My Letter of Resignation

featured in The Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet
i-quit

I applaud the resolution of educators such as Gerald J. Conti and Kris L. Nielsen, for publicly deciding to remove themselves from the classroom, especially because they have used their dissent as a platform to spread awareness about current issues in America’s education reform. If you haven’t come across their widely-read letters of resignation, you can find them here and here, respectively, and they are worth the read. After having spent the past month in Finland, however, gaining new insights from the Finnish education system and having the freedom of time to reflect on my own experiences as a teacher in New York, I have a different kind of letter. Call it my Letter of Resolution. I wrote it because I have had enough. I can’t handle any more top-down; I am ready for some bottom-up. I hope you will join me.

Mr. Arne Duncan
Secretary
Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue,
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Mr. Duncan,

I will not be leaving the teaching profession anytime soon. This is despite the fact that current educational reform efforts are continually pushing some of the best and brightest educators closer and closer to the door of the classroom, if they haven’t already left.

In spite of the fact that you consistently attempt to find new ways to hijack the time I spend teaching, planning, collaborating, reflecting, researching, conferencing, bettering myself, and addressing my students’ needs, I manage to complete all of the menial administrative tasks you mandate in an effort to comparatively measure my efficacy in the classroom.

I ignore the fact that you ignore the fact that I earned a Master’s degree, received numerous teaching awards and have nothing but exemplary observations in my personnel folder.

I dutifully administer tests that narrow my curriculum and steal time away from the authentic assessments my co-teachers and I spent years developing to encourage student growth and reflection on their own learning.

I allow you to make your deterministic assumptions that the most effective means to an end can be externally defined, controlled and measured in a “standardized” manner, ignoring my students’ diversity, prior knowledge, skills, beliefs, attitudes and differences in motivation and attention.

I seek out meaningful professional development on my own because every faculty meeting consists of me and my colleagues being force-fed new mandates, while we watch our autonomy wither as hastily as our morale.

I do all of this despite the fact that during this time, you remind me repeatedly that I need to be patient because we are “crossing a bridge as we build it” –an unbelievably ineffective metaphor that is worrisome at best and at worst, absurd.

But I thank you for it.

And not because it isn’t inane. It is. But it made me recognize something that has reignited my commitment to my students into a flame that even the most ineffective and watered-down standardized assessment can’t extinguish:

This impossible, hap-hazard, horribly thought-out metaphorical bridge my colleagues and I are on right now, it also contains (in my metaphorical pockets, if you will) my students, their parents, our community, and our collective future as a society …and I refuse to stand by and watch while you let us fall into the abyss because you are too busy catering to private industry rather than listening to what your own Equity and Excellence Commission advises you to do.

By next September, many of my fellow American teachers will have thrown in the towel and even more potential teachers, who are graduating at the top of their classes and might have made the finest educators our schools have ever seen, won’t even consider entering the profession because of the debacle that has resulted from the misguided effort to fix our schools.

But I will be in my classroom.

…because the country does need educational activists, like Kris Nielsen and Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody and countless others, who spend their days and nights fighting against the harmful effects of the latest wave of reform measures. But what the country also needs are more Mr./Mrs. ________________ (insert the name of that teacher you had who inspired a passion for learning in you, Mr. Duncan).

This is the end of my resignation; although I will remain in my classroom, I will no longer be a silent, complacent bystander, or worse, participant, while you have your way with the American education system; I have invested too much and there is too much at stake; neither my students nor I are going to end up in that abyss …not while there is still time to turn things around.

Sincerely,

Christine McCartney
English Language Arts Teacher
Newburgh , NY


I am mailing this letter tomorrow (10-April-2013) via snail mail from Finland, so it might take a bit…

If you are inspired to get involved/educated/read more, here are some great places to start:

http://unitedoptout.com/

http://www.fairtest.org/get-involved/opting-out

http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

http://atthechalkface.com/

http://mgmfocus.com/2012/12/18/this-is-how-democracy-ends-an-apology/

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About christine mccartney

I am a teacher, a wife, a proud aunt, a dog rescuer, a person who has been rescued by my rescued dogs, a hiker, a three time (phew!) cancer survivor, a runner, a tattoo addict, a vegetarian, an advocate, a friend and a happy traveller. Enjoy!
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77 Responses to My Letter of Resignation

  1. Thank you Christine, your letter to Arne is so perfect. I am happy to have found your blog. As a like minded teacher, I am relieved that others see clearly what is happening to public education in the US.

