March 24, 2012

Dear Mayor Bloomberg, 3.23.12

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

I wanted to tell you about what happened in our class this week. I'd have written sooner, but I was busy marking classwork from this past week, on my Saturday.

Late in the day on Thursday, a student in my class noticed bugs in another student's hair. At dismissal, the babysitter of the child with bugs in her hair was asked to notify the parents immediately so that the child could be treated for lice. The babysitter called the school later to get the child's mother's work number as the child's father, who arrived home first, had never seen or heard of lice, did not know what to do about the lice, and was unable to offer money to the babysitter to get supplies to treat the lice. The mother was not able to come to the phone and was not due home until 10pm.

Fearing that the mother would unwittingly send the child to school on Friday, untreated, and risk spreading the lice throughout out the class, I called the home at 7am the next day, hoping to prevent the child from coming to school. From the comfort of my own house and in my pajamas, I began to explain the treatment options available to her: coming the hair out twice a day and wrapping the head in butter to sleep and smother the lice at night, or calling a professional nitpicker to address the problem. I also assembled a collection of lice fighting materials: a nit comb ($30 value), Pantene conditioner (to aid in nit removal,) a bandana, and winter green oil (to apply to the scalp) just in case the mother needed to borrow any or all of these things.

Once at school, my co-teacher, at my suggestion, called another parent, also a professional nitpicker, to come in and check the heads of all of our students. Fortunately she was available and came in. She spent an hour combing through heads in the back of the classroom, one at a time, while other children did their school work. She found lice in four heads. The parents of those children were notified as well, and will hopefully treat their children this weekend. The we sent out a class-wide email requesting that every family check their children regularly for lice. As you may remember, we are going camping on Wednesday, and cannot take children to camp with lice in their heads.

Does your teacher evaluation system, noting whether or not a child's test scores increase, measure these kinds of responsibilities that we teachers take simply for the sake of our students and their families? I hope so, although it doesn't seem as though it possibly can.

I hope you will think about some of the things I have been telling you about and that you have a better sense of what our jobs are really like. My goal is that you will be motivated to look at teachers as caring and devoted people who work very, very hard, and who deserve to be evaluated on their performance by some measure that uses more than a number, or a change in numbers, derived from a questionable set of assessments given over six days for a few hours in the spring, and regards us with the kind of dignity that you certainly demand for yourself.

Jennifer Hardy,
Classroom Teacher

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