My Resignation Letter

Dear Administrators, Superintendent, et al.:

This is my official resignation letter from my English teaching position.

I’m sad to be leaving a place that has meant so much to me. This was my first teaching job. For eleven years I taught in these classrooms, I walked these halls, and I befriended colleagues, students, and parents alike. This school became part of my family, and I will be forever connected to this community for that reason.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my community as a teacher. I met the most incredible people here. I am forever changed by my brilliant and compassionate colleagues and the incredible students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching.

I know I have made a difference in the lives of my students, just as they have irrevocably changed mine. Teaching is the most rewarding job I have ever had. That is why I am sad to leave the profession I love.

Even though I am primarily leaving to be closer to my family, if my family were in Colorado, I would not be able to continue teaching here. As a newly single mom, I cannot live in this community on the salary I make as a teacher. With the effects of the pay freeze still lingering and Colorado having one of the lowest yearly teaching salaries in the nation, it has become financially impossible for me to teach in this state.

Along with the salary issue, ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed to be a proper education.

As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.

Since I’ve worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: “Is this good for kids?” My answer to this new legislation is, “No. This is absolutely not good for kids.” I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children–our future. The irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system. Therefore, I will not apply for another teaching job anywhere in this country while our government continues to ruin public education. Instead, I will do my best to be an advocate for change. I will continue to fight for our children’s rights for a free and proper education because their very lives depend upon it.

My final plea as a district employee is that the principals and superintendent ask themselves the same questions I have asked myself: “Is this good for kids? Is the state money being spent wisely to keep and attract good teachers? Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers?” With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “All mankind is divided into three classes: Those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” I want to be someone who moves and makes things happen. Which one do you want to be?

Sincerely,

Pauline Hawkins

 

Pauline’s first book, Uncommon Core, is available for purchase here. If you would like a signed copy, please email Pauline at pdhawk1010@msn.com

 

 

This entry was posted in Come Hell or High Water, Education Reformation, Letters I Need to Write and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

554 Responses to My Resignation Letter

  1. Pingback: Survival Podcast - Listener Feedback for 4-14-14 | The Survival Podcast

  2. Regretful says:

    Pauline, I applaud your courage and vision. I for one was on track to become a coach/teacher in the early eighties until I saw a movie called “Teachers”. Even though it was a movie, I identified with it as a student who was allowed to slide through all levels of my educational timeline (including most of college). I became one of the “immovable”, quit school and stepped into the workforce feeling inadequate and lost. I have floundered looking for my place in this world all the while knowing my gift was to be a mentor, coach, educator and leader of growing minds….but now too late and lack of patience and desire to take on a system that is still flawed.
    It doesn’t seem much has changed in the past thirty years or so except the pressure on kids and educators to “make the numbers”. Thank you for your insight, again, your courage to “move” and take a stance is immense.

  3. jamesrovira says:

    Reblogged this on James Rovira and commented:
    Fabulous letter. And it’s not just about Common Core standards, but about administrative responses to them. The fundamental brokenness of our system comes from the fact that the people making decisions about our educational system actually know nothing about educating students.

  4. Pingback: My Resignation Letter | Barrow Blogs

  5. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs and commented:
    Children are so important. Just what is the answer?

    • Judith,
      I have addressed a lot of my specific concerns and ideas over the past two years on this blog. Please take a look at my other posts under the Education Reformation category. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Laura says:

    THANK-YOU!!!! I encourage you and everyone reading this to begin their journey towards freedom through knowledge here: https://www.tragedyandhope.com/category/peacerevolution/page/5/. Let’s take back our children and our future! I’m looking forward to seeing many more brilliant educators like yourself follow in your footsteps.

    • mrsblar says:

      Thanks for posting tragedy and hope website. And for the blog that goes deeply into the historical background for the CC curriculum, every three or four days for almost two years now: Invisibleserfscollar.com written by attorney, historian, mom of several and one in IB, and now a published author, Robin Eubanks. Watch interviews with the amazing John Taylor Gatto at the TragedyandHope.com site for the underground history of compulsory American education.
      To Ms. Hawkins, congratulations on getting out while you still have passion for teaching. I retired the first day I could because I was being asked to do the same as you. I could no longer teach mathematics or Algebra as a well defined curriculum, but to follow a map designed by others who knew zilch about the content or the skills needed to master the content. I encourage you to keep up the fight and so will I. God bless.

  7. S Davis says:

    Amen and may God bless all teachers in public schools that are experiencing the same frustrations with this country’s educational system…come visit us in the classrooms, the substitutes never return!

  8. Sue Gumm says:

    You go girl. As a retired teacher having taught 35 years in a broken system, I was frustrated every day I walked in my classroom. I wanted to make a change, but felt my hands were tied. No Child Left Behind and Common Core? What jokes! The people that decide what goes on in our classrooms don’t have the vaguest idea what our kids need. I hope you truly can make a difference. My hat is off to you!

