Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dear Mr. President

I wrote a letter to the president today? I know. Me? Political?

I was going to post about the circumstances that are discouraging me from going to my art studio, namely my landlady's nasty comments about the state of chaos which inspires my best work, but my new attitude it to step back and let the bullets land at my feet. I am Neo from the Matrix. I can see, hear, and think in slow motion. I am also one bad-ass motha who don't take no s--t from nobody!
So here is my letter. I am a little embarrassed about it so if you have any criticism, keep it to yourself. I'm not even sure what I would do if I was given the opportunity I proclaim so boldly to want.

Dear President Obama,
You have inspired me to believe in the Democratic process again so I am writing to ask about a policy that affects our nation and me. As a product of the New York City public school system, I was fortunate enough to attend an Ivy League college on scholarship. As a young single mother in my 20’s, my career choices were limited by the exorbitant cost of daycare and my liberal arts BA degree. I became a teacher in a New York City private school. I love my job and I am passionate about education.
My daughter just graduated from Harvard and I was able to afford to save enough to cover about half of her tuition (which was huge for me and made me proud to give since I had attended for free). My plan was that once she graduated and was on her feet, I would use what was left of my investments to finance my own master's degree so that I would qualify to teach in a New York City public school. Well, as you know, thanks to the economy you inherited from the previous administration, my savings are nearly worthless. I am leaving what little is left in the stock and bond markets because I do have faith that your plan will work. Fortunately, my daughter found a job, but it does not pay well enough for her to afford health insurance or housing yet, so she is living with me again.
My question is this: why are experienced teachers excluded from applying for the Teach for America or Teach for New York programs? Under these programs, young college graduates can get free higher education classes in exchange for a commitment to work three years in the nation's most poverty stricken or poorly performing schools. I have twenty years of teaching experience and would be of great service to such students but I am ineligible for the program for the very same reason, I would be of particular help.
I do not know how successful the program is or even how the success is measured. My resources are limited to anecdotal information provided by my daughter's contemporaries. Most found their experiences to be extraordinarily difficult and will probably not remain in the field of education. I, on the other hand, am a career teacher. I am committed to giving every child I meet an awareness of one benefit of being an American and separates us from so many other countries. Education is free and if a child can take full advantage of it, he or she can break the cycle of poverty and improve his or her social standing much like I did.
As I said previously, this is a question very specific to me and I am but one of your constituents. I would like to know why my experience teaching for twenty years prevents me from qualifying to apply for a program that gives free certification in exchange for making a commitment to our nation's neediest schools. I have to add that I teach middle school math and have an outstanding record of inspiring many of the most reluctant learners to go on to earn A's in high school and love math. I am an advocate for women in math and highly gifted math students of both genders (truly one of our country's greatest resources) but also for all children. Despite the fact that I am not a leader or principal, you inspire me to listen more closely to others and this has been a tremendous gift.
So what do you say, Mr. President? Do you think that experienced teachers should be allowed the same opportunity to offer their services in exchange for higher education? I voted for you (after Mrs. Clinton was out of the running, sorry) and I would do it again. Can you explain the reasoning of a policy that imposes a self-defeating limit on an otherwise excellent program?

Thank you for your bravery and vision!

Your loyal citizen,
Aly ....

3 comments:

misstrionics said...

This is wonderful. You should write to TFA or NYTF, no? Maybe you could even start your own program or get involved at Americorps and encourage them to change their policies from the inside.

Aly V said...

Thanks for your support! I have written to both organizations and neither had an explanation for the exclusion. I don't really know who the policy makers are and I stumbled onto the White House site encouraging all Americans to let the President know what is on our minds. So, I did.

Allison Guerriero said...

That's a great letter. If the NYC public schools were staffed by clones of you then I doubt anyone would even send their children to private schools.