Dear parents and guardians of my students, Randall co-workers and Mr. John Wallace,
This last year has shown me the very best and the very worst in people. It’s difficult to read articles about stories from other districts where teachers are treated so poorly. In New Berlin, community members handed out pacifiers to teachers because of their “whining.” Every time I read a news article about education, I read the teacher bashing comments as well. My own uncle sent me an email during the protests telling me to stop my crying and get back to school.
As I hear from fellow teachers around the country about how parents in their schools treat them, I feel for them. I had a brief negative experience with both parents and administrators when I taught for 21st Century Prep in Racine, WI. A parent called me and told me I was racist for making her child clean in the art room with her friends during recess. The recess cleaning was a consequence to pouring paper mache all over the floor during art class. The principal told me that cleaning was not in the rules and I had no right to make them clean. So much for having each others backs.
The Randall community is a bubble of amazingness. No, it isn’t perfect. Yes, we have our struggles. But when I look around the country, the state and even my own Madison School District, I realize how very, very lucky I am.
Let’s start with my co-workers. I love that we can communicate with each other and assume best intentions. This staff has had it’s ups and downs in the past. The principal before Mr. Wallace was not an easy person to get along with. Whenever leadership isn’t a positive force in a school, there will be a split staff. This is never a positive thing for students as teachers stop communicating as thoroughly if there is negativity among the staff. I hear from art teachers in other parents of the country how they are treated like a baby sitter, just disrespectfully. I came to Randall after that principal left so I have no experience of what it was like at Randall with their old principal. I’m told it was very tense. I don’t feel any of that. Some of us are closer than others but you’ll have that. I feel like I can share ideas and ask for support and get it from ANYONE that works at Randall from the SEAs to the classroom teachers to the custodians. There is also a wealth of knowledge on our staff. Most teachers at Randall have been there for at least 15 years or more. Our music teacher, Ms. Haimerl has been there for 39 years and is retiring this year along with 4th grade teacher Ms. Koenen (34 years). It’s a shame to be losing such amazing teachers. We will miss them because we share our lives with each other every week. These are only two of the many co-workers at Randall that help me grow as a teacher. I just want my co-workers to know how much I appreciate each of them for their varying talents, humorous quipes and smiles they have brought my professional (and political) life.
And Mr. Wallace. Wow. Parents, teachers and students alike all trust and love Mr. Wallace. He certainly is a special person. I know from talking with other teachers in MMSD how difficult it is to be part of a school where the principal isn’t the most positive person or is a difficult person to get along with. Mr. Wallace is extremely encouraging and positive. He allows teachers to learn and grow in their profession. He respects us and trusts us to run our classrooms as we see fit based on our student needs. He doesn’t micromanage. He listens to the students and really makes time for them. He’s always available to listen to parents and teachers as well. Whether you are 8 or 54, you leave his office feeling better than when you came in and feeling like you accomplished something.
Dear parents and guardians of Randall (and my first grade Gompers parents!), I value you. We have a lot of parents who were politically active this last year along with the teachers or at least you stayed current with the news. You knew when there was going to be a tough day for the teachers (like June 6th) and gave us flowers, or dropped off iced coffee, or left a note on our door, or sent an encouraging email or the million other love mementos I received from you and your children. Each one of them made my day. You have no idea what those things mean. A thank you, an acknowledgement from a parent goes a long way when we go home and read those teacher bashing comments.
When others are leaving the teaching profession, I know I can continue to feel confident with my place in the Randall community. I have wanted to be an art teacher since I was in second grade and haven’t really wanted to be anything else since the, besides a brief detour into art therapy. It would break my heart if I had to figure out something else to do with my life because I’ll be honest, there isn’t anything I else I want to do with my life. I LOVE being with the kids all day. I LOVE watching their faces light up with pride after working so hard on a project! And I love the relationships I have with each of my students. They lift me up and teach me just as much as I lift them and teach them.
I felt moved to get this all down after the night of June 5th. Finding out that it was real, that we actually lost the election, that there are actually that many people out there that missed the entire point, was devastating. I actually thought about what else I would do for a profession if I wasn’t a teacher for the first time ever. Then I went to school on Wednesday, already on the verge of tears, when one of my students came up to me with his little fist raised and told me ‘we are still fighting.’ I want people to know how much I appreciate them because it’s important to point out this positive stuff when it is so easy to dwell on all the negative.
So, I appreciate you.