  9. Alicia Ashland says:

    I wish my son had adequate teachers in the school system we currently live in. He is Autistic and when we were having trouble figuring out what was wrong with him; he was being bullied by the teachers and administrators at his school. We moved him to a different school and it kept happening. They refused to finish his testing for special education because he is extremely intelligent and they said he wouldn’t qualify because of that. He couldn’t sit through a class without being oversensitive to his surroundings and hated when people would touch him, but they refused to do anything to help him. Then they just started suspending him because they didn’t know how to “deal with him.” We have ended up in a court battle and I have been the one accused of wrong doing.
    I had lost all respect for schools and teachers until I read this. I applaud you for having compassion for the plight of your students, but at the same time, I wonder what will happen to them without you there to guide them. I wonder if God is placing you in a better position to help them by not being there and being able to take on the broken system that is in a devastating need of repairs.
    I believe there are times when it is more beneficial to take a step back and evaluate our influence on a different scale. I appreciate your effort to do more for them in a different venue. I wish you blessings on whatever you feel called to do for these children. Our children are supposed to be the future, but when a child with an IQ in the High intelligence range on every test can’t get a single page of work done at school and has to take everything home for his parent to do with him, there is a problem. Common core, and standardized testing aside, children shouldn’t be made to feel ignorant because they “don’t measure up.” They shouldn’t feel “stupid” because they can’t understand something most adults are struggling with. Children should be able to get an education without being “criticized” by a system…
    Thank you for your effort in helping to abolish the idiocy we are being forced to deal with.
    ~Alicia Ashland~

  10. Nicole says:

    MUCH RESPECT, and support from us in Denver.

  11. Dr. Paul Reed Arigan says:

    Dear Pauline:

    I applaud your courage to speak your mind. You bring to the discussion what our founding fathers would have taken for granted: a free exchange of opinions without repercussions or reprisals. I have taught for 46 years and have watched the death spiral in American Education, knowing that one person cannot change the status quo. Why have American parents embraced the creed that their children’s laziness is acceptable, I do not understand. Why teachers with standards are forced by parents and administrators to lower their class expectations defies comprehension. We have come to an era where mandated state and national testing is de rigueur, and this response is due to the years when students were promoted without justification. I have seen 11th graders read at a 4th grade level. Truly a scandal as we put these students on the streets without the necessary tools for survival. I began my career as a university professor and saw a different strain of cancer, but the prognosis remained the same. I have heard your lamentation and have wondered as well why I was the only one who see reality. So many of my colleagues never express any qualms. One can easily accuse himself/herself as a malcontent when quarantined. I am now in a public school district where administrators are promoted after having served as little as a year in a classroom. Boss Tweed would feel cozy within many districts. Those who understand the noble ideals of our profession fail to comprehend that the pragmatic has stolen the liberal arts approach to education.

    Time and again America has shown a propensity for inaction. We must arrive at the brink of disaster before the American public reacts. But in time past, the adults of our society had an appreciation for one’s individuality, for the spirit of ingenuity, for the value of all types of labor and endeavor. The young American mind has found a new addiction….electronics and schools administrators push every teacher to embrace technology which alleviates the pain of original thinking. And so we do everything in our power to bring about a new culture which robs all of their soul, their mind and their hearts. This is where the battles of years past has brought us. David did slew Goliath with a slingshot and so we must not forget that the unforseeable can bring about a renaissance. My best to you and to yours. May you enjoy life, knowing that you did more than most to destroy what has been killing the American psyche for so long.

    Respectfully yours,

    Paul Reed Arigan, Docteur-es-Lettres
    Instructor of French
    Rancho Cucamonga High School, California

    • Thank you, Dr. Arigan, for your thoughtful and encouraging comment! I appreciate the reference to David. I’ve been comparing myself to the little engine that could, so your analogy is certainly more complimentary than mine 🙂
      Thank you for your service in the educational field!

    • Matthew McMahan says:

      Why are you not teaching French anymore, people said you retired but why?

      Matt McMahan, a former french student of yours.

    • Ashley Hutchison says:

      Not sure if you will see this, but you will always be my favorite professor Monsieur Arigan. Not only for the lessons you taught me in the classroom, but also those outside of the classroom in our discussions of current events and philosophy. I hope one day you and I will be in contact again.

      Yours,
      Ashley Hutchison (prior French student from 2010-2013)

  12. Pingback: MUST READ: Resignation Letter From Teacher Who Quit Over Common Core | Revere Radio Network

  13. Tim says:

    You’ve made a bold statement with your words and your actions. I hope many parents and teachers take note. It reminds me of John Taylor Gatto’s resignation letter. He was teacher of the year in New York City and then New York State in the early ’90s. He decided that he could no longer be part of a system that harms children.
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/prologue2.htm

  14. Nick Hartbauer says:

    Ms. Hawkins you were my teacher in 2002 or 3 I think. Anyways you were awesome then and what you’re doing is absolutely incredible. If the system won’t let you inspire kids this definitely is. Amazing. I’m inspired; I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t be. I don’t know if you remember me but my mom taught at Timberview–Tammi. Anyways thank you for this inspirational message to everyone, including me.

