A teacher explains: Why I won’t resign. A letter of resolution.

downeyart0401I have shared some very passionate teacher resignation letters on the blog, including an incredible one from former local teacher Jordan Kohanim. (If you missed her piece, read it here.)

But here is a letter from a teacher explaining why she is not resigning. New York teacher Christine McCartney published this letter on her  “An Educator’s Re-education” blog.

McCartney has been at the University of Tampere in Finland through a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching.  She writes that she is “studying how Finnish teachers utilize ongoing, formative assessments to inform their practice.”

In her intro to her letter, McCartney explains, “After having spent the past month in Finland, however, gaining new insights from the Finnish education system and having the freedom of time to reflect on my own experiences as a teacher in New York, I have a different kind of letter. Call it my Letter of Resolution. I wrote it because I have had enough. I can’t handle any more top-down; I am ready for some bottom-up. I hope you will join me.”

Here is her letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan:

Dear Mr. Duncan,

I will not be leaving the teaching profession anytime soon. This is despite the fact that current educational reform efforts are continually pushing some of the best and brightest educators closer and closer to the door of the classroom, if they haven’t already left.

In spite of the fact that you consistently attempt to find new ways to hijack the time I spend teaching, planning, collaborating, reflecting, researching, conferencing, bettering myself, and addressing my students’ needs, I manage to complete all of the menial administrative tasks you mandate in an effort to comparatively measure my efficacy in the classroom.

I ignore the fact that you ignore the fact that I earned a Master’s degree, received numerous teaching awards and have nothing but exemplary observations in my personnel folder.

I dutifully administer tests that narrow my curriculum and steal time away from the authentic assessments my co-teachers and I spent years developing to encourage student growth and reflection on their own learning.

I allow you to make your deterministic assumptions that the most effective means to an end can be externally defined, controlled and measured in a “standardized” manner, ignoring my students’ diversity, prior knowledge, skills, beliefs, attitudes and differences in motivation and attention.

I seek out meaningful professional development on my own because every faculty meeting consists of me and my colleagues being force-fed new mandates, while we watch our autonomy wither as hastily as our morale.

I do all of this despite the fact that during this time, you remind me repeatedly that I need to be patient because we are “crossing a bridge as we build it” –an unbelievably ineffective metaphor that is worrisome at best and at worst, absurd.

But I thank you for it.

And not because it isn’t inane. It is. But it made me recognize something that has reignited my commitment to my students into a flame that even the most ineffective and watered-down standardized assessment can’t extinguish:

This impossible, hap-hazard, horribly thought-out metaphorical bridge my colleagues and I are on right now, it also contains (in my metaphorical pockets, if you will) my students, their parents, our community, and our collective future as a society …and I refuse to stand by and watch while you let us fall into the abyss because you are too busy catering to private industry rather than listening to what your own Equity and Excellence Commission advises you to do.

By next September, many of my fellow American teachers will have thrown in the towel and even more potential teachers, who are graduating at the top of their classes and might have made the finest educators our schools have ever seen, won’t even consider entering the profession because of the debacle that has resulted from the misguided effort to fix our schools.

But I will be in my classroom.

…because the country does need educational activists, like Kris Nielsen and Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody and countless others, who spend their days and nights fighting against the harmful effects of the latest wave of reform measures. But what the country also needs are more Mr./Mrs. ________________ (insert the name of that teacher you had who inspired a passion for learning in you, Mr. Duncan).

This is the end of my resignation; although I will remain in my classroom, I will no longer be a silent, complacent bystander, or worse, participant, while you have your way with the American education system; I have invested too much and there is too much at stake; neither my students nor I are going to end up in that abyss …not while there is still time to turn things around.


Christine McCartney

English Language Arts Teacher

Newburgh , NY

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog. All comments posted will be held in moderation until approved. Thanks, Maureen

68 comments Add your comment

AJC isn't me

April 15th, 2013
12:31 pm

Wonder why these sad-sack “teacher” letters always follow teachers’ union talking points from start to finish?

And I wonder why Maureen doesn’t fear for her credibility in fronting them?

Dr. Proud Black Man

April 15th, 2013
12:32 pm

Excellent article but too little and much too late. Teachers have been ridiculed and beat down so much the past couple of years that I firmly believe the public, by and and large, doesn’t care what we have to say. I know the politicians don’t but they pay us good lip service…

mountain man

April 15th, 2013
12:35 pm

Unfortunately, the only way that change will ever occur is if teachers all leave en masse. As long as teachers stay and put up with the abysmal working conditions, things will never get better.


