Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Open Letter to Uppity Urban Charter Schools or Numbers on a Page

Dear Uppity Urban Charter Schools,

It has come to my attention that most of you will not give me or my resume the time of day because you have insanely high standards for both your students and your faculty. This is wonderful, but disingenuous at best. Allow me to explain.

The State of New Jersey requires its teachers to have a 2.75 GPA in order to be certified by the state. I am certified by the state. My GPA as an undergrad was a 2.75. Most of you require your teachers to have a 3.0 GPA as an undergrad. Therefore, though I am qualified to teach and state certified, you people deem me sub par because of my undergrad GPA. Because of the numbers on a page.

Those numbers, my dear would be constituents, lack context. Those numbers do not tell you how much adversity I had to overcome to get that GPA and graduate from college. They don't tell you that I worked three jobs to keep myself in school. They don't tell you how my dad left; gave up and walked out years ago for sheer lack of interest. They don't tell you how my mother struggles with mental illness and that she had a nervous breakdown and moved across the country to get better. She left me in my dorm room with all of my worldly possessions. The rest of the stuff was tossed when we got evicted from the apartment, a step down from the house that we lost due to foreclosure. Foreclosure that came when my mom stopped fighting. When the reality of being followed, trailed and watched by the police because of my brother's drug peddling became too much. When the memory of having our house raided by police was too dark, when the funds to keep bailing my brother out of jail drained her of the energy to do simple tasks like get out of bed.

I could go on, but you have proven that you aren't interested in the reasons why my GPA as an undergrad was just average. You also don't seem to care that my GPA in graduate school was a 3.5. None of this is interesting to you because you are fixated on the numbers on my 10 page transcript featuring my name and social security number.

So, fine. Hire the Teach for America kids whose only knowledge about poverty is theoretical. Teach for America, like you Uppity Urban Charter Schools, only selects the best of the best from Ivy league or Ivy-league wannabe colleges and universities. TFA kids have no clue what they are signing up for when they apply. I also applied to Teach for America, buy the way. They didn't want me. Probably because of my GPA.

My knowledge of poverty and struggle is very real. I have lived it. As a matter of fact, I have lived below the poverty line my entire life. I'll be 25 on Sunday. These are obstacles I overcame to become the person I am today. I understand FIRST HAND what these kids are going through. I didn't learn about their situations from a book or in a teacher prep class. Their story is my story. That one of the reasons I became an educator in the first place. I knew I could be an example for some kid who was feeling hopeless because of his or her circumstance. I felt this way once and I had teachers who helped me through it.

This is not, however, the chance you are willing to afford me because of my undergraduate GPA. Have fun finding someone who is willing to tirelessly devote all of their love and energy to your students and their education with no interest in how it looks on their resume for future job prospects.


Nina J Davidson


  1. wow. powerful open letter to these schools. It is a tough battle; at one end they want the "best" teachers, yet their process is rooted in a pedagogy that has proven to be an ill representation of the people they serve. Life experience needs to be the first category on a resume. Sometimes, i wonder if these better school are trying to stop the youth from being victims or attempting to make them into the people that created the barriers that didn't give them a fair education in the 1st place?

  2. I don't know. Like you said, their intentions are good, but their delivery is poor. I like their emphasis on the child, but at what expense? Only time will tell.


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