    Nick
    P.S. I totally feel pressured to be grammatically correct writing this. I’m sure I screwed something up.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad you took a stand Ms. Hawkins. In this world we live in now, it’s like no one can even think for themselves or they’ll be put down for it. The schools want us all to act the same, to think the same. One minute they tell you to be yourself and the next they’re up in your life trying to tell you to learn the way they want. That’s twisted if that’s being yourself. People are being lulled into an altered mind state focused on only what the government wants them to think. People act as if the federal govt. cant tell the media what to put out and now even if you don’t tune into the media, as a kid in high school, they push it down your throat to do well on state test and it’s just sick. Stress is very much a related factor in teen suicide and cutting; depression and bullying. The most common thing I hear related to stress in teenagers is high school, specifically tests. So thank you for putting this out for the world to hear. Maybe it’ll be a wake up call. If not, at least the world is aware

  16. Jim Locke says:

    In their “Race To The Top” b.s., every child gets a ‘participation trophy.’ That is a prime example of where the arrogance of the politicians has taken our children. I’m very sorry you are leaving the entire profession. Surely there is a private facility that would welcome your expertise?! Please try to find it, we desperately need you… the children need you… desperately.

    • Jim,
      Thank you for your support. As appealing as private school is, I need to continue to fight for public school education. I am not leaving the students, just my position in that school. I hope to continue to be a teacher on a grander scale.

  17. mgozaydin says:

    This is not against common core standards.
    Just against whole education system in the USA probably whole World .
    Her is one opinion , I respect that .
    Common core standards have been built after many years and many expert people .
    It must be the best available .
    Teaching kids is a very sentimental job and very satisfying too .
    I claim in teaching kids ” we need passions + knowledge too ” .

    • True. My position is not anti-Common Core Standards. There are many reasons for my resignation. Passion and knowledge are key ingredients for teachers. Thank you for your comments!

  18. Pingback: A Colorado English Teacher Slams Common Core… | The Indignant Teacher

  19. Sarah says:

    I applaud you! It’s ironic to be writing this, as I am a high school drop out. I felt my education slip away as standard testing along with rules and regulations replaced an education I once felt immersed in and inspired by. I also spent many years targeted by teachers and a school board more preoccupied by my hair color(s) and attire (ripped jeans, band t-shirts, etc.) than my education. I watched others struggle to learn, but many were disillusioned with the system and as resentful as I was. I always loved learning, and that’s why I went to school – to learn. I did drop out, but I’m in college now, and happy to say with a scholarship. Not all hope is lost, we want to learn, but education needs to be in the forefront again. I wish I had had a teacher like you! On behalf of many of the underrepresented xoxo

    • Sarah,
      Thank you for sharing your story! It’s for students like you that I wrote my letter. How can we continue to let people like you down? Please, if you are willing, share more of your story. I’m so glad that dropping out did not mean you quit learning!

  20. Kirsten Hill says:

    Pauline, It makes me sad to hear you describe students who are so defeated. That is wrong. That is un-American and a travesty. You would probably be interested in reading Dr. Terrence Moore’s 2013 book, “The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core”. It is a searing and well-substantiated indictment of Common Core.

    Thank you for deciding to take your passion and channeling it into moving away this awful assault on our children, our teachers, our country and our future.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Story-Killers-Common-Sense-Against-Common/dp/1493623370

    –Kirsten Hill
    Lorain County, OH

  21. Thomas Fessler says:

    Pauline, you just said what a lot of people are thinking.++
    Thank You, and good luck.

  22. Jeanne says:

    I applaud your courage and wish to help. I began my career in 1975, retiring early for many of the reasons you’ve listed. I believe all of us are responsible for making public education better and that we need to look critically at the system and ourselves.

    Early in my career I was fortunate enough to start out in an atmosphere where teachers had a lot of autonomy. I made decisions according to what I thought best for my students. I made mistakes and learned from them. I dug in, getting two post graduate degrees, reading, doing action research with peers, learning and getting better at my craft.

    The biggest problem then and now is the American Educational Paradigm. We adopt textbooks that tell us what to teach today, and tomorrow, and the next day… with no connection to whether our students already know it or not or whether they are at a point in their learning where they can learn it. Somewhere along the line assessment became synonymous with testing. Good teachers subconsciously have always looked at their students, figured out what they need to know by interacting with them and then taught what they need to know in order to grow. Quite often that is difficult because of the curriculum design so common in this country – and it has gotten worse. In the early 90s, with the advent of standards, I was hopeful that a general agreement on what all kids should be able to know and do would lead to positive change within our country. Unfortunately, what it led to was an excuse to make education a political football. Right now, a 5th grader in Colorado is tortured with 11 hours of mandated state testing. A 5th grader! That is insane. That doesn’t include all the benchmark testing, and progress monitoring, and record keeping that take away from actual time to informally assess, plan, and teach meaningfully. Teachers are being forced to wallow in minutia rather than being given the time to reflect thoughtfully on what kids really need.

