The following is an unbelievable account of some of the brutal interrogations being conducted of Teacher Librarians in LAUSD who have been targeted for layoffs…
Monday, May 9, 2011
Settle in. It’s a long one.
A bit of a disclaimer, before I dig in. I am not a reporter. I am a teacher, a librarian, and a writer. This account is crafted from my personal perspective, biased as it may be, and combines events from two days observing the hearings. As there were no reporters present, my point of view may be the only one available to the general public at this moment. I do not contend that the events detailed here are exact or verbatim. I do contend that this is the gist of it.
From my cold, plastic chair facing the court, I can observe on my right hand side the attorneys for United Teachers Los Angeles, who are the men that will make my case when the time comes. Their table is laden with binders nearly eight inches thick that are filled with the thousands of documents we teachers have entered into evidence. These are teaching credentials, lesson plans, and letters of recommendation, among other things. Most of this will not be admitted into evidence, or if it is, will be labeled hearsay. What a waste of paper. The UTLA attorneys seem flustered and distracted at their worst, but can be pointed and on top of things at times. They are slightly more knowledgeable about their clients and schools than LAUSD’s lawyers, I would say, but that is not saying much.
On my left is the school district’s table of attorneys. They have a plastic cart filled with evidence binders and their own files of information collected on each of us in what I can only assume was a rather hurried manner. I have come to think of them as evil incarnate. One appears to be content in his role, the other a reluctant but acquiescent pawn who may have trouble looking himself in the mirror at bedtime. They are there to squash the credibility of teachers and librarians without mercy. My employer has become my enemy.
Perhaps the most important thing to note, the most important point of all, is that these legal eagles seem to know very little about education. Pedagogy, current research, and national trends escape them. Their line of questioning is often nonsensical and even absurd, eliciting ripples of laughter among the forty or so educators watching the proceedings. These are the people making the decisions about what will happen, day after day, in our schools.
The hearings crawl along at a snail’s pace, each attorney and the judge rifling through mountains of documents and then discussing which belongs in evidence and which does not. The respondents wait on the stand, suddenly unsure of their own skills as teachers after long and tiresome rounds of questions that mean nothing to a person who spends her days inside a classroom. The students are almost never mentioned by the attorneys, except to ask whether we take attendance for them or enter their into grades into a computer system.
Sometimes a hearing becomes riveting. I find myself perched on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear what shocking question will spill out of the LAUSD attorney’s mouth. The first of these concerns a teacher named Mrs. Cook, a lovely, well-dressed woman in her early forties perhaps. As far as I understand, Mrs. Cook has taught Advanced Placement Government, Economics, and World History at So-and-So High School for a number of years, but not that many. She was laid off by the district because her seniority date did not reach back far enough into the past for them to consider her truly qualified.
Mrs. Cook was there to contest her RIF on the following grounds: One, she was the only of the three History teachers at her school both willing and able to teach Advanced Placement coursework. Two, in the years she has been teaching the AP classes, the passing rate on the AP tests has gone up nearly forty percent, helping many of her students gain credit, admittance, and scholarships for college. Three, depriving the school of their only AP History teacher simply because of a seniority issue creates an inequity of services for the students in that community and her RIF should therefore be rescinded.
The attorneys from LAUSD asked Mrs. Cook a number of questions, but the really juicy stuff came near the end of her testimony.
LAUSD: Mrs. Cook, didn’t you testify that there are two other credentialed history teachers at your school with more seniority than you?
Mrs. Cook: Yes.
LAUSD: So, if you were no longer a teacher at that school, there would be two other teachers who could teach the AP classes?
Mrs. Cook: Technically yes, but as I said before, each of them has stated that he will not accept a position teaching AP coursework. In addition, they have not received the training required to write an AP syllabus that would be acceptable to the College Board.
LAUSD: But they could, isn’t that correct?
Mrs. Cook: Well, I suppose, but they’ve said that they will not.
LAUSD : Please, Mrs. Cook, just answer the question I’m asking. These two teachers who have more seniority than you could teach the AP classes in your place. Is that correct?
Poor Mrs. Cook: Yes, that is correct.
