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Monday, August 18, 2014

On the first day of school.....

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Dear Aala, Angie, Marcella, Brandon, Jediahluis, Alexandra, Analia, Kayla C., Celestte, Darnleigh, Trinity, Aaron, Ryan, Andrew, Kyle, Isaiah, Mario, Anne, Kayla O., Danilo, Bayron, Jordan, Kristeen and Nigeria:

I am your kindergarten teacher and I don't think you are going to like me very much.  I don't blame you, after all, you're only five.  I blame all those people that make way more money than I do and have nothing better to do than point out everything that they think teachers are doing wrong.

Those people who make way more money than I do, think they know you and what you need more than I do.  They have put certain rules in place that I am forced to follow no matter what I think of them or how wrong they are.  They think you will become a better student because of these rules.  They don't care that their rules drain all the fun out of learning or that you may not be ready to learn new things on their schedule.

Right now, you are just a name on my class list, but in about eight hours you'll walk through the door of my class room and become an actual person to me.  You're going to become one of  "my babies" and you won't like it when I tell you that.  Even though I don't yet know what your voices sound like I can already hear you saying, "We're not babies!"  You won't like my explanation about how no matter how old you are you will always be your mommie's baby and that as long as you're in my class you will also be my babies.

This is where it starts to get tricky.....you see, all those people that make way more money than I do also insist that you aren't babies.  They insist that I have you walk in the door on the first day of school and immediately put you in chair and begin the long journey of getting you prepared to take a standardized test.  If you don't believe what I'm saying now, you will in a few short hours.

They don't care that you may or may not have gone to preschool.  They don't care that you may or may not be shy and scared.  They don't care that you may or may not already know your letters or numbers.  They don't care that you may or may not know how to write your name.  They don't care that you may or may not have slept in a warm comfortable bed after eating a well balanced dinner.  They don't care that you may or may not be coming to school with your own pencils and crayons.  They don't care that you may or may not already have friends in the class.  They don't care that you may or may not be leaving your mother's side for the first time.  They don't care that some of you may or may not come into the room crying.  They don't care that English may or may not be your first language.

They don't care....They don't care....They don't care!

Want to know what they care about?  They care about that standardized test.

Those people who make way more money than I do don't understand why we need art and music and free play and time to just talk to each other.

They don't understand that not only is it fun to draw and color just for the sake of coloring, but that it is also an awesome way to express yourself.  Your scribbles will become drawings that tell about adventures, both real and make believe, that you have experienced.  Those drawings will evolve into more as you tell the stories that inspired them.  They don't understand that these things may inspire you to become an artist or a writer.

They don't understand that music is another way of expressing ourselves and our feelings.  They don't understand that music can be used for learning as well as fun.  They don't understand that the songs we play and learn and dance to may inspire you to become a professional singer or dancer.

They see free play as a waste of learning time.  They don't understand the necessary social skills that can only be learned through this type of play.  They don't understand that playing with blocks may inspire you to become an architect or an engineer.  They don't understand that role playing may inspire you to become a fire fighter, a doctor, a chef, an actor, or even, heaven forbid...a teacher.

You don't know those people who make way more money than I do.  You don't know about the rules they set or the demands they make.  It's because you don't know them that you won't blame them for all the things you'll be forced to do this year even though you're only five.  You won't blame them for all the things you won't get to do either.  You will blame me and I am afraid that is why you won't like me.

You will blame me.  You will blame me because I am the one you will see everyday.  I don't blame you, though.  After all, I understand that you are only five.

There are lots of other things that you don't know.

You don't know that I have asked repeatedly why there are so many of you when according to state law there should only be 18 students in our class.  I'm not asking this question because you aren't wanted or loved, but because it isn't fair to you or to me.  Many parents say that they choose to have one or two children because they can give more time and opportunities and one or two then they can to three or four.  It's the same for a teacher.  Our time together is limited and now it must be split among 24 of you instead of the state mandated 18.  You don't know that there will undoubtedly be even more students placed in our room.

You don't know that I have always heard the beat of a different drummer.  You don't know that I have
never been one to bow down to authority or that I have a hard time following rules and guidelines that I find stupid and unfair.  You don't know that it is because of this that there will be moments in our class when the door is closed and no one is watching that we will color and sing and dance.

You don't know that I understand your need to run and climb and slide and scream and pretend to be a super hero or a princess.  You don't know that it is because of this that there will be moments on the playground that I will ignore the command for "structured play" and simply let you be free.

