The empty chair
Every year after summer break the first thing that happens when the teachers’ return is a welcome back breakfast and this year was no exception. As I looked for a seat I passed a colleague who was sitting next to an empty chair. I asked her if I could sit there and she politely said, no, I am saving this seat. I nodded and found another place to sit nearby.
As more people filtered in a few others asked her about the empty chair and she repeated the same thing, no, I am saving this seat. Eventually the entire staff showed up and the seat remained empty. Eventually we had breakfast and the seat remained empty. Eventually the principal introduced the new staff members and the seat remained empty. Eventually we were dismissed for lunch and all the time the seat remained empty.
I thought that was strange so I asked her, so who were you saving the seat for, did somebody miss the first day? She looked at me and said; I was saving it for Jessica.
Jessica was a teacher who was let go just a few days before; her f-cat scores weren’t high enough. I am sorry, make that her student’s f-cat scores weren’t high enough. This despite the fact she had earned the MAP bonus two years before as one of the counties outstanding teachers. This despite the fact that we were told when the school accepted a school improvement grant or SIG statistics were to be counted from that time forward.
I nodded to my colleague and forced a weak smile of understanding as I thought to myself there were probably a few empty seats saved for Jessica that morning.
In a lot of ways after ten years at Ed White Jessica was one of the most indispensable members of our community. Not only was she was in charge of Ms. Ed. White Pageant, Mr. Ugly contest and was one of the sponsors of student government but she was always volunteering for this, that or the other. Even more important is Jessica is one of those teachers that students will still be talking about years after they graduate and one of those teachers that many other teachers aspire to be like and sadly none of that mattered.
Despite her dedication, enthusiasm and years of service Jessica had become a line on a spreadsheet to be discarded because some of her students didn’t meet some arbitrary measurement. That’s why she was let go. What the powers-that-be don’t get, is that teachers and students aren’t just statistics or lines on a spreadsheet and education should be about more than just one test. What they also don’t get is my school and education is poorer for not having her walk the halls of the school she both loved and called home.
I wish my words could adequately describe the loss that my school will feel without her but they don’t. Maybe hers will, as the echo the grief that my school has experienced with her departure.
Hi Commander Family
This letter comes from me to you with great sadness. Unfortunately due to the reconstitution process the Dept of Education has decided that I am to be one of the family who has to leave. I am no Chris **** or Jordan **** with great words of wisdom, but I just want each of you to know that this is certainly not my choice nor do I really want to leave. The old saying you never know what you had till it was gone sums up my feelings toward each of you.
I went to work each day looking forward to seeing my family. Think about it, we are with the people we work with more than our children or spouses. I began teaching at Ed White when I was 23 years old and have grown up with many of you as my “parents.” This family has seen me grow not only professionally but also personally – with the addition of a spouse and a child. This is my home and I always thought that I would be one of those teachers who would be there year after year.
As this is not the case, please know that I will miss each of you so deeply – (if you know me you know that I am crying at this point in the letter) It is hard to believe with all of the people transferring to other schools for one reason or another, there are people who truly want to stay yet cannot!
I will also deeply miss the kids! I think that this has to be the greatest part of my grief. These kids truly become your children and we the teachers their surrogate parents. I am saddened that on Monday I will not be there to greet them.
Just remember that I do love each of you and that I am only an email or phone call away. With any hope, I will find myself back at Ed White next school year.
Not everyone is lucky enough to say that they have worked with the best and brightest…I am one of those who can!
Love and hugs – Jessica
Not only will she will be missed but she will also be impossible to replace. Welcome to education 2010 where teachers and students no longer matter, just statistics do.