Friday, January 23, 2015

An Open Letter to my State's Governor

I found something out today that I cannot get out of my head.  I found out that you will be proposing another track of teacher licensing.  In your proposal a person with "real-life experience" (no clue what you mean by that) can take an exam, pass it and *POOF* have their teaching license.

Let me set the record straight that I have voted for you every single time you have come up on the ballot.  I know that I am in a VERY small percentage of teachers who have done so.  I know many in our state criticize you for what you've done to education.  I will say that I don't think it's your strong suit, but there are other things that I greatly agree with you on, so I've supported you.  I even supported you when you required teachers to chip in a bit for benefits.  How you went about it wasn't the best, but considering our benefits are amazing compared to the private sector, I was okay with chipping in a bit for said benefits. 

But this is a new low.  This is offensive to me.  This is a slap in the face.  Your proposal proves to me that you have ZERO idea what it takes to be a good educator.  Of course subject matter knowledge is important as a teacher.  But guess what.  Of the ten teaching standards of our state, only ONE addresses subject matter knowledge.  The other nine are learned through a combination of teacher education training and teaching experience.  There are a couple of those nine that can also be partly learned in life, but I can tell you not everyone possesses those skills.

Your proposal belittles my education and my experience.  When I went to college to be a French teacher, I not only had to major in French, but I had to go through the education classes as well.  I took classes that taught me how to meet the other nine teaching standards.  One specific class was so crucial to my education that it was specifically geared toward aspiring foreign language teachers.  It also makes no mention of student teaching.  That semester taught me more than the other 3 1/2 years of college.  I know I speak for every teacher when I say I was nowhere near ready to teach on my own the first day of student teaching.  Student teaching is a crucial part of the teacher education process.

Teaching ability is a gift.  I will not pretend that everyone who goes through the education program will be an awesome teacher and I will not pretend that nobody can be a good teacher without going through the education program.  Some just have it and some just don't.  But I am not comfortable with the future of our state or even our nation to be put into the hands of someone who cannot tell me what an IEP is and why it's so important.  I am not comfortable with someone teaching our youth who has zero grasp of the different socioeconomic and behavioral factors that can make or break a student's ability or desire to learn.  I know many people who could even be considered experts in their field that would drown in today's classrooms.

Please do not move forward with your proposal.  I implore you.  Education is the most important tool we can give students and you are cheating them by letting anyone just pass a simple content test in order to teach.  There is already so little respect toward teachers as it is.  Please don't add more disrespect by making it even easier to get a teaching license.  We should be investing in finding the very best teachers, not handing out a license to just anyone.  Teaching IS and should be considered an elite, distinguished and respected profession.

A teacher who easily has another 35 years before retirement, therefore another 35 years to make one heck of a difference in this world.

image from

Monday, January 19, 2015


It is hard to believe it's been almost two weeks since three Muslim gunmen opened fire on a Paris magazine office killing a dozen people and wounding many more.  This is one of those few events in life where I will always know what I was doing when I found out about it.  I was home because school had been cancelled due to extreme cold and a friend texted me asking if I had heard about Paris.  From there I watched it all unfold.

Within hours, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with #JeSuisCharlie, a sign of support for the magazine that was targeted, especially those who were dead or injured.  As time went on, #JeSuisCharlie became a symbol for much more: solidarity, rights, freedom of speech, the list goes on.

Let's look at what "Je suis Charlie" really means.  In French, it literally means "I am Charlie".  Charlie stands for the name of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo. So, anyone using that hashtag in a literal sense is literally calling themselves the magazine.  However, after the attacks, the magazine began to represent much more, especially freedom of speech, so using the phrase was a way to stand by them.

Going back a few more steps, let's see what Charlie really is.  Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical magazine.  The purpose of satire is to mock and criticize, and Charlie definitely lives up to that description.  Their pages are often filled with cartoons mocking religions, races, politicians, genders, you name it.  The cartoons that prompted the attacks from these gunmen were ones that exposed Muhammed, who is the prophet of Islam.  Nevermind the fact that many branches of Islam specifically prohibit any drawing or reproduction of the likeness of Muhammed (they consider it to be a sacrilege)...many of these cartoons have been directly inflammatory of Muhammed, and by association, Muslims themselves. And Islam is not the only religion to be openly and offensively mocked in these magazines... Charlie Hebdo has made it clear that just about nothing is off limits.

I do not condone the actions of these murderers. But I have to say that I cannot, in good conscience, say that I am Charlie or that I support their actions either.  It is not because I have no French pride.  It is not because I don't support the French.  On the contrary.  I love France and consider it my home away from home.  Despite the fact that I find these attacks appalling, I cannot stand behind a magazine that makes its living by targeting and mocking specific groups of people.

Our world is in a precarious situation.  Hate is abound.  Muslims are hated because they are supposedly terrorists.  Christians are hated because they are supposedly homophobic women-oppressors.  Blacks are hated because they are supposedly thugs.  Those receiving state aid are hated because they are all lazy and supposedly milking the system.  I could keep going, but I think you get the picture.  Pretty much every group is hated for some reason or another.

I had a discussion about this situation with a French friend of mine last week and she said I was taking Charlie Hebdo's cartoons too seriously.  "Oh, it's only meant to be funny," she said.  But, mind you, she isn't a part of any group that is regularly mocked by Charlie.  Look at the list I made in the previous paragraph.  Much of that hatred stems from one thing: stereotypes.  And what does satire do?  Use humor to exaggerate stereotypes and mock certain groups.  There is nothing funny about mocking people for things that are a pillar of their lives.

See where I'm going with this?  They are adding to the division and hate in this world.  In Charlie Hebdo's situation, not only do they add to the division, but they openly mock and purposefully offend people.  PEOPLE.  How are we supposed to teach our children to respect all people regardless of religion, race,  nationality, etc when we are applauding a magazine who uses their constitutional rights to do just the opposite?  If we are ever going to make the world a better place, we need to continue to teach our children that even if we disagree with someone in any way, they are still a PERSON and ALL PEOPLE deserve respect.

Despite disagreeing with what they have to say, I still support Charlie's (and everyone else's) right to say what is on their mind.  The law is very black and white for a reason.  If we start adding gray area and say, "well.. you can say what you want as long as it doesn't mock or offend..." then we start getting into that slippery slope.  Cue a bunch of frivolous lawsuits, right?

So here is MY proposition.  Let Charlie Hebdo publish what they want.  Stand beside them and give them support because they are PEOPLE going through a horrific situation.  But let's get our voices heard too.  Promote the respect of differences.  Promote the "other side" of any story, rather than just the side that promotes hype and stereotypes.  Shut down hate.  Shut down stereotypes.  The world is only what we make it.  As teachers we have the tools to change the world for the better.  So why don't we give it a shot?  Love is stronger than hate after all.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Buche de Noel

Yeah I've been super lazy about posting lately (apologies).  But I just had to share the overflow of the amazing Buches de Noel that my kids made!  We have a holiday party every year before Christmas break and I decided to mix it up from the normal crepes.  I told the kids that if they made a Buche de Noel (they could work in groups in the class) and brought it in, they could get extra credit.  Well a lot of kids in one class (the photo is the cakes from a 30 student class) decided to take me up on my offer and made a TON of them!  They were so creative though.. the one in the bottom right of the photo even has acorns made of hershey kisses and nutter butters!

I hope everyone had a restful Christmas break.  Bring it on 2015!