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[Susan notes: Kudos to Dorna Walsh for getting up close and personal with newspaper editorialists. Her letter was printed in the Massachusetts AFT The Advocate. [pdf file]]

Published in Lowell Sun, reprinted The AFT Advocate

To the editor

On Jan. 8, after a long but productive week at school teaching my Murkland School second-graders, I headed into my weekend hoping to re-energize myself for a very busy week ahead. I had left school still thinking about the news I had received the previous day, that the House had passed an education-reform bill that could very well jeopardize my job. I am a teacher in the Acre section of Lowell. I have been for 23 years. If I had to do it over again, I would not have chosen a different path. I had many opportunities to transfer, but I, as well as many, many of my good friends, have stayed at the Green and Bartlett schools, eventually merging together at the Murkland. We chose to stay in the Acre, many of us for 20 to 30 years.

When I opened the newspaper Friday night, hoping to find out specific details about the bill, I instead was greeted by your scathing editorial. Your words, "Failing teachers ... blaming students and their families for poor academic performance," still reverberate in my mind. There was much more said that I do not care to repeat. It saddens me that a person can express those thoughts to thousands of people, about professionals -- yes, professionals -- who have done just the opposite of what has been described. We go to work every day, helping, guiding, encouraging, and most of all celebrating, our children's accomplishments. These children, many living in poverty and many having English as a second language, often amaze us as they persevere, showing us their incredible resilience day after day. Although they were not given the same opportunity as many of their contemporaries, they don't give up, in part because of their own inner-strength, and in great part because they have teachers who believe in them. We tell them if they work hard every day and always give their best, they can grow up, go to college and become whatever they wish to be: doctors, firefighters, astronauts, scientists, reporters -- and yes, even teachers, as so many of my children state, in their innocence, that they would like to be. As adults they would have even more insight as to the challenges inner-city students face, and they would make wonderful teachers.

Fortunately, my students are not quite old enough to choose to read and attempt to understand your editorial. However, my soon to be 20-year-old daughter did read it. She is a college sophomore, studying to become a teacher. Her goal is to become an early childhood teacher in an inner-city school. She is well aware of what that entails and wants to have the opportunity to make a difference. Fortunately she has determination and enthusiasm, and a caring heart -- the qualities needed to succeed as a teacher in an inner-city school. She will not be deterred by your scathing comments -- and neither will I. I truly care about my students, and I will continue to try to make a difference in their lives.

As for our outstanding superintendent, Dr. Scott, she has tirelessly supported the Murkland School teachers and has inspired us all to continue to try to make a difference. She believes in the work we do every day. She believes in us. You could learn a great deal from Dr. Scott, and from my students as well.


Murkland School


Dorna Walsh

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