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A "Dear John" letter to the state of Florida

I made this "Dear John" video this summer, before I left Florida and moved to Massachusetts. In the seven months since I've left the state:

  1. I've realized there are states and places that fund education well and have policies that support teachers, not break us down. It has been unexpectedly refreshing to get to know the education systems in New England. They are not perfect, but they have certainly made me realize how complex things are in Florida and the negative impact that has on our FL teachers and students.
  2. I've realized that my morale, even as a recognized teacher, was low in Florida. Morale is a serious issue, especially in states that are hotbeds for change and policy. We have to address this. Now.
  3. Many Florida teachers have had their VAMs made public. I can't yet comment on that because I am still angry, and as a sourthern girl, my mom told me not to speak or write in anger.  My colleague Julie Hiltz has written a great piece on hers published in the Washington Post...read her thoughts here.
  4. Florida has begun to pull out of the Common Core (they will have their own FL standards...read more here) and is not participating in PARCC, but has contracted with The American Institutes for Research to create its own FL assessments (read more on that here). This is like watching a trainwreck, but one attached to the students, teachers, and parents that I love...directly connected to my heartstrings. *sigh*

I wasn't going to publish this video because I thought it was a little tough on my beloved state, but after letting that thought simmer for over half a year and watch what is happening, I am inclined to proudly post it. 

Please know these opinions and feelings represent me alone, Megan Allen the NBCT and education advocate.

 

 

 

24 Comments

Cheryl Suliteanu commented on March 21, 2014 at 10:07am:

proud to know you!

Megan, I appreciate your objectivity combined with your passion for what you know is right for students.  

You should be proud of the accomplishments you've made, the impact you've had, and the continuing efforts you are a part of that WILL make a difference in the lives of children.  

We are all working toward a time when what's going on in Florida will be impossible because teachers will be the decision makers.  Perseverance and solidarity in our vision and mission for the future of education are essential tools in our tool box.

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 3:52pm:

The power of a national network…and beyond!

Cheryl:

And I am so proud to know you! I think that when we look at all of our diverse perspectives in education due to our geographic regions and systems that they come with, we see that there are so many similarities. We are all tackling many of the same problems and can use our combined brainpower to be the leverage of positive change for our students! I so agree on the perseverance and solidarity.

Miss you, my CA pal! 

Megan

David Cohen commented on March 21, 2014 at 5:23pm:

Well done!

I'm glad you decided not to hold back. Appreciate your Southern upbringing and all, but I hope to hear more from you, soon! 

p.s. - the video player just kept going as I started typing this and I'm smiling as I listen to your storytelling! Good voices - you have a backup career in voice-over work - not that you'll need it.

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 3:54pm:

Thanks, David!

I appreciate your comment and loved meeting you in person last week at our NBPTS conference. And by coincidence I am narrating my first documentary on teaching and learning...called the Power to Teach! I appreciate the vote of confidence.

David Cohen commented on March 24, 2014 at 10:20pm:

You're welcome!

"my first documentary"

- looks like you've got all the confidence you need! Go get 'em!

Precious Crabtree commented on March 21, 2014 at 9:00pm:

Beyond powerful...

Megan, 

Your video is simply powerful!  There is not a teacher in the nation who wouldn't connect or agree with what you have listed as challenges and solutions! I live in the land of initiatives where our former superintendent threw one thing after another at us year after year and no one could keep up with so many balls in the air.  Everyone has been drowning in a sense of failure.

Have you read this article?  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/31/i-would-l...

It was gut-wrenching and brought tears to my eyes when I read it.  It is how so many of my colleagues feel and the extreme measures some of them are talking about taking... Our kids are losing great teachers because there is a lack of respect and autonomy.  Recently, I wrote a blog for our Associaton about my struggles a few years ago and how I took back my autonomy. 

http://www.fairfaxea.org/content/why-i-almost-lost-my-love-teaching 

While I agree with your southern upbringing (I am from WV originally), I think we all need to allow ourselves to use our frustrations and anger to fuel our passion and desire for change.  When we silence that anger, we don't allow our voice to be heard...

Your voice is powerful and passionate!  I hope your video gets in the hands of those who are making poor decisions for America's children! And I hope inspires more teachers to write their own Dear John letter.  

Deborah Moltisanti commented on March 21, 2014 at 9:34pm:

Fantastic!

Megan, proud to know you're one of Hillsborough's own!  This blog post and accompanying video hits the nail on the head!

Kristina commented on March 22, 2014 at 2:30pm:

Thank You!

Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate your candor and your willingness to speak up. 

I would not encourage young people to go into our profession at this time. It's just too heart wrenching and it's destroying lives.

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 3:56pm:

Recruiting into our great profession

Hi Kristina! I appreciate your comment and totally see why many people are not encouraging others into the profession. However, I think it has propelled me to recruit more and differently...thus my job in teacher education! We need more teachers who are not only passionate about teaching and learning, but are passionate about advocating for our students (and hopefully running for office to become our future policy makers!). It's made me reflect even more about the importance of having so many amazing educators lead...in and out of the classroom.

Anne Jolly commented on March 22, 2014 at 2:47pm:

GREAT post!!!

Wonderful post, Megan.  As usual, you were able to able to give some spot-on advice about ways that all states can really improve education.  Loved it!

Do you have an eCopy of that list? That would be a great list for teachers to adapt and post around the nation.  

 

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 3:58pm:

One of my teaching favs…Anne Jolly!

Hi Anne! Great to hear from you and great thought on the eCopy. I'm on it...thanks for the suggestion!

Brianna Crowley commented on March 22, 2014 at 4:33pm:

Video Unlisted

Megan,

Of course I agree with all who have already posted here. What I have to add is this: I admire your discernment and caution in posting this. Honestly, I need more of that unfailling optomism and thoughtfulness in my life. I am usually a speak-first, reflect-later type who does some damage in the process. 

