A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

L.A. Teachers Rally For...Many Reasons

Last week, hundreds of LAUSD teachers rallied in the rain to bring attention to numerous issues of concern:
  • the defamation of the teaching profession
  • the rise of the charter movement/privatization of public schools
  • looming budget cuts, more teacher layoffs
Some teachers are ambivalent about continuing to participate in UTLA rallies. RIF'ed teachers wonder whether anyone remembers that they have lost their jobs as permanent teachers and are working as long-term substitutes (if they're lucky.) When you put your heart and soul into your job, when your life centers around your persona as a teacher, you feel like your world is upside down in the wake of the loss of your job. But does anyone even remember that L.A. Academy Middle School lost 23 teaching positions 7 months ago? That South Central bore 40% of the layoffs due to its large number of new teachers?

Joe Zeccola (pictured above), UTLA Co-Chair at LAAMS, explains why only through unity, will our voices be heard and listened to. He says there is no one else who is standing by us at this time, and all we have is each other. RIF'ed teachers can only pin their hopes on the union.

Students also attended the rally, with their parents, because they like their teachers, they know their teachers, they trust their teachers. No amount of media smears, or "grassroots" campaigns will change that. The kids are the smartest of all; they know impostors when they see 'em.

Teachers weren't just rallying for their jobs, although why this would be considered a bad thing, I don't know. They were fighting to be heard, because they are the experts in the field of education. This whole education debate is leaving out a key group of people: the teachers themselves. Would you ask Eli Broad for his expert opinion if you needed surgery? Undoubtedly, no. But teachers haven't been included in the planning of Race to the Top, or any relevant educational policy, nor does it seem it will happen any time in the future.

So the rally of the rain was meant to send a message to the School Board, to Sacramento, to anyone involved in the ed-debate: we want to be a part of the ed debate. We haven't been included before, and this must change. Greater accountability will come when teachers have a say in curriculum design, professional development, and to some extent, school governance. Otherwise, there is little hope for improvement.


  1. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this event. I don't know how many will hear or act on the message, but I know that passivity and indifference must be avoided.


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