Search This Blog

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. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

There ain't no high-stakes test gonna keep me in my grave


What my Hero Teachers in my life taught the teacher in me?
There was no:
Standards, or
Standardized test,
That could prevent them,
From teaching us what really mattered to us.
My Hero Teachers came in all colors, all faiths, some American born, and some came from afar,
They were, Culturally Relevant,
Before it, became the professional thing to do.
Yes, I know what is in the:
Standards, and
On those high-stakes tests,
But, more importantly,
I know that no power on earth,
Can keep me, or those I teach out.
My Hero Teachers were bigger than data walls,
My Hero Teachers were bigger than any standards,
My Hero Teachers were bigger than any approved curriculum,
My Hero Teachers were bigger than the test scores.
My Hero Teacher fortified me with a legacy of:
Dignity, and
Hope, and
They were beautiful, opinionated, and powerful. But, she was the fire burning, Here is to our fire burning, Mrs. Stanfield. We sat at lunch, talking Baldwin, Gather on the practice field hearing Garvey, Hanging on the corner, critically discussing Beawolf, In the park, we wanna be gang bangers, citing Sheamus Heaney, At 5:00 in the afternoon when Ignacio Sanchez Mejias fell in the bull ring, We lamented with Federico Lorca Garcia Diablo Poetics,
We walked with Maya's I know why the caged bird sings. We owe it all to her, Mrs. Stanfield knew there were bigger lessons that her girls and boys needed learning, Hail to every hero teacher, who saw us, not some distance curriculum.
I walk in the footsteps of Hero Teachers bigger than me,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director
If you like to listen to the song that inspired my walk this morning, its Jamie Wilson's cover of "Ain't No Graver"
Need some fire? Places to go, and people to hear, and lessons to learn, tomorrow it's all Radical Love in the time of pandemic: Imagination and hope in Public Education. Come learn with us > <

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Mr. President, this is what dignity looks like

 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: ""Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."

To the rioters and haters who assaulted our nation's capital 3 days ago. I know something about Marches on Washinton.

This is what dignity looks like,
This is what a respectful march on our Nation's Capital looks like,
This is what Civil Disobedience in action looks like,
This how hope lifts democracy.

My Grandfather was 68 in 63,
At 68, he took his namesake 8-year-old grandson to this;

I am the grandson whose World War 1 Veteran Grandfather made sure his grandson would walk in the light of creative altruism. I went up to the mountain, Because you asked me,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Uniting to Save Our Schools National Committee If you are wondering what song I am listening to today? It is Patty Griffin singing " I went up to the mountain"

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Dear 2021, Not On My Watch

Dear 2021, Not On My Watch

Dear 2021

If we don't speak up for equity and justice in our public schools?
Then we are cogs in the status quo of evil that denies Black, Brown, Poor, and Special Education Children a quality and just public school education. I reject being Evil's Cog,
I reject silence,
I reject apathy, and
I reject this status quo of evil occupying our Public School System.

If we don't speak up?
If we don't act?
Then evil wins!

Evil shall not win on my watch,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner

If you like to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk it is Marvin Gaye's "What going on"


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Standing upon the shoulders of those with incredible faith

It has always been the same work that Sister Antonella introduced to me long ago. Her's is a friendship that inspires me still.

In the early 80s, I was a regular at services at Saint Michael's parish Sunday services. When Father Fitzgerald asked me to meet with Sister Antonelle Chunka, a Franciscan Sister with Patrica Gordon who opened an office to help move young people out of Gang Life. They called their office "The Promise." Father Fitzgerald knew young people in the community knew and respected the Hawk's story, (me) the young man who grew up on the same streets and used education and his faith to steer his way out of trouble. No one grew up in our community without being on the edge of trouble. Faith, school, and sports kept me from falling into trouble. My mother was a member of a Rosary group that prayed for all of us boys. I like to think those prayers save many of their sons from falling. I felt a call to meet these two women who sought to help our young men in danger of falling. You might say God called me to their work.

These two women hung out at the Jersey City's Juvenile Court House meeting, advocating and mentoring young men away from gang life. They would walk the streets talking with young gang members, invite them to their office, read scripture, offer to help them find jobs, and get their GEDs. Their work caught the eyes of the NY Times and other press.

Father Fitzgerald knew I was politically active, a respected community member, a college graduate, a Catholic Charities Counselor, and a small businessman. I was different in a community where people mainly stuck with their own kind. I was an Irish kid whose friends were diverse. In high school and college, my circle of friends looked like America. I was praised in our parish and criticized by those who thought I should stick with others who looked like me. Those who criticized me had no clue as to who I am. My faith calls me to welcome all. My faith is stronger than the divisional hate that has always sought to divide America.

When God calls you, you show up. I visited Sister Antonlle and Patrica Gordon, and five minutes later, I was on board with the mission. The mission was worthy, and although I did not think it would steer many away from gang life, the mission was worthyAlthough. I join their crusade to mentor young men away from gang life in the community. I was wrong about not steering many young gang members away from gang life. Sister Antonelle somehow had gang members reading, discussing scripture, and linking it to possible transformative changes in their own lives. I became an unpaid counselor, a member of this do-gooder quest to save our young men from gang life. I was given more than I ever gave. I loved my time helping at The Promise. Could not believe my eyes as young gang members who struggle with reading painstakingly read and share scripture together. I would come to learn that the message matters more than a person's academic skills. It is learning that drives my literacy work as the Central Connecticut Literacy Center Director.

At the time, downtown Jersey City was in the early Gentrification process. These Gentrifiers gave Sister a hard time. The Promise exposed an ugly truth about the neighborhood they were seeking to gentrify. They felt Sister's work would drive away investors. They wanted them to stop. They put pressure on local leaders. They arranged for a large community meeting to close them down. They approach Father Fitzgerald to stop it.
Anthony Cruz and I would become their defenders at that meeting. Sister and Father Fitzgerlad stood their ground, this was the work of the church, and no one was going to shut that work down. While I thought I was helping and mentoring others, I found something transformative growing in me. My work with Sister Antonelle became my youth ministry, and more than anything else, it transformed me. Nearly 40-years later, I have used that time of service to define my work as an activist and a university professor. Sister Antonelle planted in me a simple understanding. All are worthy, and no one is beyond God's promise. My youth ministry would point me back time and time again to seeking to enhance my education as an educator. It was the first seed of my Ph.D. Sometimes, I look at where I am today, and I can't see the path from there to here. But, I always can find the seeds that took me to who I am today.

I have been blessed and mentored many times over by my friendship with Sister Antonelle Chunka. Who by the way well into her 80's is still ministering to those in need today at New Jersey ICE Detention Centers.
I stand on the shoulders of incredible of those with incredible faith,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Uniting to Save Our Schools

If you like to listen to the tune that inspired me 40 years ago and on my walk this morning? It is Cat Stevens "Where Do The Children Play"