In reading your blog post leading into this video, I expected the message to be more shocking, more critical, and more controversial. Instead, you had a logical, firm, and absolutely experience-based message to share. No unfiltered emotional content or damaging vitriol. I think your caution is great, but should be laid to rest. This is an important, necessary, and valid message. You should not be hesitant in sharing or promoting it. 

Which brings me to my question: May I share you video? On YouTube, it warns me that it is unlisted and I should be careful before sharing the link. I am heeding YouTube's warning by contacting you to ask :) 

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 4:04pm:

My colleague in PA!!

Hello, Brianna!

I appreciate your feedback. As one who has cried when testifyng in front of our Florida House of Representatives, I learned that emotion can overtake any firm and logical message. A hard lesson learned and not a proud moment.

And I guess my hesitancy here is because of my great love and passion for my sunshine state, her districts, her leaders, her educators, and especially her students and their families. We just have some kinks to work out in the system, and being in a different state...with such a different and supportive climate around education...has been both fascinating and heartbreaking. I don't want to dismiss the people in the state who are working hard to make education work, but I do feel there were so many things that we need to work on in a different manner.

Of course you may post! Thanks for the idea. And miss you, friend!

Beverly "Dr. Wixy" Wixon commented on March 22, 2014 at 7:47pm:

Well Done.

Your mother is smiling upon you. I just know it.

I was so proud to call her a friend and colleague. You've 'done her proud' too.

 

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 23, 2014 at 4:06pm:

Dr. Wixy

Hello, friend!

I love when I hear stories and meet people who knew my mother...one of the best educators and my constant inspiration. Her zainy wit, ability to engage an audience on any topic, and honest spunk were qualities in her life and profession that motivate me daily! Thanks for your kind comment...it warmed my heart. :)

Lia Binetti commented on March 22, 2014 at 10:29pm:

Agree Wholeheartedly!

If only your words could be taken seriously and acted upon by the decision makers!  I am so ready to leave the field altogether because of all the frustrations; I can't stand being a part of something I don't agree with, when it hurts the kids and I don't have the power to change it!  Sittingl idly by and abiding by the nonsense just doesn't work for me anymore.  Sadly, I believe more and more good teachers are going to leave the field or the state because of this craziness; it needs to stop soon!  Thanks for being brave enough to at least try to get through to them! :)

Harmony Jones commented on March 22, 2014 at 10:48pm:

Change is good

I am moving out of Virginia this year and you have inspired me to reflect on the necessary changes that my district needs to make if they hope to recruitment and retain new teachers. I know I want to speak at the board of supervisors meeting before I leave, I just wasn't sure what the format should look like. Your video is so direct and positive. Thanks for the inspiration!

 

Megan Allen Megan Allen commented on March 31, 2014 at 7:34pm:

Go, Harmony!

Harmony:

Good luck with the move! And a word of advice, keep your message positive and solutions-focused...and thanks for speaking up to help improve things for our students and teachers!

Megan

Anthony Colucci commented on March 23, 2014 at 9:05am:

Thanks Megan!  Although I do

Thanks Megan!  Although I do beleive that the situatiion here in Florida is slowly improving, I have considered packing it up myself.  It's exhausting teaching down here...it seems like it's always a "fight."  In my district morale has been at a low point. Fortunately, we (our union) convinced the School Board to make some common sense changes to help with the issue.

Great suggestions for improvement! 

Joann Foster commented on March 23, 2014 at 1:20pm:

Dear John

<p>Thank you, Megan!</p>

<p>I could not have stated these ideas any better!&nbsp; You have brought the main concerns of the teachers, in this country, with wonderful precise focus.&nbsp; I wish that every Board of Education in America member would read this letter, and take the suggestions.</p>

<p>&nbsp;</p>

Pam Garris commented on March 24, 2014 at 1:02am:

Megan Allen's "Dear John" letter

So glad to hear your voice of experience speaking out for what is best for the students of Florida and our nation. Keep talking! Many are listening.

As someone who taught in Florida preFCAT, I know we do not want Common Core.Teachers need time to teach. We should not just teach to a test.

I am sorry you had to leave Florida to find your voice,but so happy you did!

Nancy Fogle commented on March 24, 2014 at 10:22am:

Thank you, Megan Allen!

I am a retired Hillsborough County public school teacher.  I taught for 38 years and retired in 2011 earlier than I wanted to because of the changes coming in, especially with teacher evaluations.  I know most teachers in the system are feeling the low morale.  I certainly did.  All around did too.  Tears and emotional breakdowns by teachers were nearly a daily experience and I wasn't willing to destroy my health to stay in a system that was contributing to teachers' health decline.  This is still going on and I am trying hard to speak out against it.  Thank you so much for having the courage to speak out.  Teachers I know are afraid to speak out because their evaluation will reflect it.  They feel trapped in a failing system and no one cares because of politics, power, and greed.  Thank you so much!  I plan to show your video to all who will let me!   

Bless You!

Goader commented on March 31, 2014 at 5:30pm:

Powerful Encouragement

"I've realized there are states and places that fund education well and have policies that support teachers, not break us down."

You statement is powerful and encouraging for me to know what I have suspected: that teachers are respected somewhere, if not here in Florida. It gives me great solace, it's what I needed to hear—thank you.

And, this article in today's paper, gave teachers everywhere a voice not often heard.

Former Florida Teacher of Year critical of reforms

Laurey Stryker commented on April 1, 2014 at 2:55pm:

Dear John Letter to Florida

Thank you for putting into words and video the message so many have wanted to deliver.  It too often gets categorized as whining or resistance to change and accountability rather than the sharing of experience and knowledge.  

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