  2. Pingback: A Word Cloud Analysis: A Bottom-Up Resolution to School Improvement | PHIGURITOWT

  3. Zane Wubbena says:

    As Julian Vasquez Heilig said, when Arne Duncan was recently heckled at the most recent AERA conference, “dissent is the vibrancy of our democracy.” Awesome post, Christine – keep up the great work!

    In response to the disconnect between the top-down approach and school improvement, Texas recently passed a bill, SB1557. The bill creates a cohort of about 20 school districts (250,000 students) that exempts them from high-stakes testing in an effort to implement a bottom-up approach called community-based accountability.

  4. Christine, thanks for your inspiring letter. It’s not so easy to stay as strong as you have! Although it’s a bit late in the conversation, here’s a reflection a former teacher shared with me about what she learned from leaving: http://wp.me/p1ylqw-8D

  5. Pingback: Why Teach? - Think Wonder Teach | Think Wonder Teach

  6. Dennis Maher III says:

    Christine,

    I know I’m joining this conversation late, but I just want to applaud you as well for your inspiring words. We just found out two days ago that we are being pulled for “Module Training” on Monday and Tuesday. Then we’re expected to teach this “module unit” on Wednesday up until the end of the year. Looks like another piece of the bridge is complete:-(

    I am worried…discouraged…angry…and sad for the future of education. I didn’t become a teacher to learn to follow a script. I wonder, have you ever read Issac Asimov’s “The Fun They Had?” If not, I recommend it to anyone who views this blog and has an interest in education. In it Asmiov creates a world where the teacher is a computer. There are no schools. Education takes place in the homes. The computers are designed to go at a pace that the learner can handle. If speed of instruction is too slow or fast, a “county inspector” comes in and makes an “adjustment.”

    In theory this sounds great, until we meet the protagonist of the story, a little girl named Margie, who, surprise surprise…hates school. She hates her computer teacher and when she discovers a book from “the past” that explains what school used to be like (kids all going to a school building, learning from humans, etc) she starts to wonder. She wonders about ‘the fun they had.’

    …if only Margie knew.

  7. Shari says:

    Way to go, Christine! I’m proud to be called your colleague!

  8. Lisa Hawes says:

    Thank you so much for NOT QUITTING and passing on some inspiration with your bravery and eloquence. I hope you are still at NFA when my children get there!

  9. Pingback: A teacher explains: Why I won’t resign. A letter of resolution. | Get Schooled

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  11. Pingback: Teacher: Why I won’t quit despite ‘inane’ reform | ΕΝΙΑΙΟ ΜΕΤΩΠΟ ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑΣ

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  13. deniloritsch says:

    Reblogged this on The Art of a Day and commented:
    I so agree.

  14. Suzanne Smith says:

    Dear Christine,

    Thank you for letter to Arne Duncan. I just moved here from Texas, where you certainly don’t want to be a teacher. I can’t get a job because I’m too “experienced.” I can’t even get an interview. Not sure what I will do. I live in Montgomery, so close to you and would love to meet you.

    • Fantastic. I am in Finland until the summer, but if you send me a note when I get back, I would love to. I also have a pretty extensive network of colleagues in the Hudson Valley, so I might be able to assist you. Thanks for reading :)
      All best, Christine

  15. How serendipitous that I am just getting ready to post my video that you so graciously contributed to, and launch a new teaching blog about giving teachers voices, when I came across this post today. Thanks for being a true voice for change in our profession.

  16. Camille says:

    You make us happy and hopeful!

  17. Sue Curtiss says:

    Great job, Christine!!! I love your passion and your commitment…you speak for so many of us teachers! Your students are blessed to have you in their lives! :)

  18. llemieux2013 says:

    Reblogged this on On Teaching and commented:
    In her passionately-worded letter, Christine McCartney speaks for me at a time when I have been feeling exactly the same frustrations and anger towards my board of education for precisely the same reasons Christine states so eloquently in her letter. I am sharing her letter and will post my own thoughts later, after I sit through another imposed in-school PD session tomorrow morning , on a topic, once again, for which I do not need professional development.