Unbelievable. Here is how this translates in my mind: The Los Angeles Unified School District does not give a rip that the students at So-and-So High will no longer have a qualified AP history teacher. They do not care who the most effective educator might be. They do not care if the students go to college. They. Do. Not. Care. They have instructed their attorneys to go for the jugular, and to do so, they are ignoring years of mandates that have required teachers to jump through hoop after hoop to become highly qualified. No longer does one need to be trained to teach Advanced Placement. One just needs to be old enough and to be present.
These thoughts are occurring to me for the very first time, even though we are in the third year of massive teacher layoffs. Before sitting in on this hearing, I was under the impression that my large, mismanaged school district was more a bumbling idiot than a conniving schemer. Now though, I have been given a glimpse of the truth.
Some background is necessary here, I think. Two school years ago, LAUSD initiated year one of the Reduction-in-Force (RIF) movement, pleading budget shortfalls. We accepted this as an inevitability of the global economic crisis. It was unfortunate; we protested, we passed out leaflets, but we did not strike. My school lost many wonderful, bright, talented educators to charter and private schools, as well as careers outside of education. Many decided to return to law or medicine, the careers they had dreamed of as children before discovering the nuanced beauty of pedagogy. We persisted with substitute teachers in classes where no one would accept a position. We worried about what would happen next. And then it did.
One school year ago, we experienced another round of layoffs, again reducing our pool of energetic, innovative teachers and replacing them with people who were shuffled around from school to school, or office to school, who didn’t really want to be where the district was placing them. Many stayed only a month or two before fleeing for greener pastures, and the students suffered. The ACLU took action against the district for the inequitable layoffs in schools in impoverished areas. Forty-two schools were declared exempt from year three’s layoffs (in the event they would happen, which of course they did), but mine was not among them. Even though we had nearly thirty teachers who received RIFs each year (many more than in schools in areas with higher socio-economic indicators), even though our school is in an impoverished part of Los Angeles, we were not put on the exemption list because, and here’s the kicker, our test scores were too high. We were, essentially, punished for succeeding.
This year, once again, thousands of teachers went home to find the dreaded notification of a certified letter at the end of a long, taxing day in the classroom. Many didn’t bother to pick up the certified letter, knowing what it would say (side note: how much money was spent sending thousands of certified letters?). Nearly five thousand people, most of them tenured this time around, received the notice and started the wait. The wait consists of three months (at least) of psychological terror during which one does not know what will happen to one’s passion and commitment, income, mortgage payments, and general livelihood the following school year.
Last year, members of the union voted to accept seven furlough days in exchange for hundreds of jobs. This year, LAUSD wants twelve with no solid indication of what will be saved with that sacrifice. We have yet to strike, and this battle is being fought relatively quietly and within our own ranks. It is, unfathomably, not yet part of the general public’s consciousness.
So here I am, in the basement, the light panels zapping my brain as it dawns on me that these hearings are no innocent byproduct of a global economic collapse. Something sinister is happening, but I can’t yet put my finger on it.
On and on it goes, teacher after teacher getting pummeled by bullies who are dumber than dirt when it comes to education. Law, they seem to know ok. Or maybe it’s not law, but something else, like badgering and stalling. That’s how it feels as I watch.
I’m not here just as an observer. Soon I will be under that gun, so I want to see what I’m in for while I can still prepare. The real show for me begins when the Teacher Librarians (TLs) begin to take the stand. TLs are being eliminated by the district, or so it seems. I do not approve of this, nor do I think it will result in any real monetary savings in the long run, since the amount of money that will be needed for intervention later in order to make up for the lack of reading skills this causes will be phenomenal. However, the squabble the TLs are having with the district at these hearings is not even about the closure of dozens of libraries across the city. What we object to now (after having reluctantly and not fully conceding the point about libraries in general, since it has proven nearly unwinnable) is the recency rule that says were are no longer qualified to teach in a classroom setting in our other teaching credential(s), which means we are flat out fired no matter what our seniority dates might be. Twenty-five years as a teacher? If you made the mistake of transitioning into a Librarian position, too bad! You are no longer qualified.
The logic behind the recency rule seems to be based on poor decision making from last year. LAUSD sent scores of people into classrooms who had been sitting in cubicles for ages. These were people with dusty old teaching credentials, waiting for retirement in the cool, air-conditioned Beaudry building in downtown LA. (To be fair, many of these people did real, important work in their office settings. I personally know people who may have been in cubicles, but remained good teachers in spite of not spending their days in schools. A generalization is made here only to drive home a point. You will recall that I am not a journalist presenting the cold hard facts, but a teacher attempting to provide a synopsis of a cold, hard process. ) When layoffs began, these educators were saved because of their time served, but their office positions were cut and they went back to school for the first time in who knows how long. This did not go well. Everything had changed. The research, the curriculum, the technology, the furniture, the processes, the policies, the basic and fundamental understanding of how students learn.