    I read somewhere that Einstein was quoted as saying something to the effect, “Look to nature and all will become clear.” To me balance is the key to nature and all things. I do believe we need some agreed upon standards and that some testing is useful, but we are way out of balance right now.

    In addition, I believe John Nash’s economic theory – do what’s best for me AND the organization – is critical in all aspects of change in the American experience. In education, we cannot make it an us vs. them competition. That only gives an excuse to not do anything. We have to find ways to work together. I so agree with what you are doing, Pauline. You know how many amazing people are out there and you know that the system is not working – and you’re not giving up.

    As you proceed with your writing, I would like to suggest Richard Allington’s book What Matters for Struggling Readers, not so much for the topic, but rather the research. He clearly puts in perspective the challenges American educators have faced over the last 50 years, framing the research in a way that explains the gains we’ve made. We need to build on our successes, not our failures.

    The bottom line is no system that tries to circumvent the teacher will succeed. Our system must allow new teachers to dive in and learn their craft without fear of reprisal. There are no one-size-fits all formulas for how all children will learn. Only by investing in teachers will we find the right formula for each child.

  23. Kerri says:

    Too bad you’re so far away, I know one school you would fit right in with. I totally agree with everything you say here, especially where you mentioning “punishing them for their inadequacies instead of their unique talents.” When homework comes home, I am the first one who does not have a clue how to teach my children and with one child who has autism, it’s important to know how the teachers are teaching them so my point is I am in no way, shape, or form a teacher but it wasn’t until my first son attended this school that I *finally* found a school to have pride in! I finally found a school that did not base its education on children as one but rather, children as individuals and the idea that maybe some will be alike but others will not be doing the same thing…they are individuals. My other son had ADHD, so they both [gladly] ended up at this school because of behavior issues, and this school handles behavior issues in a way that has proven to work for *both* my kids! They don’t deal with it by calling on the principle, calling home, or calling the police – for the most part they never have to deal with the discipline issues – ever! Why? because they do not see the negative behavior issues as other schools do because they don’t push this kids aside and assume they are and will be nothing and they do not put politics above what they love to do! I am guessing I cannot say the name of the school but the saying goes “No one is perfect” and if that’s true, I’d say this school is daggon close!! They build young men and young women from a non-judgmental point and they use positive reinforcements to do so…they teach these kids to have skills, they teach them real-life, and they teach them to believe in their selves, even when someone else may not! I honestly and whole-heartedly think they saved my kids in more than one way. These teachers and you don’t need our schools, our schools need more people like you and them! (P.S. You know how hard this was to write knowing you are/were an English teacher? LOL).

  24. Dean Jones says:

    You have quite a challenge ahead of you. I applaud your commitment to the children and their path to the world. I am blessed; my daughter teaches anything but ‘common core’, she is a special needs teacher and common junk is not what can be used in her classes. Keep on Keepin’ on as we used to say. May the Lord bless you and yours’.

  25. EB says:

    Hi Pauline,

    I hope you don’t mind a bit of polite disagreement with some of what you wrote.

    My biggest problem with this letter is that, to me, it “kicks the can” of responsibility for solving the problems you identify without providing any ideas on how to solve them. Your position is that it’s financially and ethically not viable to continue teaching. Financially speaking, I think there’s little or no room for argument there. The same can be said for government service employees of all kinds (myself included, for the record), but that’s neither here nor there. As far as the ethical component of your letter, I’m not sure I follow the logic of your argument.

    Why is this system so irreparably broken that you can’t continue participating in it? You address issues about “teaching to the test” and providing students with “right answers”. Aside from your assertion that these are somehow bad qualities of the educational system it’s not clear how these are hallmarks of anything being broken.

    It seems to me (and this is my summation of your letter, not me attempting to put words in your mouth) that your problems lie with the educational system as a whole. You mention bullying – obviously this has little to do with standardized testing. Maybe you just burned out of being a teacher. It happens frequently; I have a handful of friends who are in the same position. The bottom line for me is that your premise seems to wander around a bit.

    You finish your letter by asking administrators and policymakers a simple question: do education policies support students? Do they improve the lives and educational opportunities of students? I would challenge you to answer that question yourself using this letter as a basis for your response. As much as I sympathize with your struggle (and that of teachers everywhere), isn’t it just a little bit self-serving to publish your resignation letter publicly? Doesn’t it strike you as just a little bit like taking the easy way out to cite problems with a system everyone knows isn’t working optimally without providing some sort of answer to those problems?

    I want to stress that I don’t mean to be crass or rude. I’m not “trolling”, despite how disagreeing on the internet is often written off as such. I happen to agree with you on many of the things you said. I just don’t think this letter was the proper way to go about quitting.

