Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In response to Betsy Devos's Embarassing Purchase of Education and our Government

I sent the following letter the principal of the elementary school where my children go today.
Dear Educators at __________ Elementary School,

In my opinion, our senate did not demonstrate that they value what you have gone to school for, what you have studied, and what you know today by its sanctioning of Betsy Devos. My initial reaction was to want to pull my kids out of school and protest tomorrow. I wanted to drag my kids somewhere and post signs about what an embarrassment for us.

But upon further reflection, I believe a better idea is to tell you how much I value you and to continue to trust you with my children and their education.

The truth is, there are 8000 skills you've developed in the work you do. From teaching how to get 25 kids to put on their coats, boots, snowpants, mittens, and hats on, plus packing their back packs, to teaching them to resolve conflicts. You've taught kids how to decode a word for the first time and how to divine the author's intention in an entire selection. You teach them to create and play and kick a ball. You teach them manners. You teach them morals. You teach them to code and be aware of their thinking process as they solve problems. You have classroom management skills and interpersonal skills to deal with us, the parents.

All of you who put IDEA into action, hold a special place in my heart. For this law has truly made America better. Seeing a whole cross section of our society improve their outcomes has been the greatest gift of my professional life. Remember before IDEA? I don't. But I remember studying the institutionalization of children with disabilities and how parents were told that their children couldn't learn before the federal government required a Free Appropriate Public Education for ALL children. Seeing these kids who started with you, move on to college...well...it's the right thing to move us forward as a nation. I don't care so much about how we score on standardized measures as I care how we treat those who needed our help. Did they get it?

I feel like at this school, they did. You implement this law on an ongoing basis and make our country better.

Our kiddos, you care for them and push rigor and expect things of them. You nurture the best parts of kids. ALL kids. What you do is the most important work there is. You raise the next generation.

Getting the required degrees impacts your ability to do this great task. I know how meaningful my degree continues to be 15 years after graduating with my undergraduate degree. What you choose to study and pursue and do, it impacts how you proceed through the world. And our district pushes teachers to pursue excellence. You tirelessly study how to be better at teaching and I value that. You attend ongoing teacher in services and earn master's degrees and participate in team coaching. These things matter.

It is important to me to try to do something additive after seeing this vote today. So I thought of who has touched my life most in the field of education and it is absolutely this school. So tomorrow, I'll send my kids there. Because I know teaching degrees matter. Public Education matters. Experience and expertise matter. And you have it.

Thank you. I value you.

And know if you need to commit to any sort of direct action in the future, that this parent will have your back.

With warmest respect,
Karin Mitchell