An epic failure, test scores took a dive as unruly and bored children rebelled and administrators struggled to reacclimatize these cubicle-dwellers with slow, low success rates. So this year, LAUSD got wise. Make a rule that says that if you haven’t been in a classroom for five years, you can’t be in one ever again. No more problem, right?
Here’s the rub. The library is a classroom, not a cubicle. Teacher Librarians perform all of the functions that classroom teachers perform on a daily basis. TLs know the content well. TLs attend faculty and department meetings, have conferences with parents, plan lessons, deliver instruction, evaluate student work, and, by the way, are defined by their contracts with LAUSD as……Teachers.
So here I am in this courtroom day after day, waiting for my chance to prove that I am a teacher, and that this recency rule that was applied like a wet blanket over all of us should not stand. When the TLs got on the stand, thing got tense. And so tedious I cannot even describe how badly I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. The best way I can think of explaining the vicious humiliation doled out by the LAUSD attorneys is to describe four scenarios that illustrate their flawed but deliberate reasoning for taking us out of the schools forever.
Scenario One – What Dewey Teach, Anyway?
A TL whose original teaching credential is in High School English takes the stand. Let’s say he’s been working for the district for, oh, fifteen years, the last six or seven in the library. He is attempting to show that he is familiar with the English Language Arts content and curriculum. LAUSD wants to prove he is not.
LAUSD: Sir, are you familiar with the Dewey Decimal System?
Laughter from the peanut gallery as the TLs in the room reflect on the idiocy of these proceedings.
TL: Uh, well, yes. Of course I am.
LAUSD: Could you please describe to the court what the Dewey Decimal System is?
TL: It’s an organizational system used in the library to catalog and locate the books.
LAUSD: And is the Dewey Decimal System an alphabetical system?
TL: Heh. Well, no sir, it’s a numerical system.
LAUSD: So, the Dewey Decimal System uses numbers, is that correct?
TL: That is correct.
Let me just add that in this moment, we are all on the edge of our seats. Where could this be going? Is the LAUSD attorney just stalling? There is no reason we can possibly imagine that he would be asking about dear old Melville Dewey.
LAUSD: Would you say that in the course of your day you use numbers?
Gasps from the audience. What does this even mean?
UTLA: Objection. Vague.
LAUSD: Sir, would you say that using numbers is an important part of working in the library on a daily basis?
UTLA: Objection! Vague, your honor. Numbers? Where is this going?
LAUSD: Your honor, I am simply trying to establish that Mr. So-and-So does NOT spend at least 75% of his time working on the English content that he claims he is competent to teach.
UTLA: Your honor, the Dewey Decimal System is an organizational system, not a mathematical concept. This line of questioning is irrelevant.
Judge: Sustained. Move on.
So, here is my interpretation of this scenario. LAUSD wants to claim that the Dewey Decimal System is a numerical system and therefore we TLs use so much math in our daily practice that we can’t possibly be teaching much else. Well then, why don’t they put us all in math classes? Riddle me that, why don’t you?
This is, of course, absurd on many, many levels. Our lawyers, the UTLA lawyers, really should have been coached on these matters. The answer to this line of questioning ought to have made clear that all content area teachers are familiar with and use the Dewey Decimal System, as all content area teachers utilize the library’s resources in the course of their teaching, and therefore the Dewey Decimal System is as ubiquitous on a school campus as is any other regular function that teachers perform and is not related to any specific content area. It is akin to using a table of contents, index, or glossary in a classroom textbook to locate needed information. I would have also liked to point out that the use of said system is embedded into what we do in such a seamless way that there is not a chance in hell that we spend 25% of our time on it. If that were the case, it would take an hour to find a book on the shelf that it takes only seconds to do in reality.
Scenario Two – Left Hand, Right Hand: Which is Which?
In this case, LAUSD made an argument opposite to the one above, in terms of the use and practice of content area instruction. This TL holds a Multiple Subject teaching credential, qualifying her to teach elementary school and some middle school. She has been teaching as a middle school Teacher Librarian for a decade. She was an elementary school teacher for a decade before that.