  19. Pingback: Teacher: Why I won’t quit despite ‘inane’ reform

  20. Ana Torriente-Ford says:

    As a mother of one of your students and an educator myself I applaud you . It’s about time we stand up and let those who make decision for our students know that those decisions don’t work for our children. THANK YOU FOR THE INSIPIRATION

    • Anytime, Ana! Please tell Aaron I said hi! This experience has been amazing so far…every educator should have the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on their practice and the factors that effect it, both inside and out of the classroom. All best to your family! -Christine

  21. Angela says:

    AWESOME!!!!! Your letter is a rallying cry for all American teachers. My fear is that we, as a nation, will lose sight of creativeness, spontaneity, and just plain ole fun in school… that what makes us WANT to learn and be life-long learners.

  22. shannonjoe says:

    Love your passion-I share it! :)

    Shannon

    http://www.irunreadteach.wordpress.com

  23. Pingback: My Letter of Resignation | i run read teach

  24. Evelyn Royer Pine says:

    What an excellent letter, Christine! I am so glad you mentioned the metaphorical bridge our distict is building as we, the teachers, cross it! Unfortunately, we must continue on whether the bridge is built or not…the abyss into which we are falling is a scary place!! I miss you tons!!

  25. Scott Siddle says:

    Christine,
    As a member of the education system (board member in a small, rural district – 270 students – pre-8th), I truly appreciate your perspective and your words.
    Thank you, keep it up!

  26. Thank you. Seriously. I am a new teacher, just starting out in the field, but with an absolute belief that I will help to change the state of our education system. I’m not exactly sure how, as a new teacher, but even from what I have experienced this year in a private school classroom, in a school that is not as pressured by the legalities of the public education system, the value we have placed on education has rapidly gone down the drain. You are an inspiring example, and it is so refreshing to know that there are others out there who very much realize the dire need we are in, and are working towards implementing that change. I only hope that as I grow as an educator, I too can find ways to make my voice heard, and work together with educators like you.

  27. rebecca burdett says:

    Totally beautiful, Christine. It will help me to face today, when I have to sit through another faculty meeting hijacked by test prep, test review, testing protocols, test scheduling and data review. I have a student teacher sitting by me through all this madness, and I’m going to ask her to read your letter. Elegant and articulate push -back had better be a new tool in all of our toolkits! I’m eager to hear about your travels when you return. Take care! Rebecca

    • Thanks, Rebecca! I can’t wait to talk to you either. I have soooo much to tell you about early education here and how you are doing everything right!!! :)
      I hope the PD wasn’t too brutal.
      *all best

  28. Amazing letter! As a teacher in Canada that is also feeling oppressed by the current reforms and direction of education, I applaud your willingness to express dissent (in such an articulate manner!). That being said, I also am inspired by your willingness to not be pushed aside, and instead to stand your ground and raise awareness for the rights of children in an equally strong manner — by staying in the classroom. thank you.

  29. Sarah says:

    Thank you! After a day of fighting to get what is right for my students, and having to continue the battle (like countless others) I came home thinking what is the point. Your words reminded me why we fight, and to keep going. thanks

  30. Paula says:

    xoxox

    You ROCK ..BIG TIME!

    (And you are my inspiration to work harder)

  31. William Riepe says:

    You have a wonderful command of words.
    I urge you to try writing a book..
    Uncle Bill

  32. Wow. Passionate and powerful!

    • Thanks! and thanks for sharing it. Your blog is the best one I have seen in a long time, aesthetically. The worm? Amazing! I am going to really check it out later. Thanks again!

      • Thank you for the compliment. I wish I could take full credit, but the layout is all WordPress. But I chose it purposefully. I am big on things being visually pleasing and easy to read.
        I look forward to your posts. You are obviously intensely impassioned about teaching!

  33. Joan says:

    I am inspired by both your passion for teaching and for your sentiment regarding the sad direction that education is taking. I enter my classroom each day fully prepared to meet the needs of my students and to suggest that we, as educators, cross a bridge that is not yet constructed is both foolish and dangerous. The ones in peril are our students. Thank you for putting down on paper what so many of us feel. Keep it up! Ignite that fire in all of us!

  34. Thank you for standing up for us and our students.

  35. mommielamb says:

    An excellent letter!!!

