I was giving placement tests to incoming ESL students, and a young woman came in with her sister, who'd just gotten here. She said she had graduated from our school recently, and asked about one of my young colleagues. I told her I was sorry, she wasn't here, but why not leave a note? I gave her a piece of paper and she began writing, all excited.
When my colleague got back, I told here there was a note for her. She pulled it out of her mailbox and looked that the smiley faces on its folded cover, and began to resemble them. The note said thank you for all you did for me, thank you for helping me with English, I'm in college now, and concluded asking my colleague to pray for her. I hoped that was out of some religious conviction rather than some sense of hopelessness, but we'll never know.
Nonetheless, my colleague was thrilled, as happy as I've ever seen her. She said, simply, "This is why I'm a teacher." I don't suppose Bill Gates would understand that. Nor would the disingenuous sycophants who leave teaching, take Gates money and flock to astroturf groups like E4E. But I know exactly how she felt. Notes like those mean more than observations from administrators. I treasure them. And the fact is, most of us are moved far more by things like that than getting a few extra bucks for raising test scores.
That's not to say we don't want money. It's atrocious that demagogues like Mike Bloomberg publicly claim to care about education, but actually issue raises to all city employees but educators. We know how little regard he has for us, and how much he cares about stuffing the pockets of entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz and Geoffrey Canada. Next month will be four years we've gone without a contract. It's very tough to be treated with such vicious contempt by those who, ostensibly, are your employers.
But we still know what it's all about. We still love the kids. And as our brothers and sisters in Chicago have shown, ultimately it is we, the teachers, who won't back down.