LAUSD: Are you familiar with the California mandates for Physical Education in the first grade classroom?
TL: Do you mean the standards?
LAUSD: Yes, the mandates as set forth by the state of California.
As an aside, no one calls them mandates in the world of education. He meant standards, but he didn’t know it. If he meant mandates, he might be asking how many minutes of PE are required per week, etc. These are not things teachers need to know, but are the realm of school administration. Of course, even though he works for LAUSD, no one told him the difference.
TL: Well, no, not off the top of my head.
LAUSD: So, you don’t know the Physical Education requirements for first grade?
TL: No, not off the top of my head.
LAUSD: Don’t you hold a credential to teach elementary school?
TL: Yes, I do.
LAUSD: If you were to be placed in a first grade classroom position, who would be responsible for making sure the students received the state mandated PE instruction?
TL: I would.
LAUSD: But you don’t know what those mandates are?
TL: You mean the standards? No, not off the top of my head.
Here, the LAUSD attorney wants to require us to have memorized all content area standards for grades in which we have not worked for a number of years. They want to say that we are unqualified if this question stumps us, if we have not honed in on one content area for 75% of our time (the opposite of the argument from scenario one).
Here is what I would say to this: LAUSD, the very district trying to prove we are not capable of adapting, has required each of us to adhere to an ever-changing professional development program for as long as we have been in the district. We meet at our schools, at the district level, and are sometimes even sent to state or national conferences in order to incorporate new concepts, content, and strategies into our daily instructional practice. We have been taught by the district to adapt to new curricula and assessments that are thrown at us every couple of years. We have been taught to learn, and it is LAUSD who has taught us to do so. If I am truly incapable of reading the first grade PE standards and using my many pedagogical skills to create lessons to teach them, then yes, I am an unqualified teacher. Knowing the standards off the top of my head has nothing to do with it.
Here are some examples of the first grade PE standards:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Kick a rolled ball from a stationary position
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Identify the right and left sides of the body
<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Explain the importance of drinking water during and after physical activity
This is not calculus. I think I could manage to incorporate this into my daily teaching routine without have to return to university for an advanced degree. I already have an advanced degree, by the way. It’s in Education, which means that I know how to deliver instruction about pretty much anything, as long as I understand the content. I know how to do all of the things listed in the first grade PE standards, so….
Scenario Three – Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
In this scenario, the TL has worked for LAUSD since, I believe, 1977. He holds multiple teaching credentials, one of them qualifying him to teach high school Social Studies classes, although he has never done so outside of the Library setting.
LAUSD: I see that you’ve submitted a lesson plan into evidence for a research project on various countries.
TL: That’s correct. The students were assigned a country and then did research on the history, culture, politics, etc. of that country.
LAUSD: So, you taught them research skills?
TL: Yes, and I also taught them about the countries they’d been assigned.
LAUSD: So, you taught them about the history of those countries?
TL: Briefly, yes. As you can see, there are about twenty countries on the list.
LAUSD: So, you taught them about the history of Armenia?
TL: Yes, briefly, I did.
LAUSD: Could you please tell the court what you told the class about the history of Armenia?
TL: You want me to give a lecture on Armenian history? Now?
LAUSD: Please, if you wouldn’t mind.
The TL then proceeded to give a 3-4 minute lecture on the history of Armenia. He was spot on, and I think the LAUSD lawyer may have been a bit disappointed. The disrespect for this man’s credentials here is egregious.
Again, why weren’t the UTLA attorneys coached? Several points that I would have made are:
One, research skills are a part of almost all content areas at the secondary level, so why is LAUSD treating them as the bastard stepchild relegated only to the library? Two, research skills cannot be taught in a vacuum; content is imperative or the research is meaningless. And finally, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, when issuing a credential to a teacher, verifies that the teacher has met subject matter competency requirements. If LAUSD takes issue with the CCTC’s definition of subject matter competency, then that should be a discussion between those two organizations. End of story. The TL should not have been made to prove to a panel of lawyers with no pedagogical training (and, by the way, perhaps zero knowledge of the history of Armenia?) that his valid, current teaching credential is actually valid.
Scenario Four – Gotcha!
In this scenario, the LAUSD lawyers just got plain old nitpicky.
