The Teachers’ Letters to Obama project has tapped into the spirit of teachers across the country. Letters continue to come in, and today I share this one. This brief letter does not cite facts or figures to make its case, but it is powerful nonetheless. Please read, and reflect, and respond.
Dear President Obama,
I became an elementary teacher over 20 years ago to change the world. I was excited about imparting knowledge to children and to help them learn how to think, reason, cooperate, and creatively and non-violently solve problems.
Teaching is an art. And knowing how to reach an individual class or much less, an individual child cannot be quantified.
While standards are important as guidelines, the quality of educating of a whole person is immeasurable. Recently, I have found myself so obsessed with bringing my test scores up in the areas of math, reading, and science - the subjects in which my fourth graders are being tested, that I feel that so much about the art of my teaching is being lost.
A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a student I taught in a Philadelphia inner city 6th grade class eight years ago. She had lived in very difficult circumstances. This is a portion of the message: "...my mom is OK to (sic), just try to get by these ruff (sic) times together but still looking on the bright side of things. Wow i am still shock that i found you, i have you know i never gave up writing poetry. I have note books full of them. I remember you where the one that introduced to the world of poetry. I am glad i met you ms.Leff you are my favorite teacher, i still even remember the poem you recited to me it was by Langston Hughes i believe the poem is called dreamers
‘Bring me all your dreams, you dreamers, bring me all your heart melodies for i will wrap them in a blue cloud clothe away from the two ruff (sic) fingers of the earth.’ ”
I am so proud that I affected this young woman’s life so profoundly. This letter reflects the essence of why I teach. I can barely imagine getting a letter from a student in eight years telling me they will never forget getting a proficient grade on a standardized test.
Leslie Schwartz Leff
What do you think? How does this compare with your experience? Why did you choose to teach? Are you still fulfilling your own vision of your work as a teacher?
(Note: the entire compilation of letters contributed thus far can be downloaded here.)
The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.