April 15th, 2013
12:41 pm

I expected her to say something about what she learned in Finland.


April 15th, 2013
12:55 pm

AJCisn’tme: The reason that teachers follow the “union talking points” is because the teachers ARE THE UNIONS. Who do you think funds and supports and runs the unions? THE TEACHERS DO. It is not taxpayer money donated by the government that operates the unions. It is US. And if we did not like what the unions did we would quit the unions and maybe go to some non-union corporatist front group like A+PEL. So when the unions speak, they are speaking the thoughts and priorities of the members. That is why the school destruction teams hate us so much.


April 15th, 2013
1:15 pm

Thank you Maureen for posting it …..Make no mistake the movement against the ’stupidness’ that is is rampant now in the system is GROWING

Mary Elizabeth

April 15th, 2013
1:19 pm

As a retired educator, I am proud of this teacher’s determination and tenacity to stay and improve public education, in part, by publicly stating her thoughts for others to read, including, hopefully, U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to whom her letter is directed.

I am glad that President Obama has placed an emphasis upon improving education as one of his administration’s priorities for our nation. However, this statement from teacher Christine McCartney’s letter to U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, regarding what Secretary Duncan may be fostering in trying to improve education, was especially troubling to me regarding Duncan’s pursuits “. . .and I refuse to stand by and watch while you let us fall into the abyss because you are too busy catering to private industry rather than listening to what your own Equity and Excellence Commission advises you to do.”

bootney farnsworth

April 15th, 2013
1:40 pm

a) good luck. now that you just put a bullseye on yourself.
b) she can make this kind of stand in NY, since she has union protection
c) I don’t give a damn how they do things in Finland


April 15th, 2013
1:45 pm

Oh gag, another union socialist brainwasher thumping her chest over her PHD. If it was worth a darn, why not compete in the private sector instead of the safe choice of teaching?

living in an outdated ed system

April 15th, 2013
1:47 pm

Lets give teachers this post: http://edudemic.com/2013/03/the-10-skills-modern-teachers-must-have/

More of Anthony Cody and Diane Ravitch is NOT the answer. I’m glad this teacher spent time in Finland. It’s great that some teachers are learning best practices and bringing them back to the U.S. We need more such professional development!

Native Atlantan

April 15th, 2013
1:50 pm

Wait…where are the comments from Dr. Trotter and Beverly Fraud? Aren’t they watchdogs over all education? Oh…that’s right….this isn’t about the APS or Dekalb County….whew.


April 15th, 2013
1:56 pm

The more spoiled teachers whine about every little thing they have to do, the less people listen.

And rightly so.

bootney farnsworth

April 15th, 2013
2:01 pm

@ mountain

I’m making almost zero effort to look for work in Georgia, and am working with a firm to re-craft my resume so it makes sense in the corporate world.

I’m tired of it. the morons on the left dictate what we can teach, the morons on the right bitch at us about it, but neither side will talk to us.

I recently was asked by one of my kids friends if I would recommend teaching as a profession. I told them emphatically no. its a dying profession

bootney farnsworth

April 15th, 2013
2:02 pm

@ bgb

would you be willing to back up your comment with specifics?


April 15th, 2013
2:09 pm

Great letter.

By the way teacher exchange programs go way back. If sending teachers to other countries was the way to effect change, it would have been accomplished by now. Apparently teaching approaches are not the problem because teachers aren’t the problem.

I also like the poster’s defense of the union. I only wish we had one here in GA.

It’s very difficult to get teachers to pull together to make changes. Many believe the message that we all have to tighten our belts during these difficult times. This while the GA legislature has so many special interest, tax loop-holes that we can’t adequately fund our schools.

Larken McCord

April 15th, 2013
2:13 pm

I admire and share her sentiments. I would like to know more specifics about what she intends to do to effect change while remaining in her (presumably?) public school classroom.


April 15th, 2013
2:15 pm

I have just about decided to leave this country due to the things I see ripping this place apart. I have contacts in Ghana who are begging me to take a position in a prep school where learning is a valued commodity. Between the bureaucrats/consultants and their hastily contrived educational remedies and the admin selected to implement said plans, I really don’t see the learning aspect of education being valued here. It all seems to boil down to teacher training and teacher scape goating. Gonna get me a yellow fever shot and pocket full of malaria meds and go somewhere that values an education.