LAUSD: How much of your school day would you say you spend teaching?
TL: I teach all day long.
LAUSD: You teach all day?
LAUSD: Do you ever catalog books?
LAUSD: Are you teaching while you are cataloging books?
TL: (pause) No.
LAUSD: Do you ever write purchase orders for library materials?
LAUSD: Are you teaching while writing these purchase orders?
Ack! UTLA lawyers, where are you? First, teachers have conference periods. That’s when they take care of administrative and clerical tasks. Second, TLs do all these things in the moments between classes, or after school, or when a class cancels its appointment because of district-mandated testing, for example. If this is the kind of thing that’s going to persuade the judge to rule against us, I will have lost my faith in judges.
At the end of the first day of the hearings I attended, the judge was visibly frustrated. Twenty TLs had been on the docket and only four had been heard. Each of us brought a mountain of evidence that the attorneys would argue about, one page at a time. The judge asked the attorneys to come to an agreement, to make a deal, to expedite the process. It was clear that she believed the TL testimony would be the same thing over and over. Yes, we teach. Yes, we evaluate student progress. Yes, we are familiar with the content. Blah, blah, blah. On and on it would go, unless the lawyers agreed to something that would put an end to this. Perhaps lifting the recency rule for all TLs would do it. Perhaps rescinding our RIF notices. Perhaps allowing us to have a single spokesperson testify on the behalf of the group (we had chosen such a person and she was prepared).
The lawyers conferred and we murmured to each other while sending out a prayer and crossing our fingers. As a group, we had been pummeled pretty hard. We were tired and no one wanted to come back for another round of this the next day, much less for the weeks it would take if they heard us one by one. We had coffee jitters and our toes were cold from the air-conditioning. We were angry and humiliated, scared of what might happen, frustrated by the snail’s pace and inefficiency of the proceedings. Please, oh please, just make some sort of deal.
The lawyers returned to their tables.
UTLA: Your honor, we were unable to come to an agreement.
LAUSD: Your honor, we want to prosecute them all.
Ouch. Could that be what he really said? Prosecute them all? It was; I was sitting just behind him and heard it quite clearly. So, back the next day, and the next. The same thing over and over again with the same results. I believe that’s the definition of insanity, is it not?
So many questions arise as I think about this process. I have answers for none of them, although I do nothing but speculate as I try to fall asleep, as I drive to work, as I shower. What I think is this:
LAUSD does not want to pay for the TLs because we are expensive. Most of us have been teaching long enough with enough advanced degrees that we are at or near the top of the pay scale. If we were allowed to return to the classroom, our pay would be the same. Better for LAUSD to discredit us and replace us with young teachers on emergency credentials who will make little more than half of what we do.
It is clear that LAUSD has instructed its lawyers to do whatever they can to prove were are unqualified, even though we have satisfied every single requirement for qualification that LAUSD had asked of us for years, not to mention the state itself.
It is clear that LAUSD does not give credence to the massive volumes of research that prove that school libraries are directly linked to student achievement. Perhaps LAUSD is not aware of this research, but I imagine it is just being ignored.
It is clear that LAUSD is not trying to provide the best possible services for its students. The AP history teacher is a case in point. Student achievement is not LAUSD’s highest priority.
What is not clear is what will happen next. Will the libraries be closed and locked? Will the district violate state Education Code and keep the libraries open with clerical staff but no credentialed Teacher Librarians? Who will be the teachers in the coming years, when thousands of qualified and tenured faculty members have been released while the Board of Education announces a massive teacher shortage? Why is there no media coverage of these hearings, and does anyone even know we’re down there in the basement, defending ourselves? And on a personal level, can I continue working for an organization that wants to prosecute me? Even if the judge rules in my favor, can I stomach the thought of taking a paycheck from a school district that will just keep trying to push me out?
On Friday, I returned to my school. It was a pleasure to see the children and to work as a teacher, but it was a bittersweet feeling after having been where I had been. The truth is, there is little time left to make plans for the library’s future. If it closes, if I’m released, what will happen to that room? My library is one of the largest middle school libraries in the entire district, with over 35,000 items in its collection. There are twenty-five computers, three printers, an LCD projector, and shelves of multimedia resources. The value of that library is well over a million dollars. So what will happen to it after June 30th of this year, if I am gone and my clerks are gone (yes, they were laid off as well)? Will teachers and students just come and go as they please, taking books willy-nilly? If so, why is LAUSD not concerned about the financial loss implicit in that scenario?
