Thursday, November 21, 2013

Time for Action by Teddi Urriola

This is the testimony that I gave last night to the Minority Assembly Hearings for the Committee on Education. Our children do not need the rigid, inflexible, harsh, and standardized approach to education know as the Common Core. Hi. My name is Teddi Urriola and I am a teacher in the Rochester City School District. I had a very carefully crafted speech with statistics. I wanted to show you how this crisis in education is a manufactured crisis based on manipulated data and information. But I left that speech in the box outside and I really do hope you will read the statistics later. However, what I really want to do is put a human face on my classroom. So, I am going to tell you the story of 4 young girls and 4 little angels. They were in my Kindergarten and 1st grade classes 2 years in a row. Then you tell me if more rigor, harsh and inflexible instruction, higher expectations and more testing would have helped them? M came to me in Kindergarten. Quiet, she had trouble learning but didn't create any problems. She was never very clean or well dressed. She was in my class again in 1st grade. I may have met the father and the stepmother once in those 2 years. I found out that M's mother had died before she came to Kindergarten. On the last day of school I got permission to take M out to lunch at AppleBees. We then went shopping at Walmart. M never had girlie sneakers or clothes. When we went to pick out new shoes, she went to the boys area, that way her brother could wear them when she outgrew them she said. I sent her into the dressing room with a couple of cute short sets and asked the clerk to check on her. The clerk came back to tell me that she was wearing men's dirty underwear. I guess I needed to add panties to the shopping list. I gave M an angel to remember her mother and let her know that she was still watching over her and that I loved her too. T was always falling asleep in my class and never had her homework done. In fact it was usually never even removed from her backpack. I called home ready to give my teacher talk to mom and this is the story I heard. Mom got the kids up at 5 AM every day to take the bus across town to grandma's so she could go to work. The kids then took the school bus back across town to school and then back again to grandma's at the end of the school day. When Mom got out of work she would then load them all back onto the RTS bus and take them home, only to have to cook and do laundry and give baths and get them into bed to do it all over again the next day. Homework was not at the top of that to do list. 2 years later T's mom was murdered, shot on the front porch at a party. Another little angel, even though she was no longer in my room I had formed a connection because of that one phone conversation. I had learned not to be judgmental. J was lucky. She had a mom and a dad and they were educated. Dad was older and had retired from Kodak. A two parent family. He owned a cab and drove at night so that he could be with the girls in the day while mom worked. He was shot and killed one night in the cab. I think it is still listed as an unsolved homicide. Another little angel...daddy really loved you and so do I. R lived with her grandmother. Mom was in and out of trouble and in and out of her life. However, she was still mom. One of those times when she was in her life she too was murdered...I think it was over drugs. R stayed in our school and left last year for 9th grade...she came up to me one day last year and told me "I still have the angel you gave me." I told her, Mommy still loves her and so do I. Keep your nose clean and make good choices. I am here if you need me." William Bruce Cameron said, "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts." I believe that I try to live this and I am not unique, so do all the other teachers in the RCSD who choose to teach in the city. This is a labor of love, not rigor. To my colleagues here who have talked about changing this or that, about implementation and roll out I say this, "This is not a reform that can be tweaked or adjusted or fixed. It is copyrighted. It is law." You gentlemen on the panel have the ability to turn back the clocks and stop Common Core in NYS, repeal Race to the Top. I would like to conclude with this quote by Winston Churchill. "All that is necessary for evil to win is for good men to do nothing." Please do something. Thank you.

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