My heart is broken as I read about the firing of teacher, Mr. Lewis from Parks Middle School this week. How did this gentle man, who clearly loved teaching and inspiring the young minds he taught, find himself in this predicament? What lead him to stand today in front of an APS tribunal begging for leniency?
"We were told failure was not an option," said Mr. Lewis. Clearly, he understood what was meant by 'failure' in this case. It meant test scores. But, in fact failure was ALL that happened. The children were failed. The community was failed. The trust in our school system was failed. The faith in our teachers was failed. The confidence in our leaders was failed.
I sat in tears as I listened to his heartfelt plea, not just for himself, but for all the teachers who lost their bearing and drifted to the wrong meaning of 'failure.' Our heroes, our mentors, our role models, had been so badly tormented and 'damaged' under the strain of horrific leadership that they chose to make incredibly bad decisions rather than leave the children they love. My soul was crushed when Mr. Lewis said "Let us not crucify the teachers, and act like there weren't and aren't systematic problems that need to be addressed all the way up."
He is right. APS is top heavy and the branches need to be thinned, for sure. APS has lost its moral direction and needs to get set back on course. But, it should be telling to any observer that the first person fired is a black, male teacher who stood up and fully confessed what he did and fully explained how he had been compelled to do so. There he stood bravely, with tears in his eyes, recounting his story, facing the very people who put that burden on his back.
I am not saying he was right. What he did was wrong and there is no excuse to fail our children. Yes, he should be fired. Do tell me, how does such righteous indignation help our children? I'm just wondering because I see the ax has fallen where it often does, on the ones who are the least egregious.
Mrs. Thrasher was my 3rd grade teacher. I adored her. In my eyes she was perfect. She was pretty. She was kind. She made me feel smart and protected. To this day, I remember her so fondly that I am moved when I think of my days in her classroom.
Thank you Mrs. Thrasher, and thank you to all the teachers who have loved and inspired the children in your care for your entire careers. You deserve better. You are worth more than you are given. Please don't give up in fear or exasperation, because 40 years from now a child in your classroom today will remember what you meant to him or her and will be a better person because of the difference you make in their life right now.
As a side note: My son will graduate from high school next year. He has attended only Atlanta Public Schools; Mary Lin, Inman and Grady. I am grateful to every one of his teachers over the last 11 years. Thank you.