[Susan notes: May every teacher in the land do what Lisa Hanley has done--looked for what students need and found herself--her values, skills, and responsibilities as a teacher.
Submitted to but not published
Dear Chancellor Klein, and Ms. Weingarten,
I wanted to share a letter I sent to Doug Avella in support of his current
situation with his students. Additionally to this letter, I would like you to
know that I am a parent advisor to the student council of Old Adobe school in
Petaluma, California. Our goal is to use literacy skills to develop personal
leadership skills as well as change the world around us. I teach them to stand
up for what they believe in; that their voice matters; that their actions can
better the local, national, and global community.
By punishing their leader you
will be sending life-altering messages. Teachers throughout the ages have been
trying to pass along to pupils that idea that social action improves the lives
of entire communities. You are silencing those children's voices. How loud do
they all need to shout before WE listen? My ears are now open after years of
listening to others I thought more knowlegeable than me . But I found out the
most important person to listen to is the child sitting next to me. We all need to learn this lesson. It is simple. it is the truth. Please hear them.
I read about your "situation" in the Susan Ohanian website. All I want to say
to you is follow that "inner" voice that all teachers have. We know kids. We
know their lives. We know what they think. We know what they feel. Most
importantly though, I think, is that we know when they are being valued and are
doing meaningful and purposeful work. I quit teaching last year because there
were so many things happening to my kids that I truly felt I couldn't willingly
participate in. Most importantly, at the end of the year I stacked all of the
assessments mandated by the state and district on a table. It literally was
taller than me. I thought, "Who could do this to a 7 year old?" I sat down and
thought about, did this inform my practice? Did it tell me more about how my
students learn? Does it truly reflect what they know? Is it a measure that is
biased towards certain kids? On top of that, the families in our neighborhoods
were being targeted by ICE (immigration) raids. One of my student's father
was pulled out of a car stopped at an intersection and sent to a holding facility for
over 3 months. He was eventually released but at a huge sacrifice to his family.
During one class discussion a classmate said, "But I thought America was for
everyone". Another elementary school student in the district was handcuffed by
immigration officers. The last straw came when the immigration officers followed
school busses home and took away parents from the bus stops leaving the kids
alone and confused. The teachers ended up riding the busses to be sure the kids
had somewhere to go at the end of the day. To make matters worse, I had a
student go to a special day class because he couldn't read. I felt huge guilt
because I followed the district mandated language arts program with "fidelity".
Since then I have returned to get a Master's Degree in Reading and Language and
have discovered these programs can't work for struggling readers because the
don't do enough READING! From all of these experiences I have learned that
I am the best person to make educational decisions for my students. Together with
the students themselves and their parents, we are the experts! No program or
research is going to tell you otherwise. As a profession we need to recognize
our own strengths. I am glad I have returned to school. It taught me to know my
inner voice and stand up for my students.
You are doing the right thing. Do not
let anyone tell you you are not. Talk to the kids. They have the answers, too.
My best thoughts to you,