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the U.S., and in more ways than one…

For those of you who didn’t read my previous post…We had an early dismissal at school thanks to the rain and lack of drainage systems on the roads here. By the time we got home, the rain had stopped, and the sun returned. After writing my post and doing some food shopping, I decided to take the boys for a walk around our compound. We were gone for a couple of hours, and headed back to our flat to make supper.
Although the sun was out, the tile walkways in and around the compound were still wet. Halfway home, I slipped – likely thanks to the flip flops I was wearing – and fell. The pain I’d felt was indescribable. The man who lived in the flat where I fell immediately came outside and told me he was calling an ambulance. I told him I was sure I was fine, and went to stand up. He informed me that he was a doctor, and that I had broken my ankle. It was only then that I looked down at my leg, and saw the sole of my foot looking back at me, and the bone sticking out. At that point, I think I may have started to go into shock, because everything that happened afterwards remains fuzzy.
When I got to the hospital I expected to be put into a cast and sent on my way. The x-rays showed that I had managed to dislocate the joint, and break all three bones in my ankle, and it would require surgery to put it all back together. I was told I would need to remain in the hospital for likely a week. I tried to explain to the doctors that this was not an option, as my husband was back in the States for another five days, and I had no one to watch my children, who are 9, 7, and 6…I was sick about them being alone. While they were being cared for by our neighbors across the hall, the language barrier between them and the boys concerned me greatly.
For some reason – likely the excruciating pain coupled with the mass doses of morphine I received upon arrival to the hospital – t didn’t occur to me to notify anyone from school until the next day. I was taken into surgery at 7:30 Friday morning, and when I came to early that afternoon, I sent my principal and head of PYP an email to tell them what had happened.
This is the point I am trying to make…moments after doing so, my cell phone started ringing. The concern I was met with by my superiors was absolute, genuine, and unlike anything I could have imagined. Both came to see me at the hospital at various times, making the fact that my family was halfway across the world feel much less disheartening, and making me feel not so all alone here.
There was no concern from my administrators that the government would be coming into school soon to investigate, nor how this crisis would impact that reality; the only concern was for that of my well being, and that of my boys. The principal sent an email to the staff, explaining what had happened, and asking that anyone who could help out with the boys, would. I was in a complete state of shock by the level of compassion I had felt from my colleagues, who truly stepped up to the plate to help out, no matter the sacrifice.
My good friend, Andrea, also a former Boston Public Schools teacher, came and stayed with the boys Friday and Saturday, until she had to return to her own home two hours away, for the onset of the work week. Here that is Sunday through Thursday, and I was especially worried about getting the boys to and from school – and everything that comes with that – until my husband returned. I knew I’d be in the hospital until at the very least Monday, and so I was worried sick.
There was no need. On Sunday, my PYP coordinator came to my apartment to get the boys ready for, and to, school. The following day it was a teacher in the SEN department. Everyone made sure they were fed, in bed, uniforms washed and ready, had lunches to eat at school, a safe place to go afterwards, and so on. I was in a state of shock. This was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced in the States.
Why? Because in the U.S. all we (administrators, teachers, etc) care about is the test scores. Nothing more. I remembered back to a couple of years ago when, one October, I came down with pneumonia and missed a week of work. When I had returned, my principal sent me home for another week, pretending she was “worried” and wanted to make sure I was “ready” to return. I found out when I did that she had been grooming a first year substitute teacher for my position because she thought it would be “better for the kids” because I had “health issues”. That defeated me. (for the record, I ultimately remained in my position, but the damage was done).
What has happened here in Dubai did not defeat me. If anything, it has motivated me even more to be the best that I can be – to do the best I can for my school and the students in it. I was told by the surgeon to stay out of work for at least one month and given an absence note through December 23rd. Regardless of where I am in my life, I am not someone who is willing (or able) to sit still and do nothing for very long, nor do I intend to now. When I informed my principal of the doctor’s orders, as well as my feelings about them, she told me to take as much time as I needed, and when I was ready, I could return for a limited basis as long as necessary. Because I am now out of the classroom and in the position of SEN coordinator, much of my responsibility is paperwork, so initially I will plan to go in for a couple/few hours and work from home during the others. Having this suggested by my principal was, again, something I found too surreal for words.
Every day I read on Facebook, Twitter, and other edu-blogger’s pages the most horrifying stories told by teachers in America about how corporate reform is affecting their lives, and with each one I grow more grateful for having the opportunity I do today. America’s teachers are being abused by the reformers each and every day. The children are being abused as well. Corporate reform, Common Core, high stakes tests, and the sort of teaching and learning that has grown from it all have abducted the children’s rights to acquire the education they deserve, and surely made it impossible for any of them to develop a love of learning that is so crucial. Students as young as preschoolers now are being expected to perform academically in ways that they are not even biologically able to, as Mary Calamia so powerfully explained in her testimony to New York legislators last month. As a result, many of them are facing psychological and emotional trauma, that are, in some cases, severe.
And there is nothing the teachers can do to stop this from happening. Worse, they are being beaten down by their superiors who, as I said earlier, care about nothing but the test scores. There is not one teacher in America who can’t say this maltreatment doesn’t extend beyond the doors of their classrooms. It is impacting their own personal lives – and their own families, surely – each and every day. It is inhumane, cruel, abusive, and shameful. I lived it; my own mother lived it; every American teacher I know lived it, too. And so many continue to…I suspect it’s because the cost of fighting against it, they think, is too great. And maybe it is. But what they need to realize is that the cost of not fighting against it will certainly prove to be even greater in the end.
These past two months since moving to Dubai – and most especially this past week – have given me so much clarity about everything that is happening in the American public schools. They have given me clarity as to what education is really all about, what good – no, great – teaching and learning is. As someone who began her career during the pre-NCLB era, this was not something I didn’t know myself, but it is definitely something I had long since forgotten…or had been forced to forget, I suppose.
Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for being one of the lucky American teachers who doesn’t have to live life succumbing to the horrific impact of Bill Gates’s tyranny any longer. I am grateful that my boys will not have their own lives destroyed by these corporate reformers who don’t know the first thing about educating children. I am grateful for administrators and colleagues who realize that life happens, and understand that the best thing we, as educators, can do for one another is to help each other grow and thrive as such. I am grateful for being in a place where teachers are guided as to what concepts need to be covered in a certain grade, or within a certain time frame, but trusted enough to be able to use our own skills, abilities, talents, and creative passion to achieve what’s necessary.
In my opinion, good teachers are not made; they are born. Any good teacher will tell you that there is but one single motivating factor that gets us out of bed in the morning – to help our students learn. Today I am especially grateful for the opportunity to be in a position where I can once again do just that. And I intend to do it well. I only hope my American colleagues will someday be able to say the same, and not have to travel halfway across the world to do so. Happy Thanksgiving, America!!
%d bloggers like this: