Friday, February 5, 2016

Then A Letter Arrives in the Mail (Unexpected) And the Memories Flood The Moment (And You Are Thankful)

Yesterday, I drove around southern Connecticut delivering 36 tickets to K-8 student winners who nominated Mentors4Life, a partnership program with CWP-Fairfield, Fairfield University Athletics, and Hoops4Hope. These young people wrote letters of recommendation to name an individual who helps them succeed in and out of school with focus, integrity, self-esteem, self-awareness, and responsibility. I felt like Santa Clause doing presentations in the classrooms. Each student received two tickets to Sunday's NCAA basketball double header featuring the Fairfield University Stags.

I went to my office soon after and worked with the extraordinary Caryn Sullivan on website updates and the distribution of POW! The Anthology (3rd edition).

I made copies of grants for the University that I've submitted, visited a colleague who is retiring and who wishes to donate her library to CWP-Fairfield, and came home to chill out with the dog (while Chitunga was at work).

When I went to the mailbox there was a card, a letter, and a eulogy that a grandmother of one of my students in Kentucky wrote. The grandmother wanted me to know how much I meant to her and the Brown School community in Louisville and to say, "You had a touch on what my grandson had to say at his father's funeral." I did not know of the passing and I was sorry to hear the news. Still, I was touched that she reached out to me to share an update of her family and a young man who meant a lot to me (I tutored him while I was working on my 2nd Masters degree at the Kentucky Institute for Education and Sustainable Development and, a few years later, he enrolled at my school). He was a precious kid, and I though the world of him.

Out of nowhere, I was suddenly back to 1998-2002.

They say that in order to understand the magnitude of teaching, one needs to stay in the profession at least five years. I was in Louisville for more than ten years, but have been gone for eight. When I receive flashbacks from colleagues, parents, and students I'm overjoyed with my memories. The decade I spent on 1st Street were miraculous and in all my wishes, I desire that other educators could have the same teaching opportunities that I did - it was a period of student-centered visions, high standards, creativity and an emphasis on individuality. The activist in me, sadly, knows that this is not the reality of 21st century classrooms. Teachers are stifled, innovation is hindered, and a political maelstrom via Charters, alternative certification programs that are abysmal, and ridiculous state tests have virtually destroyed what was once possible in K-12 teaching. The pendulum is swinging again, however, and the fighters to restore professional pedagogy in the classroom are numerous.

Receiving a letter like the one I got yesterday simply inspires me to (a) contact more politicians, (b) fight more of the misguided reforms sabotaging effective education, and (c) celebrate the work of public school teachers and students even more.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done, but memories like this fuel the strength for me to fight on.

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