Today I am furloughed. Tomorrow I go back to the hearings to plead my case. I do not want to. The next day I go back to school to prepare the library to be closed forever, or to be run a few hours a week by a reluctant clerk, or to be ransacked. The questions continue to pile up, but no answers are forthcoming. Stand by for further developments. Hurry up and wait.
At the bottom of all of this is a political reality that I find so daunting, so dark, that to enter into a discussion of it strikes fear in my heart and nausea in my belly. I believe that this is part of a larger movement in our city (and state, and finally, nation) towards a for-profit education model that takes pressure off of elected officials and puts money in the pockets of clever financiers.
Charter organizations are sweeping the nation, taking over school after school under the guise of a reform movement that doesn’t exist. I believe that LAUSD is in cahoots with this movement. Perhaps it is not LAUSD as a whole, but instead the unseen, rarely heard politicos that move the gears inside the machine, like the Wizard of Oz. The collapse of LAUSD will accomplish some big things for a few people.
A Prediction in Ten Simple Steps:
- 1. LAUSD proves that its teachers are awful and should be fired.
- 2. The school board allows charter organizations to take a crack at running the schools.
- 3. Charter organizations receive public funds meant to finance the education of children (just under $7,500 per student in 2009-2010), but are not required to fund libraries, provide special education services, or pay teachers union wages. This means that charter schools can pay for services that cost only three or four thousand dollars per student, let’s say, and pocket the rest.
- 4. Charter organizations are allowed to remove students from their schools at their discretion, sending low-performing students back to the public schools just in time for state testing. What luck! Schools with no special education students, few English Language Learners, and the ability to remove low-performing students prior to state testing show, according to the only measures we seem to care about (tests), improvement and success, thus lending credibility to the reform ruse. (Note: Although people believe that charters’ test scores are higher than public schools, in many cases a direct comparison shows otherwise. Why aren’t they higher, I ask you?)
- 5. Charter organizations (run largely by financiers, investment bankers, etc who are making a nice profit) gain legitimacy as an educational reform model, making inroads in districts across the nation.
- 6. Mayors, governors, and other politicians get a nice break from answering for their failing school systems.
- 7. Qualified teachers move on to other careers, while inexperienced, underpaid teachers are worked to the bone and burn out after only a few years.
- 8. This goes on and on for years. Few people notice, because few people think about schools unless they have school-age children. In a state where people elected not to pay an extra $18 on their car registration in order to fund state parks, who would expect any different?
- 9. Consumers begin to wonder why the clerk at the Gap doesn’t understand how to calculate the 40% discount on last season’s khaki capris when her computer is down and her manager is on break. This seems outrageous. Eventually, people begin to take note that nearly half of the students entering college need remedial classes, teachers are leaving the profession after just a few years due to burnout, dropout rates increase, and students are faced with huge inequities from campus to campus.
- 10. Finally, the public demands yet another overhaul of the school system. The charter organizations are evaluated using the same criteria they imposed on public schools years ago to prove their incompetence. The charters are proven incompetent. Local governments reestablish public school districts and states spend millions of dollars for intervention consultants, trainers, and curricula to swoop in and repair the state of affairs. Libraries are re-stocked and re-opened. New teachers are recruited and trained. And we begin again, from the beginning.
As this happens, I will be raising my own children. I will not be allowed to participate in these movements, and I will not be a teacher. I will grapple with how to educate my children and will be forced to forsake my belief in free education for the public, because that will no longer exist. I cannot afford private school for them, and I do not believe home schooling is a good choice in terms of social-emotional development (plus, I cannot afford it). As a person who has devoted her life to the art and science of teaching, I will be faced with no acceptable choice for my children.
Yes, I would like to continue work as a teacher and librarian. People who are teachers, real teachers, cannot imagine doing anything else. It’s a knack, a calling, like a painter or writer or brain surgeon may feel. If not allowed to teach, what will we do? More than this though, I’d like the children, all of the children, to have teachers who are supported, respected, and assisted, not attacked, discredited, and humiliated. I’d like the children to be given what we know that they need, not just what we can afford, or what we feel like giving them at the time. Maybe it’s hard to say what they need or how to give it to them. What is abundantly clear to me, however, is that what they don’t need…is this.