Monday, April 4, 2011

Sudden Accountability


I'm sure it's been done before. It must have. Still, I keep thinking of another way to counter all the nonsense about teacher accountability I keep hearing from non-experts who nonetheless make policy. Any teacher who has been in the classroom for more than just a few years has them. They are notes or letters. Sometimes scrawled on everything from a 3x5 note cards to Hallmarks, Post It Notes, fancy stationery or plain ol' notebook paper. Sometimes the come quite unannounced if the form of emails. Like the one I received a couple of years ago from a student I'd had in class 15 years earlier. In many ways the sudden thank yous are the most rewarding because they answer the questions that could only be answered after the passage of time. How many teachers ask themselves daily, Am I making a difference? Even after they retire, the question becomes did I make a difference? And then these little notes appear. In some ways they never stop appearing.
I've come to believe it's time to collect these messages and print them in an anthology or two. They are the best data we can use to fight the corporate takeover of our schools. They contain what no standardized test could contain. They tell the tale of what cannot be measured. So, yes, It must have been done before. There must be a book or two with titles like Letters to the Teacher I really must look sometime. If by any chance it has not been done, then someone ought to do it; perhaps I will. Until then, I offer one here.

Hi Mr. Greene~

I have often wanted to send you a thank-you note for the incredible experience I had with you as a student at El Cerrito High School. I just cannot tell you how many times, and in how many ways, your class has helped me in the 15 years since leaving high school. Your passion for teaching, your ability to expose your students to your rich perspectives without seeming overbearing or condescending, is a true gift bestowed on all of us who were fortunate enough to learn under your guidance. I still vividly remember the amazing, albeit sometimes obscure, books, the fishbowls, the posters and music… and I could go on and on. You truly opened my eyes while feeding and encouraging my curiosity. I really credit the experiences in your classes for making me a deeper, more critical, thinker and a person willing to stand up for what I believe in.

This is not my best piece of writing and it probably does not adequately express my gratitude. I really just want you to know that you have left a lasting impression on me and I am so lucky to have had you as a guide.

I hope all is well and that life has been good to you.

Take care,

Rachael (McDonald) Ford



I will take care. I will take great care to make sure that accountability takes many forms.

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