Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dear Ms. Cepeda....

Recently, I read an article that was reprinted in The Roanoke Times from The Washington Post. The article was titled "Short-timers may teach us something" by Esther J. Cepeda. The article can be found on the Post's syndication website.

This article bothered me for a number of reasons, and I felt compelled to write to Ms. Cepeda. I wanted to publicly share my response to this article for all of my readers.

“Short-timers may teach us” is highly insulting to educators. While I agree that many new teachers bring enthusiasm and a fresh outlook to the classroom, enthusiasm and a fresh-outlook are not all that it takes to be a good teacher, Ms. Cepeda. Those who come into the classroom and leave after two years to move on to bigger and better things see teaching our children as resume padding. Do you want your children to be a stepping-stone? Even you turned teaching our children as a stepping-stone for your career- that’s not dedication or enthusiasm, that’s using our children to better yourself, which is despicable. Now you’re publicly berating and disparaging those teachers who COULD stick it out and make a difference in the lives of our children. It looks a lot like sour grapes, to me.

The assertion that teaching, especially in high-poverty areas, requires dedication and sacrifice that “no lifer would purposely undertake” is insulting to myself and to every veteran teacher who has sacrificed family time, personal health, and a high-paying career in a respected profession to undertake the noble goal of educating our next generation. 

I posit that the veteran teachers- who devote their lives to education knowing that they are going into a demanding, high-stress career with little pay and in which most of the rewards are intrinsic- are the true heroes. They’re not in it for themselves but rather because they care about children and America’s future.

Teaching is a craft that takes many years to hone, and I know that I am a far better teacher than I was during my first two years of teaching. Furthermore, every student and every class is different than the last, so a professional teacher must constantly be researching and learning and adjusting their professional practice. Most veteran teachers will readily admit that they're lifelong learners and still haven't mastered the fine art of teaching- even after 20+ years in the classroom.

Come spend a week with me or any veteran teacher, and I'll be happy to show you the level of dedication that goes into my job and the hundreds of countless hours I spend outside the classroom doing things for my students. Every year of teaching in my career has been spent teaching students from other countries English as a Second Language in schools and areas where 90% or more of the students are below the poverty line. I pour my heart and soul into my job, just like I have every day since the first day I walked into a classroom as a student teacher. That's what "living the American life" is about- not writing ignorant opinions  about subjects you're clueless on as filler to go between the real news stories. 

I thank my lucky stars that you are not in the classroom anymore since you are clearly clueless. You should thank your lucky stars that the teachers you had were clearly more dedicated to the profession than you- I sincerely hope none of your past teachers see this article as it would break their hearts. Without teachers like myself, as the child of an immigrant, you could have easily fallen through the cracks as well. Thanks to the dedication of the teachers who taught you, you are now able to publicly disparage their profession and have it published all over the country.

I have a degree in Journalism and two years experience interning, and even I know how to do some basic research (or maybe since I'm a newbie, I’m more dedicated to and enthusiastic about journalistic ideals than you, since you’re seasoned- if I follow your logic). Next time, before denigrating an entire profession- do some research (I’ll be happy to help you if you need). Talk to some people IN that profession before you make blanket assumptions and perpetuate stereotypes, look for some valid statistics.  That’s what a REAL journalist does. 

Again, if you'd like to find out what a REAL teacher does, let me know. Until then, stick to writing about what you know.


  1. Laurah, Well said. I was also angered by the comments made by Ms. Cepeda. I'm a first year teacher at a low income, very diverse school, and while I do bring enthusiasm and new ideas into the classroom, the more experienced, veteran teachers are the ones who know the school and community. They have helped me navigate the culture of the school- how to help parents feel welcomed, how to communicate with all parents, especially non-English speaking ones, and have shared the strategies they have found to be effective over the years for different kinds of students.

    Also, I think Ms. Cepeda needs to understand that most new teachers do NOT decide to teach in a low income, diverse school community with the short-term in mind. For me personally, that is the population and type of community that I feel I was born to teach and serve in. There are no so called "better" schools to move onto once I have some experience under my belt, because despite the challenges, low income, diverse schools are where I WANT to be!

    Her comment that inexperienced teachers devote more time because they're the only ones reading up on the latest education books and news is preposterous. I know that veteran teachers spend at least the same amount of time in professional development and reading up on the latest strategies. The beauty of schools is that veteran teachers and new teachers can learn from each other.

    I agree that Ms. Cepeda should spend some time in today's classroom before making such gross assumptions and comments.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is great to hear from a new teacher on this subject too! I know I would not have made it through my first year teaching without the fabulous veteran mentor I had!

      And like you, since I chose to be an ESOL teacher, I go where my students are- which means low income areas. I want to make a difference in their lives no matter where they are or how challenging it is. That is what I chose and where my passion lies.