You don't know that in these moments I will learn more about who are and who you will become than those people who make way more money than I do will ever learn from the results of your standardized test.

You don't know that we have a magical room filled with books that some people call a "media center" or a "library".  You don't know that you probably won't be allowed into this room this year because it's reserved for older students and the need to prepare them for yet another standardized test.

You don't know that I have spent the last few years asking, "When are we going to stop looking at the data and start looking at the kids?"  You don't know that the most common answer I get to this question is simply a "look" from our principal.  You see, he's one of those people who make way more money than I do.

You don't know that two weeks ago I sat in a meeting where someone told me, "You may as well forget about doing The Polar Express and Dr. Seuss and The Wizard of Oz."  You don't know that I went home that day and cried.  You don't know that you are actually, kind of lucky, to have a teacher who sees the importance of not forgetting about these things.  You don't know that no true kindergarten teacher would ever even entertain the thought of forgetting about these things,  You don't know that it was also on that day that I decided to order over $300 worth of Dr. Seuss themed items for our class.  

You don't know that I have said, "I don't want to work here anymore.  I want to work for someone that actually understands and cares about the primary grades!"   You don't know that YOU are the reason I'm here.

You don't know that I'm writing this open letter to you.  You will probably never read it.  In fact, the chances of it being seen by more than just a handful of people are pretty slim.  You don't know that I would probably get into trouble if those people who make way more money than I do ever read this.

You don't know that I will always fight for you and for what I believe is right and against what I believe is wrong.  However,  if any of those people who make way more money than I do ever ask me about this letter, I will probably just hand them a Dr. Seuss themed pencil and let them figure out the rest on their own.


  1. While I teach high school, I can definitely relate to your frustrations. We should never stop reminding those with the money that teachers teach kids, real people who will need to be cared about and taught how to be human more than they will ever need to learn what is on a standardized test. Please keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Oh my sweet, I'm sorry that you're having such a difficult time this year, already. Dang. I'll be saying prayers for you and your babies throughout. Tough times...... Scary politicians..... They just don't get it and never will..... <3

  3. Awesome! I agree with everything you said...which is why I retired in May. I just couldn't watch what they were doing to our babies anymore! Keep the faith, sweet teacher! Hugs!

  4. You are an AWESOME teacher!!!!! Stay tough! Hugs, Heidi

  5. Oh Ginger my heart broke as I read your post, and also when I saw the resources you were supplied with.... come to New Zealand, you get better resources and can teach with Dr Seuss 'stuff' and also free play, music and art. Tempted??

  6. Oh Hon! I know it's like pounding your head through a steel wall - but you're the only hope for these little ones. I'll be praying that you'll have wonderful creative ideas and increased strength and patience. hugs sweet friend

  7. It is for these very reasons that I homeschool. I know that there awesome teachers like you out there, but with 30+ kids to a room, and those rules on them? How are kids to get that one-on-one personalized touch that caters to just them that they need? Life isn't about standardized tests..it's about learning and growing and becoming the person that you are meant to be. Those people are so worried taht we are behind Korea or China in learning that they are pushing the kids way too hard too fast. In my state, they recently made it part of the Core to shove social studies down starting pre-k to "make them into a better citizen and be able to participate in our government". My jaw dropped. I am 36 years old and I could care less what the power hungry people in washington are doing to each other, why should my 6 year old that just wants to go swimming in the pool be forced to. I know, to make him a better citizen...-sighs sadly- Keep the faith good teacher. For you are few but you are proud.
    aka: A Parent that understands

  8. Your post moved me to tears. Really, I'm crying right now. A copy of your post should be sent to every educational administrator on up throughout the country.
    I don't have kids, but I taught Sunday school with my husband, and we had up to 28 (more on special occasions) children from ages 4 through 12 in our class, and it was a handful! Bless you and all you do, and THANK YOU most especially for teaching and caring for the children and for this outstanding blog. Pardon my grammer & spelling, I came from overcrowded schools, too!

  9. Best letter I've ever read!! Well said!

  10. I know this was from 3 years ago, but it is STILL very relevant -
    especially in today's world! Bet every one of your babies will NEVER forget all they 'learned' in your room when the door was closed and they got to be themselves!! Praying for your stamina
    and strength to fight the 'establishment' and teach the RIGHT WAY, just like you are now!!



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