Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Teachers

The Cornell Alumni Magazine, after reporting that Gabby and I are recovering apace (seriously..... I'm a news article in my alumni magazine... this just keeps getting stranger and stranger....) went on to profile two other alumna, Michelle Rhee (former head of the DC public school system) and Randi Weingarten (president of the American Federation of Teachers). 

Two smart women, two very different ideas about what's right and what's wrong.

Arizona's legislature is on a rampage, reducing its contribution to public education and cost-shifting much of the rest to the counties.  My school district's latest budget update* includes these delightful tidbits:
  • General Fund revenues have declined by one‐third in the last 3 years
  • FY ’11 shortfall estimated at up to $(825) M followed by $(1.4) B in FY ’12 – excludes more than $1 B in suspended funding formulas
Did you notice that last phrase?  That's more than $1,000,000,000,000 of unfunded mandates, $1 Billion which was promised but is now in limbo.  We are talking about almost $2 billion dollars which were budgeted but never arrived. 

How can you run a business that way?

And then I went to Prince Elementary School last week.  Miss Levine's class wanted to read me their stories about kindness.  How could I resist a room filled with 5 and 6 year old authors?  Most of the students hadn't learned the alphabet when they started class in August.  Here they were in March, proudly following along as Miss Levine's fingertip pointed to their words.

Picking up a fallen friend, helping the teacher when she needs it, sharing and caring and gratitude for the clothes their parents provided -- simple acts of selflessness that reminded us all of our better angels.  

Their reward for writing and drawing and reading?  The chance to hug me (seriously..... this was a big deal in that classroom) and then the surprise I'd brought just for them.  Extra t-shirts from the race CrossFitNow put together 14 days after I was shot, a fundraiser for Tucson Together, have been languishing in my garage since mid-January.  Outfitting 24 kindergarteners and their assorted aides and assistants and principals and teachers was a no brainer.  Look at how happy they are:

Think the story can't get any sappier?  Rest assured, it can.  The principal's 5th grader attends her school.  He would have been a classmate of Christina-Taylor's brother had his mother not put her money where her mouth was, talked the talk and walked the walk, and enrolled her son in her school. 

Would you invest with an advisor who didn't have her assets heavily invested in the same instruments she was recommending to you?  Why should education be any different?  This principal is telling her clients, her constituents, the parents of her students that she values her son's education as highly as she values that of their children. 

Isn't this the kind of employee you'd be likely to reward?  Bonus?  It doesn't seem to be the kind of person from whom you would withhold basic resources.  Not that she couldn't make do without them, but because she shouldn't have to do without them.  
And so I have to wonder.  How can anyone deprive those faces of anything and everything they need to learn and flourish and grow? How is that a good thing?  How can grown-ups let egoism and territoriality and politics and money interfere with helping each one of these little humans become all that she can be?  How can we create the kind of America Christina believed in if we shortchange their education?

It's a mystery, denizens.  An absolute mystery.

*Budget figures for the Amphitheater School District can be found by following this link.


  1. AB, I cannot understand how the US can let districts cut school budgets. Meanwhile, we waste money on pork projects. It really upsets me.

    I agree with Obama in that education is the last thing to be cut from the federal budget. If we don't give our children the tools to be smarter, there is no way our society or economy is going to survive. We are lagging behind other countries and yet we are one of the richest nations in the world. I just don't get it. We also don't give our teachers their due. IMPO, teachers should be paid as much as lawyers and those on Wall St. They have the job of creating the adults of tomorrow. We need to treat them like the precious assets they are.

    LOVE the pixs of the kids in the t-shirts.

  2. You are SO right, MS. Our schools should be palaces, our teachers kings and queens.

  3. Great use for the extra t-shirts--the kids will cherish them, I know, for a long time. As for the "mystery," it's not a mystery, it's an impossibility to create the country C-T dreamed of if we shortchange education.

    I see the pipsqueak is on his way to Springfield. The good news is that those folks know their stuff and their conclusions will be hard for his lawyers to attack effectively.

  4. AB, your post today got me thinking too about a Daily Show episode I watched recently. Jon Stewart was talking about Wall Street CEOs pay and those of teachers.

    You can read more about it here and watch the part of the episode where he's talking about teacher pay.


    Megan xxx



  5. Well, AB, I haven't commented for a while, but I gotta say, I don't know how we can keep chipping away at the best resource we have for a better world. I wonder sometimes if those who are doing the chipping are thinking of the long term or just the short term (think re-election). It's discouraging to those of us who work in education to feel so de-valued. But on the upside, look at those kids faces! You did a great thing to give them not just the shirts but yourself as well. That's what education needs now, ourselves. I just don't know how to get people to see that...nice post, thanks.

  6. Google Chrome and Windows 7 just ate one of the best comments I ever left you! I can't recreate such a masterpiece, so I'll leave it with this part:

    I love it that your hugs are a reward for a roomful of kindergarten kids! A slice of heaven for all concerned.

  7. P.S. Arizona budget cuts on Maddow tonight. You can watch it tomorrow online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/

    I'll let Rachel make my comment about education cuts for me.

  8. Hugs and a talented teacher - those kids are in good hands.

    I am SO frustrated by legislators who think that education is less important than... anything else.

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