    Since you say you will be mailing it tomorrow via snail mail from Finland, I just want to point out one minor typo, in case you haven’t already caught it: (You probably meant ‘have YOUR way’)

    Keep it up! And as a parent and spouse of a teacher, I thank you for your commitment and passion.

    Sincerely, Demeter Lamb Alameda, CA

    • Ha! Thanks! I actually fixed it last night when my mom (who usually edits stuff like this for me) let me know about it. It was her birthday yesterday, so I didn’t want to bother her with it… I thought my reading it over like fifty times before making it public would work…guess not :) Thanks for the heads up and thanks for reading it.

      • mommielamb says:

        I thought you might have caught it, but figured I had to say something… especially since I wanted to say how very much I appreciated what you have to say! My husband is a teacher of 20 years and has been through a roller coaster (as you well know!)
        Reading something 50 times – it’s incredibly easy to miss a tiny typo! It takes fresh eyes… It was kind of you to let you mother have her birthday without editorial duties.
        Keep writing and keep teaching!!!
        Best wishes,
        ~Demeter

  36. SteveG says:

    Yes!
    Genius!
    Absolutely spot on and one of the best commentaries I have read on our current state.
    Kudos!

    Come Along!

  37. blkdrama says:

    Yes, my friend. I stand with you!
    Bonnie

  38. I am floored by its genius, but not floored this came from you! you are an inspiration to novice and veteran teachers! One Link At A Time!

    • Thanks, Tracey! Having the freedom of time to research and reflect has definitely been a blessing. I wouldn’t be here though if it weren’t for all the editing support I got when working on this application from you and Stacy :) Thanks for the fb repost too!

  39. Amy says:

    You are awesome! You’ve said it so well. My mathematical mind wouldn’t be able to express what you’ve said so powerfully and passionately! Miss seeing you at work.

  40. Kudos to you from Jackie’s mom. Keep up the excellent work and the leadership with your strong voice.

    • Thanks Mrs. Lehmann!
      Thanks also for taking the time to read it :)
      Your daughter has always been an inspiration to me. You should be incredibly proud of who she is as an educator!
      *all best, Christine

  41. Deena Siddle says:

    I just love your blog and have shared it with my husband who is on a school board. He also was inspired by your words and works hard to make a difference. One person at a time. I just shared this on my facebook page to reach some teacher friends of mine that I pray will be encouraged. I’m sure your student are glad you will be there next year also.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Deena. Also, thanks for helping me spread the word!

      • Deena Siddle says:

        My husband has emailed your link to the superintendence’s of two schools and all the board members on his board. He wants to make a difference and agrees with you. I know that your blog did help one of my teacher friends who felt bullied by adim.

  42. Reblogged this on SaveOurSchoolsNZ and commented:
    “I applaud the resolution of educators such as Gerald J. Conti and Kris L. Nielsen, for publicly deciding to remove themselves from classroom, especially because they have used their dissent as a platform to spread awareness about current issues in America’s education reform. If you haven’t come across their widely-read letters of resignation, you can find them here and here, respectively, and they are worth the read. After having spent the past month in Finland, however, gaining new insights from the Finnish education system and having the freedom of time to reflect on my own experiences as a teacher in New York, I have a different kind of letter. Call it my Letter of Resolution. I wrote it because I have had enough. I can’t handle any more top-down; I am ready for some bottom-up. I hope you will join me.

    Mr. Arne Duncan
    Secretary
    Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue,
    Washington, DC 20202

    Dear Mr. Duncan,

    I will not be leaving the teaching profession anytime soon. This is despite the fact that current educational reform efforts are continually pushing some of the best and brightest educators closer and closer to the door of the classroom, if they haven’t already left.

    In spite of the fact that you consistently attempt to find new ways to hijack the time I spend teaching, planning, collaborating, reflecting, researching, conferencing, bettering myself, and addressing my students’ needs, I manage to complete all of the menial administrative tasks you mandate in an effort to comparatively measure my efficacy in the classroom.

    I ignore the fact that you ignore the fact that I earned a Master’s degree, received numerous teaching awards and have nothing but exemplary observations in my personnel folder.”
    Read the rest – it’s worth it. Better still, follow Christine’s blog – again, very worthwhile. ~Dianne

  43. Well said. Keep up the passion.

  44. All I can say to that is BRAVO. You inspire me (and countless others, I have no doubt). Rock on, Christine – keep up the great work and the awesome energy.

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