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A Christmas Carol

Susan Notes: This letter was sent to Joseph Mugivan by a former student--13 years later. Teachers teaching a test prep curriculum today should think about what kind of letters they might expect 13 years from now. Joseph notes:

Teaching used to be fun.
A former student found me on Facebook.
I asked him to refresh my memory.
Facebook is great for students to
contact former teachers.
Below is what he sent me
before the age of the testing mills.
My kids did great on the standardized tests
before they were fixed by the State.
A nice and unexpected Christmas gift.
Now the schools are run by Mr. Scrooge.

The quality of this letter indicates that literacy is a product of intellectual interest, curiosity and emotional attachment in a supportive communal setting, all of which are denied by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dear Mr. Mugivan,

You were our 5th grade teacher in PS 102 (an elementary school located on Van Horn street, in Queens NYC). Teachers teach the basic subjects, but you explored a lot more; it was great. Sometimes you would take us into the school yard and show us how to do a few exercises in tai chi. You also brought us outside to play games of soccer from time to time. Once, during the blizzard of '96, you brought us outside to play soccer in the snow. (Granted it was for a few minutes, but it was probably the best few minutes I ever experienced in that school.) And of course, as I mentioned earlier, the planetarium substitute. It was this big gray colored, balloon like device, which you pumped air into using a machine. You had the students form an outside perimeter with their desks against the wall as we stood by them anticipating the balloon to fill up. (It was similar to the shape of an igloo.)

We'd all go inside 1 by 1, form a circle against the walls of the balloon, and in almost complete darkness, you would point out the constellations to us. (I remember you being a big mythology fan, as we even acted out a play based on some of the Greek stories.) I played Perseus and looked like a fool; I still have the video. And I have a picture of you and I, taken by my parents after the graduation ceremony in 1996. (I'll post it up in the near future.)

To put it bluntly, you were the man! (My friend and I were discussing museums, and she brought up the planetarium.) I told her I had been there once, but remembered nothing of it. (However, I remembered the planetarium-like
experience you brought into the classroom.)

Ahhh man, tears formulating around my eyes. Good times, Mr. Mugivan.

— Joseph Mugivan's student


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