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November 15, 2009


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Anthony Cody

Thank you for the excellent letter. With your permission I will include it among the many teacher letters I have been collecting to send to Obama and Duncan. Teachers who would like to contribute their own letters to the project are invited to come to the Facebook site, Teachers' Letters to Obama, here: http://bit.ly/2dnaZB

Jon Hanbury

Great letter! I too have joined Anthony in our mission to be heard by President Obama. You menitoned the President's preoccupation with other "HUGE" problems facing our nation -- but our president is also the father of two young ladies......you would think that he would want the best for his children -- I know that I am steered constantly as an educator by what is best for my boys! Today I was reading a blog describing the 21st century learner; this quote, from John Dewey, reminded me of the importance of providing our students with the "survival skills" as outlined by Tony Wagner in his book, The Global Achievement Gap -- "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow!"


Dear Jon,
Thanks for your comments. Like you I was and am heavily influenced by the experience my children (now in their 20s) encounter. I'm sure and hopeful that the President is no different than us.

The difference is that the other things that must crowd his mind are huge. I don't mean to sound like I think education isn't important. But I wanted to express that I knew that there were other things on his plate.

I also agree about teaching for tomorrow. I was just talking with my oldest daughter about how vital it is that I teach my students the 21st century skill of accessing and finding info vs memorization. Info is exploding way too fast to "know" stuff now...but the skill of finding things, looking them up is huge. Alan November said in his ISTE speech last summer that he thought we (teachers) should stop answering questions that can be answered by Google. I thought it was great. November thinks if you rob students of the chance to find the info for themselves, you fail them as your teacher.

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Sydney Gurewitz Clemens

This letter expresses much of the feeling I hear from the hundreds of teachers with whom I communicate daily on listservs. My addition: Dear President Obama, you've secured a good education for your lovely children. Please understand that children in other schools need the recognition and care your girls are getting at their new school.

We want what's best for the least of the children, yes? That means attracting gifted teachers to the field, and trusting them to make adjustments in what they teach, based upon the flesh-and-blood children they meet in their classrooms.

Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, MA Early Childhood Education and Supervision
Author, The Sun's Not Broken, A Cloud's Just In the Way: On Child-Centered Teaching, and Pay Attention to the Children: Lessons for Teachers and Parents from Sylvia Ashton-Warner.


Dear Sydney,
Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure that I agree with the addition you made. I don't question that President Obama wants the same education for everyone, including his daughters. I think your comment implies that he doesn't want that...I disagree.

I also agree with your idea that we should have gifted teachers in all classrooms regardless of student socioeconomic status.

Thanks for your comments.

Amy Valens

Dear Marsha:
I couldn’t agree with you more, as is evidenced by “AUGUST TO JUNE with respect for each child,” the film my husband and I are working on. You might enjoy seeing a teaser at www.tomvalens.com. Now if we can only magnify teachers’ voices enough to make them louder than the Business Roundtable, the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates!

I wonder if you misinterpreted Sydney Clemens’s comment. My take is that the president should look at the choice of schools he and his wife made for their children, and apply that to what parents want nationally. The Obamas chose a school where well trained teachers have the autonomy to teach in ways that address and engage the real children in front of them, and where standardized testing is the least of the ways that teachers assess their students’ growth.


Dear Amy,

I haven't seen the film you mentioned but will take a look at the teaser link you sent. Thanks.

Maybe I didn't understand Ms. Clemen's comment. Because if she was putting forward that all children should be free of the insanity of standardized testing as benchmarks for schools, then I'm in agreement with that. When the push to test prep and make sure no one falls below a certain mark becomes the school standard, then the instructional focus narrows to the point that 100% of students get it, the fun of school is gone for the other 99% of kids.

I have watched us walk away from the gifted, the talented and just the plain old middle of the road kids so that the few in number can make the tested standard. I'm not sure how we justify utilizing so many resources on so few. At the same time, I realize we can't just abandon those that "don't get it" the first or the second or even the third time around. I 'member the good 'ol days when we modified their work, when we assigned things that engaged them intellectually but asked them to show what they knew in alternative ways...I don't think we abandoned them. We just adapted the learning to meet their needs and abilities. Now if you can't do math, well, get over it. Because you are going to be good even if it kills both you and me!!!!! and what the rest do while I'm getting you up to speed is not of concern to the testing authorities.

I completely and thoroughly agree that engaging children by looking at your curriculum, adapting to their abilities is the best way to go. Standardized testing has a place to be sure....but it should NOT be the centerpiece in our teaching toolbox.

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