Former Teacher

April 15th, 2013
2:25 pm

I notice this teacher participates in the blame game. Always someone else’s fault that things are the way they are. Her letter is self-glorifying and, in the end, means nothing. She paints herself as a savior of all that is wrong in education today, yet seems to spout the union rhetoric against regulations. One thing she does not mention is that the union is first and foremost looking out for the union first and everything else is an afterthought. And I know as I am a recovering union member. (American Federation of Teachers.) She mentions her awards and her master’s degree. Your level of education does not make you a superior teacher and awards are often handed out to those who do not really deserve them.
Let her pat herself on the back and act like a martyr. But she will probably not make a difference, because with her pass the blame attitude, Ms. McCartney is actually part of the problem.


April 15th, 2013
2:39 pm

Let’s see..I went to another country to learn, and I came back and….wrote a letter saying I wouldn’t resign, to folks I don’t work for. Interesting approach. And I’ve read the letter a couple of times, and sadly don’t see a single positive, constructive thing she learned from her time in Finland, that she plans to use to help her students.

But of course not, she already is perfect, so no need to learn from anyone else, or take direction from anyone. Just let the local teacher do what they’ve always done, and use tests to beat up our students about what they didn’t learn, but DON’T turn the tables and use tests to measure how effective I am in teaching.. Just send more money….that will solve everything.

Us parents and taxpayers are anxiously awaiting ideas, that show positive results………..until teachers and educrats deliver these ideas, we’ll listen to others whose ideas sound reasonable.

Burroughston Broch

April 15th, 2013
2:40 pm

“Who (sic – should be whom) do you think funds and supports and runs the unions? THE TEACHERS DO.”

Not correct unless every teacher marches in lock step with the Democratic Party. The teacher’s unions are the Democratic Party’s most obedient foot soldiers.

Simmer Down

April 15th, 2013
2:41 pm

@LM – I would hope she would just go ahead and spend the next year teaching the way she wants to and cover the material that will be on the test in any manner she wishes and see how it goes. I know – all the teachers will say – she will be fired but who gives a flip. She has already resigned herself to leave – it is better to go out knowing you are doing the right thing vs. spend the next 20 years following the rules of the people she so clearly has no respect for. I say – I hope it works for her and the movement spreads. Take back your classrooms or find something more rewarding to do with your time..

Old South

April 15th, 2013
2:49 pm

Duncan will likely never see that letter, and even if he did, there are probably dozens of other letters just like it.

Washington DC, as I see it, can not manage this country anymore. All it really does is control the large machinery such as the war effort and pick economic winners and losers. This teacher is caught in the current of much larger social structures, in which the nature of Education has seen radical change. Duncan and Obama and so forth are also just players in a much larger game, so to expect that they can exert an end-all be-all power of change is wishful thinking.

I am hopeful that this letter would be better served at a local level, perhaps that of Governor. From guns to education to finance the day of federalistic control seems to inch closer to some type of big event in which the people refuse to give DC the power to harm the people it claims to serve.

For the children?

April 15th, 2013
2:51 pm

I think the worst part of being a teacher right now is that there are so many negatives and needed reforms that the world (and apparently those who’ve responded thus far) who’ve chosen to stop listening. They instead call teachers “spoiled” or “whiny” or “union socialists” without actually considering that some of the complaints are valid. Politicizing education is wrong, counterproductive, and just plain ignorant. We’re all parts of the broken system, but McCartney at least recognizes it and is willing to do something about it. Those teachers, politicians, educrats, or anyone else who stands and criticizes from the outside OR actively work within to keep education broken are truly to blame. I don’t care what their political leanings are.

And, call me whatever you want, this teacher is spot-on with what’s wrong with education. Bravo.


April 15th, 2013
2:52 pm

Christine McCartney used the word “metaphorical” twice in the same sentence. Do we have to accept her letter of nonresignation? If we tear that letter up, then does that mean she’s fired? What the zen on this? Somebody get the Dali Lama on the phone.

Inman Parker

April 15th, 2013
3:00 pm

Everyone has an opinion…….


April 15th, 2013
3:09 pm

Excellent letter. And for anyone who has the ability to think independently, what she says is absolutely true.

Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
3:14 pm

“She writes that she is “studying how Finnish teachers utilize ongoing, formative assessments to inform their practice.””

I am at a loss to understnd what “to inform their practice” means. Could someone with a higher IQ please INFORM me. Can you inform a practice? Does the practice understand? Is this a typo? Help me out, cuz I am just dumb. (and what is a “formative assessment”)


April 15th, 2013
3:15 pm

That letter suffers from adjective overload.