    • EB,
      Thank you for your comments and questions. I am not offended at all. I’ll try to address all of your questions and concerns.

      Your first problem with my letter is that I don’t identify any solutions. On the contrary, I’ve been writing about my education ideas for over two years now. If you would like to read my ideas on how to fix some of the problems I’ve mentioned, please look under my “Education Reformation” category. I have been specific with problems and solutions there.

      As far as why I am resigning, I mention in the letter that I have had some changes in my personal life and was moving to be closer to family. My resignation was imminent. What was up for debate was whether I would apply for another teaching job in another state. With the support and encouragement of my family, I decided not to search for a teaching job, but to advocate for the changes I would like to see in public education. Once again, I have spent time writing about what these issues are. Please let me know if my other education posts don’t answer your questions.

      The bullying and self-harm comments are coming from my first-hand conversations with students about their actions–children express their pain outwardly or inwardly depending on the personality of the child. They were candid conversations that addressed how frustrated and defeated they felt with the labels they would receive from standardized testing. That is why those issues are in my letter.

      I am not burned out. I’m fighting harder for them now, than I ever have. If I were burned out, I’d quietly fade away, as so many others have.

      As far as being self-serving with my public resignation letter, I can see why someone who doesn’t know me or hasn’t read any of my other posts would think that, but this was not a selfish move on my part. I have been a servant-leader for my students for many years. If they saw in me any selfishness, I doubt they would have rallied around me the way they have. Children can see through inauthentic people instantly. They know and have always known how much I care about them–whether they are current of former students, I have always had their best interest at heart. My plea was for the school, district, and state to truly look at what was happening to our children and to fight for their rights.

      Also, as a writer, that’s what I do–I write and have been writing for a few years now. I asked my principal’s blessing over writing this letter to him and the superintendent, and then to publish it on my blog. He gave me his blessing. Neither one of us could have guessed that my letter would have the impact that it has had. There were many moments this past week that I cried from sheer terror of being pulled into the spotlight. I had hoped for a bigger platform to share my position on education, but this became bigger than anything I could have imagined. I wasn’t sure I was the right woman for the job. I almost didn’t call back any of the media requests for interviews.

      Why did I? My students. As their messages of encouragement came pouring in, their words gave me the strength to finally accept what was happening and to pursue this path. They encouraged me to proceed. They thanked me for fighting for them. They, in turn, have been fighting battles for me on public discussion boards. They are sharing their concerns with education and are giving credit to me for giving them a voice. So no, this letter (and the subsequent attention I have from it) is not self-serving. I am continuing my journey as a servant-leader and teacher for and to my students, but on a grander scale.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions.

      Pauline

  26. Pauline, I live in NH and would be glad to talk to you when you get to NH.
    Ann Marie Banfield
    http://www.nhcornerstone.org
    (look under staff to find my contact info)

  27. laxxer49 says:

    Dear Ms. Hawkins,
    My mother is a teacher of 28 years in the state of Maine. She and I have conversations almost every time we see each other that mirror the issues you have outlined here. Thank you from a parent and an insider to the travesty that is our educational system today for bringing the “secret” opinions of many an educator to the public eye. You are a hero to the students you’ve served and hopefully your words can bring about a change that will aid future generations to know what it is like to have a teacher like you.

    Sincerely,

    Dan

  28. Wayne Murray says:

    As a student with the only blood relative, my mother, about to die of colon cancer in 3-6 months; has presented many problems in school. Common Core standards instruct teachers to make strict and rigid deadlines. I work in a place that has the capacity to serve 2,500 people a day and allow each to have a 3-course meal. I am a full-time student and on the side, i help my only blood i have left; my mother. Her dream was to go to a Broadway play, so we went to Nashville to see Wicked and i missed class to enjoy one of the last memories i will be able to make with her; along with family i haven’t seen in 2 years. I come back to this email from my instructor at my college after i had previously told him about my upcoming absence: “If you are not in the Waller computer lab with me right now, you currently have no Oral Presentation partner and a zero grade on the Oral Presentation. Please rectify this situation by contacting me with your intent to continue attending class and participate in the project, then please show up on Thursday so we can pair you up. Do not assume that this email is aimed at any one person. It was only sent because so many people missed class. The pairing is done randomly, so you won’ t know who you are working with until you are paired.
    Brendon”. First of all, very unprofessional, secondly how is this positive or even respectful reinforcement? How does this encourage anyone to want to go to this class? Oh also, when i tried to explain my situation, he brushed me off due to his “busy schedule” and more than likely drowned me out when i told him about the Broadway plans….Any thoughts?

    P.S. Thank you for the outcry, it was much needed.

