Dear Teacher: An Open Letter

December 7, 2010

Tags: teaching, LouAnne Johnson, Dangerous Minds

Excerpt from the upcoming 2nd edition of Teaching Outside the Box (March 2011, Jossey-Bass)

Ch 1 Dear Teacher: An Open Letter


Dear Teacher,

Thank you.

Thank you for being a teacher.

And thank you for choosing to use your time and talents teaching students when you had so many other career options, most of which offerbetter pay, more comfortable working conditions, and much more respect from the general public than the teaching profession does.

Thank you for taking yet another exam to prove your competence, although you have already completed five or more years of college and hundred of dollarsí worth of standardized tests.
Thank you for continuing to teach higher-level thinking skills and advanced academics in spite of having test after test after test added to your curriculum requirements, without any additional instruction time.

Thank you for getting up at 5 or 6 A.M. every day to go to a graceless room bathed in artificial light, a windowless closet or a dilapidated trailer, and for coping with the malfunctioning or nonexistent air conditioning and heating.

Thank you for eating your lunch out of a paper bag on a folding chair in a sparsely furnished lounge where a working coffee maker is a treat and a functioning microwave oven is luxury.

For spending your so-called time off grading papers; making lesson plans; and attending professional development conferences, committee meetings, restructuring meetings, parent-teacher conferences, school board meetings and continuing education classes.

Thank you for working countless hours of unpaid overtime because it is the only way to do your job well and because you cannot do less.

And for not reminding people constantly that if you were paid for your overtime, you could retire tomorrow and never have to work again.

Thank you for consistently giving respect to children who donít know what do do with it and donít realize what a valuable gift you are offering.

And for caring about children whose own families donít care -- or donít know how to show that they do.

Thank you for spending your own money on pens and pencils, erasers and chalk, paper, tissues, bandages, birthday gifts, treats, clothing, shoes, eyeglasses -- and a hundred other things that your students need but donít have.

For spending sleepless nights worrying about a struggling student, wondering what else you might do to help overcome the obstacles that life has placed in his or her path.
Thank you for raiding your own childrenís closets to find a pair of shoes or a sweater for a child who has none.

For putting your own family on hold while you meet with the family of a struggling student.

For believing in the life-changing power of education.

For maintaining your belief that all students can learn if we can learn how to teach them.

For putting up with the aching back, creaky knees, tired legs, and sore feet that go with the teaching territory.
Thank you.

Thank you for giving hopeless children enough hope to continue struggling against the poverty, prejudice, abuse, alcoholism, hunger, and apathy that are a daily part of so many tender young lives.

For risking your job to give a child a much-needed hug.

For biting your tongue and counting to a million while a parent lists the reasons why your incompetence is responsible for the misbehavior of his or her undisciplined, spoiled, obnoxious child.
For taking on one of the most difficult, challenging, frustrating, emotionally exhausting, mentally draining, satisfying, wonderful, important and precious jobs in the world.

Thank you for being a teacher.

You truly are an unsung American hero.

You have my respect and my gratitude,


LouAnne Johnson