Maureen Downey asked Fulton County high school teacher Jordan Kohanim to write a piece about what she wanted for her students this year. Jordan joined forces with fellow Centennial High School English teachers Larken McCord and Cathy Rumfelt to write a powerful letter about their goals for their students and for all students. School resumes in Fulton County on Monday
In Downey's words, 'Here is their combined effort. I think it is wonderful.']
Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Your kids are our kids.
Your kids -- our kids -- are not "stakeholders," "clients," or "customers." They are our kids, our charges, our collaborators.
They are not "raw material" or "human capital."
Our kids are not barcodes. They are not cogs. They are not slides on a PowerPoint or points on a graph. They have names. They have hopes and fears and dreams.
They have crushes and heartaches and disappointments and jubilations. Sometimes they have all of these in a single class period.
They have stories. They came from somewhere, and they are going somewhere. We want our classrooms to be an important part of that story, not just an obstacle or a detour.
They are people. They are young people, people who, in certain moments and in the right light, are at their very best. They are people who make mistakes because they are still learning, and because we all do.
And they are watching. They see our mouths, "You must think about the world around you, question what you see on TV, and always seek new solutions."
They see that ultimately, all their learning boils down to this test, this data point. They understand hypocrisy more than you know. They deserve better. They deserve to have a reason to feel good about coming to school. They deserve to know that there are adults who believe in them and want the best for them.
They deserve an education that treats them not as outcomes to be produced, but as producers and discoverers themselves. The United States is known for its inventors and discoverers, yet we discourage critical thinking when we tell kids they deserve nothing better than a bubble. Our kids deserve better than NCLB, AYP, and RttT.
We want our kids to have the ability to design a new way of doing things. We want them to explain why language is important, to read a ballot proposition, and to locate Afghanistan on a map.
We want them to be funny. We want them to laugh. We want them to examine philosophy, discuss the economy without parroting sound bites, and recognize the reality of credit card rates.
We want them to come up with the answer on their own -- maybe an answer we haven't thought of -- rather than select the "right" answer from a list. We respect them more than that.
We want our kids to think for themselves. We want them to enjoy discussing a book whether or not it will appear on an end-of-course test. We want them to see the classroom not as a place to pass time but as a place to begin to figure out who they are.
We want them to learn the strength of their own voices, that one person can make a difference and that several people can cause a revolution. When they leave our classrooms, we hope our kids can -- and will want to -- articulate their ideas: to know their ideas count.
Fear not. They will be counted. They will be measured. They will be tested; all of us, in one way or another, will be tested. PowerPoints will be made, and graphs will be presented. According to some formulations, value will be added.
But we want our kids to know they already have value, they already count, and the most important tests are the ones we all face every day:
Think it through. Play fair. Question always. Do your best. This is what we want for our kids, your kids. We won't surrender our expectations, our integrity, or our belief in every child's access to the finest free and public education in the world.
We won't give up on them. Our kids are who we fight for every single day. We won't give up, parents. Neither should you.
Jordan Kohanim , Larken McCord, & Cathy Rumfelt