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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Dear Pandemic Teachers

Dear Pandemic Teachers, 

President Abraham Lincoln was a man who knew adversity well. Knew both defeat and victory, pain and joy. When reflecting on his 1858 election night lost to Stephen A. Douglas he said:

“The path had been worn hog-back and was slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other one out of the way, but I recovered myself and lit square, and I said to myself, “It’s a slip and not a fall.”

Two years later he would defeat Douglas, winning the presidency, and become our 16th president. Like Lincoln, our nation’s teachers, have always known adversity, held on, may slip, but never do they fall. 

 While administrators, policymakers, and Governors living on Zoom demand teachers return to full face-to-face school. Often Blaming, shaming, and even bullying classroom teachers for asking for a safe return to school for their students. I refuse to play their "blame teachers” game in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in over 100-years. This is not teaching and learning in normal times, this teaching in a crisis. 

Let me tell the world who our teachers really are? 

They are the ones endlessly writing lessons, 

Preparing to teach in person, virtually, and for many a combination of both,

Working not only their paid contact hours, 

But on average working without pay for an extra 15-20 hours a week,

Making sure their google classrooms work, 

Sharing their screens,

Making sure their mute button is on,

Taking attendance of students in their physical room, and online ones,

Doing all they can to make learning as normal as possible for their students,

Uploading endless demands for more compliance data, 

Adjusting to endless changes in administrative demands, 


Writing weekly progress reports, 

Preparing parent conferences, 

Helping children to follow CDC protocols,

Doing bus duty,

Lunch duty,

Hall duty,

Attending far too many School meetings and professional development sessions, that sometimes blame teachers, 

Constantly demanding more from fatigued and stressed teachers,

Always demanding more.

Who are these pandemic teachers?

They are the ones saving public education,

They are the ones giving everything they have to make this pandemic schooling crisis feel normal. 

They are the glue holding our schools together. 

They are my heroes. 

I refuse to call them anything less.

Dear Teachers,

Please, remember to practice self-care,

Understand too much is being asked of you,

Know that the reason you collapse at the end of every school day, 

You are being abused, by a system that refuses to listen to teachers,

You are exhausted from giving your total self to the children, parents, and schools you teach in,

This abuse must end. 

Who are these Pandemic teachers?

Our tireless heroes teaching in a pandemic crisis, 

Our abused and discarded heroes. 

I wish I had more than words,

I want teachers to know something,

One day this COVID Pandemic will end,

Like President Lincoln, you were never falling, merely slipping a bit, never ever falling,

History shall call you our pandemic teaching heroes,

The ones who never fell, but time and time again rose up to the challenge of teaching in a pandemic crisis. 

Who are you, teachers?

You are our heroes rising, 

Hold on, 

Be extra kind to each other,

Be understanding to each other,

Be the shoulders to cry on for each other, 

Be good to yourselves, 

Be good to your families,

Be good to all, and

Whenever you can find 30 seconds in your school day,

Breathe in deeply, breathe out, and say this is temporary,

If the day gets away from you, 

Forgive yourself,

Like the heroes of old, you may slip, but you will not fall.

Hold on,

COVID is not forever,

Someday, it will be normal again to welcome all at your classroom door,

Minus the masks,

Minus the fear,

one day, 

You  teaching heroes, 

Our tested pandemic veterans, 

You shall welcome every child back to normal schooling.

Who are teachers?

They are our Pandemic Hero Teachers.

With the deepest of respect,

Dr. Jesse P. Turner 

CCSU Literacy Center Director

Uniting to Save Our Schools 

If you like to listen to the tune I listen to on my morning walk today? It was  Josh Groban and Helen Fischer singing I'll Stand by you"


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Dear President Biden, please do not go down that same old testing equals progress lie

 Dear President Biden, about this rush to make our students take standardized assessments in the middle of a pandemic. 

I imagined leadership in the White House, that listened to teachers, parents, and children; rather than policymakers, CEOs, and leaders who spend their days far from our nation's classrooms. 

I wonder when this high-stakes annual 2 Billion testing madness is going to end. Can't think of any teachers waiting by their phone for any timely diagnostic data for refining their instruction coming some 6 months later. Sort of like your doctor giving you an EKG, and saying I am not going to look at these results until months from now.  It is madness to force teachers and children to sit through standardized assessments whose results won't be in until 6 months from now. 

Mr. President, please don't take us back down that Arne Duncan road of high-stakes testing failing policies? Perhaps the new Secretary of Education Dr. Cardona might enlighten you on the history of Title 1 funding promise? Our National Legislative promise broken every year since 1965. 56 years and counting! 

Surely someone in Washington DC, remembers the piece of Title 1 history and the war on poverty no one wants to remember. Dr. Cardona might point you to The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), 2018 report on Education Debt to Black, Brown, and Poor Communities. 

Just a few lines from the 2021 Rethinking Schools: Teacher Unions And Social Justice book on that AROS report for your consideration. 

"President Lyndon B. Johnson, in launching his War on Poverty, recognized that a key front in the battle against poverty was the nation's public schools. With the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the federal government acknowledged that public schools in low-income communities need additional education resources. Title, I of ESEA directs federal dollars to schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty... Not only did lawmakers recognize the need for additional resources-they attempted to quantify it. Embedded in the law is the authorization-established by Congress-to provide school districts 40 percent for each title 1-eligible child so that their schools could offer supplemental supports as reading-specialist and smaller class sizes" Teacher union and Social justice (2021) p. 308." 

Considering your commitment to take on Systemic Racism during your presidency, surely you understand that standardized testing has never brought equity or justice to one single Black or Brown child in America. 

Much like ‘Reconstruction’s 40 Acres and A Mule promise to former slaves, this promise was also never ever delivered. The time has come, not for more testing, but to fulfill America’s title 1 promise.

Respectfully                                                                                                                     Dr. Jesse P. Turner  Uniting to Save Our Schools National Committee

56 years of broken American Promises to Black & Brown children 

If you want to hear the tune that inspired my walk in the snow today it is Jeremy Dudley's "Stop The Madness"

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Science of Reading, Same Old One Size Fits All Song


The titans of industry are making the rounds again, giving out campaign contributions and selling the same old "one size fits all" notions to schools, teachers, and parents. Armed with test score data, and selling the sky is falling. Smaller class sizes, no no, more Literacy specialists, no no, more Special education teachers, no no, maybe more tutors, no no, everything you need comes in a box with a special price just for your school. “See the world through the eyes of your inner child. The eyes that sparkle in awe and amazement as they see love, magic, and mystery in the most ordinary things.” -Henna Sohail

If you find yourself believing the hype of these Ed Reformers and policymakers selling high-stakes testing, saying the test is the curriculum, claiming their data reveals all? If they start talking about "The Science of Reading," know this, they have no magic; they can and will bore children. Leave our teachers wondering why their science assembly line keeps breaking down. They have been doing it for decades. WALK AWAY!

They are clueless data junkies, chasing all the wrong numbers, and they are the ones far from our classrooms.
See every lesson through the eyes of children,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director If you like to listen to the song that inspired my walk in the snow today? It is Natalie Merchant's Wonder > <
"People see me I'm a challenge to your balance,
I'm over your heads, how I confound you,
And astound you,
To know, I must be one of the seven wonders,
God's own creation,
And as far as they see,
They can offer
Me no explanation,
Ooo, I believe, fate smiled"

Finding the magic means finding the right books.