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Saturday, December 13, 2014

What NYC Teachers Do Every Day...

A teacher sometimes receives holiday cards this time of year.  When I was a new teacher, and quite young, I would pack them in, stack them up and then string them like garland across my home.  If memory serves me right, I used to get thirty plus cards.  Now, I score fewer.  I am probably stricter, but I still remember something I once heard.  If you get just one letter, it probably represents the sentiments of many more.  

As the holidays are upon us again, I went in search of some of my old cards, guaranteed to boost the spirits.  Some are holiday cards.  Some are June cards.  I appreciate them more than ever now.  They speak to why I became a teacher.  I collected these cards before I ever knew I would be placed under the microscope of messed-up metrics to judge my worth.  Although these cards count for nothing in teacher evaluations today, they count for everything in my heart.  And when I'm gone, maybe you can guess which measurements I'll be taking with me and which I'll be leaving to the dust heap.  These cards speak to the truly productive work that NYC teachers, and, indeed, teachers the world over, do every day.  

2004, A thank you card on the eve of the birth of my first child


June 24, 2003


A card from two students from parts of the former Soviet Union, lost the date, but the card's turning yellow now... 

1994, When I was a newer teacher and had the joy of seeing a Pakistani and Hindu child realize how much they have in common in my class...

Many kids, notably some recent immigrants, may not yet be able to express themselves well in English.  Many may be hesitant to write or speak to a teacher.  Some kids may not be able to afford cards or find the time to make them.  Others will prefer to express their sentiments orally.  Still, I'd be willing to bet NY City teachers get more than a million cards each year.  I'm betting none will thank teachers for fervent test prep.  I'm betting some may make the reader teary eyed.  These cards speak volumes more than any APPR number.  They speak to why we became teachers, why we stay teachers--despite being used as scapegoats in a demoralizing national debate--and how far education reform fails our students. 

Since I had my own kids, I've been less careful about saving papers, other than a cherished few from my own kids.  If I saved them all, I would be buried in papers.  I regret now that I've parted with some of my more recent cards, but I vow to hold onto more of any future ones.  I hope you will hold onto your cards as well.  They are the best measures of how we help kids.

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