    Wayne Murray

    • Wayne,
      I’m sorry for your painful situation with your mom. I can’t imagine what you are going through. You are extremely strong, and I hope you have a support system in place.
      As far as your situation with your teacher, I would talk to him again. Explain your situation and ask for some extra time. Most teachers have your best interest at heart. If he denies your request, after you have spoken to him and you are sure he heard you, I would talk to a counselor. I hope things work out for you with your teacher, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  29. Alma Chicana says:

    Greetings Ms. Hawkins: I too am a teacher who salutes your stance and valued opinions on what has happened to American public education. I know it was primarily my own desire to learn and become a teacher that allowed me to finish college and later my Masters in Education. Had you seen me as a teen, you would have met a bored with the academics and oppressed by the demeaning rules 17-year-old male drop out. I later re-entered education because I had to believe that it was not me that was a failure, but rather the poor pedagogy of my non-minority (white) teachers. They mocked me for not speaking like them, and could not accept my culture. Beyond racism, our issues are in some measure linked to the corporate types NON-TEACHERS making teachers follow their directions and experiments. I hope there is a change in the current arrangement before we waste another generation of Americans.

  30. Araz Shibley says:

    Thank you for taking a stand. If we fight against Common Core while it’s still in its infancy, we have a chance to reverse the damage. Once it becomes an accepted part of the system (they’re currently integrating it into the SAT!!!), we’ll never be able to get rid of it. Teachers who are brave enough to take on this battle are the ones who will really get results–we parents take notice when you blow the whistle on problems.

    • Araz,
      Thank you for your support! Although there are definitely some problems with the Common Core, the biggest issue is how it’s being used to label and defeat children, especially through state tests, and that state test will then be used as an evaluation tool of teachers. All of them together are what has created this horrible situation in education. I agree that we need to make a strong and quick stand before it gets out of hand.

  31. Brava!
    We opted out of school years ago because of many of the reasons you cite. We are Unschoolers and my children live very happy, fulfilling lives. They are experiencing CHILDHOOD!
    Good luck to you and thank you for having the courage to speak out!

    You might find Peter Gray’s work interesting.
    http://alternativestoschool.com

  32. Mehdi says:

    i’m really inspired by your Article, i’m not a teacher but i’m a university student in Morocco, and believe me what you’re alking about is the same here, the educational system is very bad and low, they teach us just to give an answer the day of the exam , it’s rare when you encouter Good teachers that try their best to show u the truth and teach you what will help u in your future !
    Thank you so much for this article i really njoyed reading it and good luck 🙂

  33. Tori says:

    Pauline,
    Thank you for writing such an honest letter off resignation. This was my senior year of high school in Texas and I experienced the changes in our school district first hand. The public elementary school that I attended required you to pass an oral test at the age of 4 or 5 to be accepted into Kindergarten at this school and then, your name had to be drawn to actually get into the school. I passed my test, but my name wasn’t drawn for me to attend the first semester of Kindergarten. Being a 4 year old girl, I believed that the fact that this magnet school had not accepted me, meant that I was not smart enough to go there. The next semester a girl moved and I was able to go, but that was my very first disappointment in a public school at the age of 4. By the time I was in 5th grade we saw major changes in the system and absolutely despised the fact that the public system was only teaching the standardized test. I was privileged enough to move to a private school for two years and in those two years I received the best education of my entire school career, but all good things must come to an end and in my city, we have no private schools past the 6th grade. Just after two years of being removed from the public system everything seemed to get worse. My classmates and I have only been required to read these books since the 7th grade:
    The Outsiders, The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, some pieces of Greek and Roman mythology and two or three books that I cannot remember because we read through them so quickly.

    I do apologize for the lengthy comment, but I wanted to make sure that people understand that as a student, I am very disappointed in the lessons I have been taught in the last 12 years and that I am so grateful for anyone who is willing to speak up for the children so that hopefully our future children do not have to experience the same negligence for their education.

  34. paulzschokke says:

    Thank you for this letter! I wish I had written it! I am retiring because of all the educational reasons you listed. I am not finished with helping children become productive adults, but what Colorado and the Federal Government have put in place following No Child Left Behind is leaving all children behind. I am tired of shoveling sand against the tide. I can no longer give students all they need within the constraints put on me. Thank you again for putting this into words.

  35. rubyladybug says:

    I wish I had the words to express myself as well as you have. I can’t wait to share your letter with all of my friends. I homeschool my 7 year old son for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is the very environment of schools as an institution is broken and I know that it cannot be fixed during my child’s school years.

  36. FES says:

    But, you are basically a disgruntled quitter. Period.

    • Basically, resignation means to leave a position, which also means quitting a position. That’s hard to argue against. Now the connotation of the word disgruntled seems to imply that I am displeased AND bitter. I am displeased with the way education is going; that’s why I resigned. But bitter, not at all. If you see something in my letter that suggests my bitterness, please point it out to me.

  37. Boatner Howell says:

    Best of luck to you. I quit teaching in ’93 and still have many dear friends who are still plugging at it. It seems to me that elementary through high school should first be a social institution. It should offer college level courses for those who want to go to college and life courses (including vocational education for those who want to immediately start contributing to our society after graduation. The schools should teach the children how to get along with each other; how to fight, settle arguments, how to win and how to lose.

