Allen Bearden, ED.D, President of Jacqueline B. Vaughn Graduate School for Teacher Leadership ; Past Director of Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center
“Teaching is rocket science,” and Deborah Lynch’s book clearly brings this fact into focus. She gives teachers a platform and a voice to refute the negative comments and perceptions held by policy makers, administrators, community members, parents and some in the media. She allows comments from many hard working and dedicated teachers who are truly committed to their profession. She posits that, “.Many of these statements are a resounding cry for help and support, certainly, but they are also a cry for understanding.” The compelling stories told by these teachers’ cuts to the heart of how strongly they feel about their schools and the students they teach.
For those who doubt the veracity of the teaching profession and have no understanding of what it takes to teach in an urban setting where children are living far below the poverty line; this book is for you.
For those of you who have been impacted by a dedicated teacher and are willing to aide in the struggle to keep the “good teachers” in our neighborhood schools; this book is a must read. For much too long the stories of the teachers’ plight have been told by researchers and non-educators who could not walk in the shoes of a teachers nor last a day in their classrooms.
The point is that urban teachers want what is in the best interest of their students. Deborah Lynch’s book gives these teachers the voice to delve into the challenges, realities and contradictions of what teaching in an urban school is like. What’s surprising, however, is the thing they feel strongest about, is how they are not valued and how they are used as scapegoats for all the ills of public education.
Eugenia Kemble, former education policy assistant to Albert Shanker, late president of the American Federation of Teachers
Beneath the headlines and beyond the picket lines is a deep demoralization and profound disappointment of Chicago teachers. It is a sadness and anger captured in the author’s over 2,000 surveys and 100 probing interviews. This book, A Letter to President Obama, is also a cry for help, a plea to national leadership to reach beyond the simplistic assumption that a pile on of time-eating, test-dominant accountability schemes will whip supposed teacher laggards into shape.
These teachers are exhausted. It is an exhaustion weighted down with an overlay of public disrespect. They don’t understand how their endless hours and draining emotional investments – many more than is ever acknowledged by their elected leaders -- have brought them such disdain. Lynch captures their frustrations in quotes from her many interviews. She surfaces at least some of their needs – good standard curriculum and manageable reorganization of school time – to pass on to the myriad school policy-makers who know virtually nothing about the inner workings of schools. The detail of teacher feeling, insight and despair captured in this work is a must read for those who choose to think seriously about how to make schools better -- especially those that serve concentrations of poor urban youth who so desperately need energized, appreciated teachers to help them climb into better lives.
The survey data and quotes cited throughout Lynch’s book paint a picture of good teachers who overwhelmingly feel abused, attacked, and substantially undervalued by school boards and districts, public policy makers, corporate leaders and the media. Whether you agree with these perceptions or not, if you are a school leader, it is more important that you understand them. Effective school leaders know that they need a cohesive team to build and achieve a vision for highly effective schools. This cannot be done without understanding and addressing the feelings vividly presented in this book.