Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Letter to the Teachers of PS 140 in the South Bronx

To The Teachers of PS 140

I want to thank you for your hospitality, your honesty, and your eloquent descriptions of the issues you face as educators during my presentation at your Professional Development Day. It confirmed my conviction that the teaching staff of PS 140 provides a model of integrity, resilience, creativity and commitment to students that those making education policy would do well to experience and observe first hand

No group in our society does a more difficult or important job than our public school teachers, and yet no group is more maligned and unjustly blamed for our society’s problems. The result, as you all know, is that creative teaching , and the mentoring and relationship building that accompanies all great teaching, is being undermined by excessive testing, and the imposition of “accountability” standards based on student test scores that put teachers, and school administrators, under enormous stress.

But not everyone agrees that teachers should be the nation’s punching bags! There is a growing number of people who feel that the work teachers are doing at schools like PS 140, which includes nurturing students, working with their families, and making the school a place where music, the arts, science and history thrive, are what real education is all about. There is a reason why I take people from all over the world to visit PS 140 when I am taking them on tours of the Bronx. Right here, in this school, in the poorest Congressional district in the nation, great things are taking place in every classroom and in a school community which embraces the culture and history of the neighborhood it is located in while trying to cope with the very real problems poverty creates for students and their families.

Someday, America will realize that this nation’s true heroes are teachers in schools like PS 140, people who work under daunting conditions, in the face of great public skepticism and a misguided obsession with high stakes testing, without every losing their passion for their jobs or their love for the children they work with

Please know that while I cannot change the direction of education policy in this city, this state, or the nation, I will stand up for you in every public forum I have access to and point to PS 140 as an example of a public school that is a true community institution and a place which keeps the best traditions of American Democracy alive as day to day practice

And also know that I will always be available to you to correspond, to talk, to visit your school and your classrooms and to help you fight for the respect you deserve, and you have earned

With Deepest Appreciation

Dr Mark Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Founder and Principal Investigator
The Bronx African American History Project

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