    Well, those are my thoughts.

    Take care,

    Boatner

    • Boatner,
      Thank you for your support! I agree. We need to leave room in the curriculum for those teachable moments with social interactions. The big one for me is vocational school. Not everyone wants to go to college, but they should have a skill or trade they can join the workforce with as soon as they are done with school. That is something I’d like to see change immediately.

  38. NC teacher says:

    Ms. Hawkins,
    I am a single mother who teaches in NC. My kids qualify for medicaid and free lunch. The pay freeze has occurred here as well. I don’t know if you can make a difference, but I understand the points you made.

  39. graeme_slack@yahoo.com says:

    I was in one of your classes my freshman year of high school in 07/08. I wish that you, or any teachers for that matter, would not be restricted by an asinine system that revolves around test scores and a limited scope of what is considered to be praise worthy in regards to academic achievement. I have consistently struggled with school due to the extreme amount of pressure I have felt from my family and the school system to excel academically throughout my life. That pressure created a great detail of anxiety for me and in turn started to severely hinder my performance. Thankfully my parents had enough money to send me to private school after my freshman year. That school and its faculty did not have their hands so tied by bureaucratic nonsense, laws and policies in the same way the public school system did during my years there. Ultimately, I was relatively academically successful but in no thanks to the restrictive measures of the public school system. I wish that more teachers thought like you do and in addition to that I wish that the policies of the public school system in Colorado would be conducive to the type of thoughts you are having. Kudos to you for standing up in what you believe in!

    • Graeme,
      It is so nice to hear from you! I’m glad things were better for you in a private school. And thank you for sharing your story. What you experienced in public vs. private school is exactly the point I’m trying to get across. If these elite schools look at education of young minds differently and are successful at not only educating them but keeping them engaged in the learning process, why are public schools on a completely different path? Why can’t we offer the same high-quality education in a public school?
      Thank you for your encouragement and support!

  40. Walt says:

    Pauline, I hope you will find a non-public school setting in which to contribute. The best way to cause change is by offering a better alternative. You should continue to write on this topic, but with the specific things you would like to see instead of what is going on.

    Even helping students in the ways you know they need help — even as they continue in public school — will be a help, And better yet, what can parents do to help their own children obtain what you dream of offering if schools were run “your” way.

    Also, I believe your comments on salary, though true enough, get in the way of your comments on the educational situation. Do you mean to imply that you would remain in the system if you were paid more? Do you see how that is confusing to a politician?

    • Walt,
      Thank you for your comments and questions.

      First, even though teaching in a private school sounds like a wonderful alternative, I don’t think I could do that. I would feel like I’m selling out. What I would like to see happen is that public schools get the same freedom and decision-making power as private schools.

      I have offered many ideas on this blog as to what I would like to see happen in public schools. Please read my other “Education Reformation” posts. I’ve been writing about the problems and possible solutions for over two years now. Please take a look at those posts and let me know what you think.

      As I transition into my new life, I will continue to teach and reach out to students through this blog, through tutoring, and I have promised my current students that I will always be available for them through email and Skype if they need my help. I will never stop teaching.

      I have written a few posts about what parents can do to help their children. The biggest proactive thing parents can do is opt their children out of their state tests. Parents have rights as far as their children’s education is concerned, and they shouldn’t let administrators bully them into submission. That one act will get the government’s attention and get them to start taking our concerns seriously. A lot of money will be wasted if people don’t take the tests.

      I’m not sure why people have fixated on my salary comment. I state clearly that I am moving out of state to be with my family. I mention specifically how low teacher salaries are in Colorado because it would be difficult to maintain my middle-class life for my son and me in Colorado on a teacher’s salary alone. I also stated that I will not seek employment in another state as long as the government continues to destroy public education. All of those comments explain my reasons for leaving the profession.

      In general, teachers do not get paid enough, which creates a number of problems, but the biggest concern is that the profession cannot attract and keep highly qualified educators when there are other more lucrative professional paths out there. Add in the lack of respect teachers are shown and the endless grading and paperwork, and the profession will start to attract only the people who don’t know what else to do. I don’t understand why that would be confusing to politicians. Are teachers the only professionals that shouldn’t want to live a more comfortable life? I don’t understand why that position is even an argument against increasing salaries. Should we just become teachers out of the goodness of our hearts? Besides, with a higher income, teachers would automatically get more respect from parents and students. We live in a capitalistic society; money garners respect.

      I hope I have answered your questions. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

  41. Jaala Fredregill says:

    Great job for standing up. I wish more teachers were like this.

  42. Pingback: Colorado Teacher: Is This Good for Kids? Why I Resigned | Diane Ravitch's blog

  43. medd35 says:

    Dont know your age or where you grew up pauline but the public school education system has always been like that and those things you claim your students of today come to school lacking are suppose to come from the parents at home.

