What All Teachers Need to Hear

In light of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address, an awesome post by Tony Sinanis and Lisa Meade http://bit.ly/1uGKYlv, and the reading of an amazing article from The American Scholar titled School Reform Fails the Test by Mike Rose (MUST READ), I felt compelled to share a letter that the six principals in my district shared with our amazing teachers. Following a meeting we had with the members of our Board of Education, we reflected on the work being done in classrooms across the district and how our teachers continue to raise bar for themselves and the students. The letter reads:

January 14, 2015

To the members of our awesome staffs,

Unfortunately, there are no Golden Globes for teachers.

There are no red carpets. No paparazzi. No star-studded events, no tuxes or gowns, no trophies and perhaps saddest of all, no after parties.

There should be.

If there were, and writers needed material to help them craft speeches to honor you and the work that you have done thus far during this school year, they need look no further than last night’s meetings that central administration, the principals, and the directors had with the Board of Education. In our conversations, each of the #words discussed at September’s Superintendent’s Conference Day came to light. The #RISKS you have taken with new instructional practices, the #EXPECTATIONS you have set for yourselves and your students, and the ways that you have worked to #ENGAGE AND #EMPOWER every child would be things cited in opening paragraphs. Your continued willingness to #REFLECT on each of your lessons and the evolving needs of your students would be celebrated, as would the way you have been collaborating with one another in your PLCs and other venues. Prior to inviting you to the stage, the presenters would pose the question, “Are you the teacher you would want your child to have?” It would be answered with an overwhelming, “Yes.”

When considering what you might say after hearing these accolades and accepting your awards, we could not help but think of Kevin Spacey’s words when he won for best actor in a television series. He shared a conversation he had with Stanley Kramer where he told the ailing director what he thought about his work. He said, “The films you’ve made, the subjects you’ve tackled, the performances you’ve gotten out of some of the greatest actors that have walked the earth, the Oscars you’ve won – your films will stand the test of time and will influence film makers for all time.” To Spacey’s surprise, as he stood up to leave, Kramer grabbed his hand and said, “Thank you so much. That means so much to me. I just wish my films could have been better.” It was in that spirit that Spacey accepted his award saying, “I just want it to be better. I just want to be better… but this is very encouraging. Thank you so much.”

On behalf of all of us, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by colleagues who work so hard and strive continuously to “be better.” Please know that your hard work, your dedication to our students and the manner in which you model the Growth Mindset in the way you approach your craft were shared with members of the Board of Education. Thank you for all that you have done and what you will continue to do for our students.

With respect and admiration,

Glen, Luis, Joe, Trish, Michael and Patrick

Our school leaders, when we think about our teachers, we must keep Mike Rose’s words in the forefront of our minds. He writes,

Teachers live in bipolar world, praised as central to students’ achievement and yet routinely condemned as cause of low performance.


With our words…

And our actions…

We need to change that.


The Heart: A Teacher’s Parachute

How Jimmy Fallon, Will Smith and Sky Diving in the Third Quarter Inspired Us…


Below is a letter I shared with my staff upon returning from February break. For those of us fortunate enough to work with amazing people (all of us who work in education), I think it says everything!

Dear All,

Welcome back! We hope you had a wonderful week off with your loved ones and that you are as excited as we are to be back. One of the best things we got to do over break was sleep late which was very necessary as we watched a lot of the Olympics and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. If you didn’t catch his first show, his guests were Will Smith and U2, both of whom were awesome! The interview with Will Smith was especially great and it made us reflect on how fortunate we are to work with all of you.

When asked for advice as to how Jimmy should handle the honor that has been bestowed on him, the forty-five year old Fresh Prince (OMG the Fresh Prince is 45!!!) stated, “I was watching all of the people that came here to support you tonight. People are coming for you. The Tonight Show is big and it’s historical… But people are coming for your heart.” He went on to share words of wisdom that he gave his son and daughter as they entered show business by adding, “You keep loving people. Make sure that your art is a gift to help make their lives better and brighter.”

In so many ways, these statements made us think of you, our students and the work we do each day. Sure, you could say, kids get off the bus every day to learn, to get an education and yes, because their parents say they have to. However, when our kids jump off the bottom steps of their buses – they do so with a smile. We submit that they do so because of you… because of your heart… and because of all that you put into the learning experiences and the environment that you have created. Their faces during morning arrival and a quick glance at our Twitter feed bear witness to the fact that you practice your art with love and you do so to make the lives of our students better. If we don’t say it enough, thank you for handling this honor bestowed on you, with all of its pressures, with a tremendous sense of purpose and with such grace. It does not go unnoticed.

Later in the interview, Smith shared that he recently celebrated a big birthday and stated that with the miracles of modern medicine, he is expecting to live until 90. Metaphorically, he compares life to the four quarters of a basketball game. He noted that, at 45, his halftime show is now over and he stressed the importance of the third quarter. Any sports fan will tell you that this quarter is the one that athletes approach with the greatest sense of urgency. Their first steps back onto the court after halftime are filled with adrenaline as the next 12 minutes often dictate the outcome of the game. At 45 (OMG the Fresh Prince is 45!!!) Smith launched the third quarter of his life by jumping out of plane in Dubai! He went skydiving!

As we return from February break, we know that the halftime show for this school year is now over. With appreciative hearts, and overly caffeinated minds, for one another and for our students, we say, “Let’s do this!”

Let’s jump out of this plane together!

We know that the work we do during this critical time is of the utmost importance and we are excited about it! This is our quarter and our game! We have the utmost faith in you and pledge our continued support!

Thank you again for all you’ve done and what you’ll continue to do for this rest of this year!

With respect and appreciation,

Patrick and Jennifer