Dear Superintendent,

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) appreciated your latest missive. He really did, even though he has seen from the beginning that there is no TEAM in Duval. The letters don’t work no matter how hard he tries to anagram them.

It’s not an advantage to hard-working teachers dealing with an overwhelming number of Ds and Fs in the gradebook (knowing that you will soon be asking principals how they called those teachers onto the carpet) to hear that our year is done and celebration is in order.

There is no ‘gleeful’ locking of the doors and shutdown of the laptop for GOT. The fall was hard and there were too many quarantines of students. The surgical approach does not work. We teachers found ourselves teaching half a class too often with no means of simultaneously reaching the quarantined students. Zero after zero …

What do you want, Ms. Superintendent? I could go on break and fail them all or I could work over the break to offer them the opportunity to recover the learning and pass.

Hysterical reaction to ice skater who falls through ice in Amsterdam -  YouTube

GOT is not alone.

Like many others, he will be conducting tutoring sessions via Microsoft Teams for the students who need to talk with their teacher, share their screens with their make-up assignments, and work through the learning.

Like Seinfeld’s famous Soup Nazi, “NO BREAK FOR ME!”

(Although GOT will not miss the ridiculous COVID questionnaire that teachers must answer each day. ‘Have you had contact with anyone sick in the last FOURTEEEN days?’ I told you yesterday that I did not. Why do you ask me again? Do you think I lied and you might catch me out?)

#teacher problems.


Are we on a break or is that break merely the ice cracking beneath our feet?

Decades ago, when GOT was a teenager, he was skating on a pond. It was so cold that winter that kids were skating on the adjacent stream that was frozen over. GOT was adventurous, so he joined them and went further and further along the stream until … you know how this story ends. The ice got too thin and he fell into the water.

That’s 2020. That’s what school has been like for our students. Many remained on the pond and had success. Some did not, but that happens every year.

Some took the riskier route: staying at home on that creek. While many did not stray from the thick ice and did okay, too many found themselves over the thin ice and fell through.

For you, my dear Superintendent, that’s an intellectual exercise about test scores and learning options and calling kids back to the pond.

Because, you know, the data, the test scores, and all that goes with it is all that matters.

GOT disagrees. He remembers how hard it was to learn how to really ice skate: how to balance on top of the skates, how to strengthen the muscles to support the ankles, how to learn the moves to execute turns, jumps, and spins …

That takes real learning. If all you care about is the judges’ scores, you will never make 10s. You will never understand that’s not the point of skating or anything else.

For too many of GOT’s students, the ice is cracking under their feet. They are capable of producing beautiful things, but first, we have to get them onto the pond, the solid ice.

Young George saves his brother's life!!! | Wonderful life movie, What a  wonderful life, Its a wonderful life
The rescue cost George his hearing in one of his ears. Yeah, I’m going with that, Superintendent. Your talk about test scores is going into my bad ear.

That means disregarding test scores. That means doing the minimum to satisfy the state. All they need is one, GOT repeats ONE, mid-year checkup. Not the extra testing that you ordered when you arrived.

You don’t get it. You think you do, but you do not.

We ask too much too soon.

As a math teacher, kids arrive in my classroom knowing that even if they ‘passed’ the FSA, they don’t know a thing.

Nothing haunts me more than seeing the light go out of children’s eyes, as they despair of ever understanding what they are asked to do, as misery washes across their faces, and they give up as they lay their faces down on the desks.

So GOT works over the break. Will he crack up? GOT is old and has learned to endure. He is not so sure about his teenage students.

Most of his ‘teaching’ these days is talking with students and giving them hope that if they try, they will succeed.

But you know what, my dear Superintendent? That’s not in the standards. I can’t write that on my whiteboard as the key to success. But that is what it takes.

Inspection! And the door opens, and 6 to 10 district officials walk in the door. (Spare me your pious platitudes about observing Covid protocols when you violate the social distancing–don’t crowd the space–rules.)

GOT doesn’t get a winter break. If you want to give it to him, my dear Superintendent, call off your dogs. Stop the inspections.

When school starts up in January, GOT will have 35 Algebra 2 students in a face-to-face class. That is an increase from 27. Those extra 8 students were doing poorly at home. GOT has been working with his despairing students and just getting them to hope again. For success, he has to have the time for one-on-one learning.

Crowding the classrooms–you are condemning children to failure. No teacher has the time to give every student the help they need with those class sizes.

My dear Superintendent, you say you relish the time you finally have to reflect on how things are going. May you add GOT’s thoughts into your thinking.

Because if you don’t, they will become your nightmare.

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