    • Could you be more specific? I’m not sure what part of my letter you’re referring to. In the eleven years I’ve been teaching, students have changed. Parents do have responsibility in this as well, but they have bought into the lies about what makes students successful, so they put undue pressure on their children to jump through those hoops.

  44. Pingback: Perspective: What’s the Long-Term Impact on Kids? | Co-Opt-Ed

  45. Gloria Barrueco says:

    This question is for medd35: Do you currently have a child in a public school?
    Because I do. And I can prove that the system doesn’t work.
    How it is possible that between 5 and 11% of children 4-11 years age have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011 and the number increases every year?
    When my son was in the third grade his teacher “diagnosed” him with ADHD. Of course, when he was seen by a doctor the diagnosis was different. He is a completely normal child with an abnormal level of anxiety for his age due to the pressure put on him from the “system” to pass the standardized tests in order that his teachers, school and state get a good evaluation.
    I have been doing anything in my hands to help him, but I can’t fight the system alone. The easiest way out is transferring him to a private school, but unfortunately I don’t have the means.
    I just hope that more and more parents’ voices are heard and that the government and the school system help put their minds and means to work in pro of our children, not against them.

  46. Janet H. Brugger says:

    Pauline,

    Your letter was forwarded to me by a colleague and I applaud your courage in speaking up against a policy that has ruined our educational system. According to a study by Pearson entitled “The Learning Curve: Lessons in country performance in education” (2012), the United States ranked 17th in education among developed countries. What does that tell us? At one time we were ranked as number one; however, since the implementation of NCLB we have consistently been on a downward spiral and I am a staunch advocate participant in educational system change. Until recently, I worked as an administrator in a graduate school and was appalled at the number of students who could not write a cohesive paragraph due to, in my opinion, inadequate K-12 education. I wonder how they ever made it through a 4-year degree.

    I am in the last stages of completing my doctorate in education and have gotten into many debates concerning NCLB. My colleagues who are K-12 teachers or administrators agree with me that our system of ‘teaching to the test’ has destroyed our educational system and low morale is the norm in most public schools.
    I have two granddaughters, one with autism, and I am well known in their school as very outspoken, opinionated, and aggressive when it comes to advocating that they receive the education they are entitled to (and our taxes pays for), The great majority of the teachers and administration in their school are behind me 100%…NCLB and standardized testing be damned!!

    • Janet,
      Thank you for sharing your story. Your points are valid. If NCLB and Race to the Top initiatives were working, wouldn’t we have seen some improvement by now? Instead, things are getting worse every year.
      Thank you for your support and encouragement!

  47. mrsb says:

    You’re getting a lot of feedback because articles about Common Core are actually linking here–thus my own presence.

    First, to address the self-serving comments. In a word: Rude. Doing what is best for oneself is respectable.

    What I am sorry to see is that it’s already too late. I was one of those wounded, broken students. I, too, ended up dropping out in high school. And teachers like you were always on my mind making me believe that college was always attainable–always worthwhile.

    I graduated with a 3.57 GPA. In my case, it was a mental health issue. There are kids in those chairs that, no matter what system you’re teaching them in, just need someone to believe in them.

    Don’t give up, educators. Ever.

  48. Gerald Hawkins says:

    Thank you for this article, which I read first in HuffPo. I taught in public middle and high schools for 3-1/2 years here in California, and I would like to teach full-time again; but I must add that I agree with much of what you are saying. The terrible facilities that I had to teach in, administrators with bizarre priorities and principals with criminal activities, and state and county educational structures that did everything except support the success of teachers and students, all made it very difficult to teach here. In 2009, my son was killed in his college dorm, and I have not taught full-time since then. For a while, every violent or whacked out kid I encountered took on the face of my son’s killer. Most people don’t have any idea how hard teaching can be, physically, mentally, and especially emotionally. Still, I hope I can find an opportunity to teach again …

    • Gerald,
      First, I’m so sorry about your son. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for you. The fact that you want to continue in education after such a tragedy says so much about your character and passion for teaching.
      Along those lines, all American citizens should be invested in what happens in our school system. We all have to share the world with children who either get nurtured or neglected. If we are not doing our best to help every child succeed, we will continue to allow other negative forces to act upon them. Parents, teachers, administrators, and state officials need to do their parts in creating a safe environment for all children.
      Thank you for sharing your story!

  49. cynthia says:

    I applaud you taking a stand. However, the government/public education institution is one that cannot be ‘fixed’. If for no other reason, it’s because of it’s origin and true purpose. I highly suggest you read John Taylor Gatto. While you’re at it, read John Holt as well.
    I also strongly encourage you to home educate. You will never, ever, regret it.

    • Cynthia,
      Thank you for your comments. Sadly, I know what you mean, but it doesn’t mean I’ll give up. I am organizing my next moves so I can home school my son if it comes to that.

  50. Charlotte Iserbyte tells in her book, “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” how federal programs would be used to make citizens easily domesticated. Common Core is just another incremental step in that process. For those who think this is about the feds being “incompetent” or “stupid”, check it out:

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