Wednesday, April 22, 2015


This is not from me. This was eloquently written by a true expert in their field whom everyone should listen to, educator, Gerald J. Conti. I picked it up from an article in the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss. Read it and learn...there will be a test after.

Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

By Valerie Strauss April 6, 2013 

Increasingly teachers are speaking out against school reforms that they believe are demeaning their profession, and some are simply quitting because they have had enough.
Here is one resignation letter from a veteran teacher, Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse, N.Y.:

Mr. Casey Barduhn, Superintendent
Westhill Central School District
400 Walberta Park Road
Syracuse, New York 13219

Dear Mr. Barduhn and Board of Education Members:

It is with the deepest regret that I must retire at the close of this school year, ending my more than twenty-seven years of service at Westhill on June 30, under the provisions of the 2012-15 contract. I assume that I will be eligible for any local or state incentives that may be offered prior to my date of actual retirement and I trust that I may return to the high school at some point as a substitute teacher.

As with Lincoln and Springfield, I have grown from a young to an old man here; my brother died while we were both employed here; my daughter was educated here, and I have been touched by and hope that I have touched hundreds of lives in my time here. I know that I have been fortunate to work with a small core of some of the finest students and educators on the planet.

I came to teaching forty years ago this month and have been lucky enough to work at a small liberal arts college, a major university and this superior secondary school. To me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life, always driving my travel, guiding all of my reading and even dictating my television and movie viewing. Rarely have I engaged in any of these activities without an eye to my classroom and what I might employ in a lesson, a lecture or a presentation. With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that  “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.

A long train of failures has brought us to this unfortunate pass. In their pursuit of Federal tax dollars, our legislators have failed us by selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education. The New York State United Teachers union has let down its membership by failing to mount a much more effective and vigorous campaign against this same costly and dangerous debacle. Finally, it is with sad reluctance that I say our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students by establishing testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian. This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale. The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair. Why should it be acceptable in our careers and in the education of our children?

My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom. Teacher planning time has also now been so greatly eroded by a constant need to “prove up” our worth to the tyranny of APPR (through the submission of plans, materials and “artifacts” from our teaching) that there is little time for us to carefully critique student work, engage in informal intellectual discussions with our students and colleagues, or conduct research and seek personal improvement through independent study. We have become increasingly evaluation and not knowledge driven. Process has become our most important product, to twist a phrase from corporate America, which seems doubly appropriate to this case.

After writing all of this I realize that I am not leaving my profession, in truth, it has left me. It no longer exists. I feel as though I have played some game halfway through its fourth quarter, a timeout has been called, my teammates’ hands have all been tied, the goal posts moved, all previously scored points and honors expunged and all of the rules altered.

For the last decade or so, I have had two signs hanging above the blackboard at the front of my classroom, they read, “Words Matter” and “Ideas Matter”. While I still believe these simple statements to be true, I don’t feel that those currently driving public education have any inkling of what they mean.

Sincerely and with regret,

Gerald J. Conti
Social Studies Department Leader
Cc: Doreen Bronchetti, Lee Roscoe

Originally posted to Poppa D' on Mon Nov 10, 2014 at 05:36 PM PST.
Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Daily Kos Classics.

How I understand what he is saying. Education in this country has been in free-fall since Bush’s idiotic No Child Left Behind. It had started to struggle a few years before when we were bombarded by frivolous law-suits accompanied by lack of discipline to avoid those law-suits. In my teaching career we went from getting in trouble for chewing gum in class to not getting in trouble for telling the teacher to “F*** off!” Yep, kids can now say that and in many schools, the teacher is asked what they did to provoke the kid into saying something like this. I also remember hearing the speech that using the F word was a part of the culture of certain kids and we basically had to overlook it. Really?

As discipline became impossible, learning disappeared with it. Respect became non-existent, and learning disappeared with that, also. When the day came that we were warned about putting a hand on a kid’s shoulder (as i had done for years to praise a kid or comfort him/her) lest we be accused of sexually assaulting him/her… or be accused or physically disciplining him, I knew it was time for me to quit, too.

True creative teaching had become impossible. Even allowing a kid to ask a question in class that was not included in that class’s curriculum could be considered an offense and grounds for disciplinary action – on the teacher! One teacher got written up because he wrote the name of our governor on the board when a kid asked a question about “local’ government.” It was a World History class. Tom got points off on his evaluation. No merit raise for him that year!

I am not surprised that we are less and less competitive in the global market. I guess I just want to know why the Powers that be think having a stupid workforce is the answer. Obviously, someone profits from it. Not the kids. Not the teachers.


1 comment:

Snowbrush said...

Even in the early 1980s when a student cut my wife with a knife, she was asked what she did to make him think he could treat her that way, and all he received was a paddling. She wanted him expelled (consistent with school policy), so she took the matter to the school board, and they too blamed the incident on her, saying she shouldn't have been in the hallway an hour after the school day ended. What they really meant was that she shouldn't have been young and pretty.

I frankly don't know what's going on today, but I know that when I was a teacher in the '70s, my principal told me that it wasn't how much good I did that mattered, but how much good people thought I did.