Change Agent

April 15th, 2013
3:21 pm

It’s good to read the comments of an articulate, well educated teacher. I wonder if men made up the majority in the field of teaching would there be such force to destroy it? Go Christine. You are a modern day David against Goliath.

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Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
3:25 pm

form·a·tive/ˈfɔrmətɪv/ Show Spelled [fawr-muh-tiv] Show IPA
1. giving form or shape; forming; shaping; fashioning; molding: a formative process in manufacturing.
2. pertaining to formation or development: a child’s most formative years.

Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
3:27 pm

in·form1 /ɪnˈfɔrm/ Show Spelled [in-fawrm] Show IPA
verb (used with object)
1. to give or impart knowledge of a fact or circumstance to: He informed them of his arrival.
2. to supply (oneself) with knowledge of a matter or subject: She informed herself of all the pertinent facts.
3. to give evident substance, character, or distinction to; pervade or permeate with manifest effect: A love of nature informed his writing.

It must be number three.

Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
3:38 pm

As someone pointed out on another blog – teachers have only themselves to blame for the testing craze. If they gave grades that were legitimate and truly reflective of the mastery of the subject, then the constant testing would not be necessary. (If they were forced to give higher grades or their grades were changed, they should be banging the drums and suing their supervisors – they don’t need to take that lying down!) Now we have to have even more testing to correct for the practice of cheating. Can’t use the previous year’s test, because it may have been cheated on, so we have to have a beginning of the year test.

Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
3:45 pm

“And for anyone who has the ability to think independently, what she says is absolutely true.”

What has this teacher said of any substance? That she doesn’t like time taken out for testing? That is her opinion, but see my comment above. That she doesn’t like the new programs? Again, her opinion. If she wants to have more effect, she needs to get specific with the issues of education. Has she suffered becasue she has discipline problems that she gets no help with from central office (and is not allowed to solve by herself)? Has she had attendance issues in her classroom that she has no authority to solve? Has she inherited students that are way behind their grade level, yet have been socially promoted so they cannot begin to understand her lessons to the on-grade students? Has she been burdened with 20 different students with IEPs, so that she practically has to give each individualized attention? Has her class size been increased by 30%? Has her number of teaching days been cut by 10%, but her expected curriculum to be covered remaians the same? Has her books for her students been in short supply, so that they don’t have enough for each student to have one?

Get specific!


April 15th, 2013
3:55 pm

My Mom retired after 29 years of being a Kindergarten Teacher in the Alabama public school system. She encouraged both of my brothers and myself to find careers other than education. She told me she loved teaching when she was “allowed” to actually teach, but the last 10 years of her professional career it became increasingly difficult to be a teacher.

Mountain Man

April 15th, 2013
4:36 pm

“My Mom retired after 29 years of being a Kindergarten Teacher in the Alabama public school system. She encouraged both of my brothers and myself to find careers other than education.”

Good for her. The only way anything will change is if there develops a shortage of good teachers due to these appalling working conditions. Unfortunately, there seems to be an endless supply of teachers.

Ole Guy

April 15th, 2013
4:36 pm

Now that’s what I call piss-on-you-in-your-face professional spheroids. Good for you, Ms McCartney…you have set the example which all teachers must learn and embrace…TAKE COMMAND OF YOUR PROFESSION. Just as the college kids of the day, saddled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, choose to whine, snivel and cry over their collective plight, so to have these teachers who, like scared rabbits, choose to hide from the “big bad wolf”. Rather than assess the obstacles and confront the fears of facing the unknown, teachers, for far far too long, have chosen to “play it safe”; to “not piss the man off”, and to, instead, allow “the man” to piss all over the teachers’ domain.

Perhaps, if not for the teacher corps, but for the generation which WILL have to confront the many obstacles, both on the domestic arena as well as the global stage, teachers will finally take a note from Ms McCartney’s example…we’ll see.


April 15th, 2013
5:06 pm

So, MM, when all us good teachers leave WHO will teach those children? I mean, if there is a shortage?


April 15th, 2013
5:10 pm

Good for her! Sooner or later, all those millionaire “reformers” that want to “save the poor and uneducated” will feel jaded and move on to the next mission that is in vogue. Only the strong good teachers will persevere and teach until the last bell has rung.


April 15th, 2013
5:24 pm

My parents never thought about not sending their family to anything but a public school. We considered private school but sent our kids to our local,public school. It is highly unlikely that any of my grandchildren will atend public school. The change in the public school system is just no longer acceptable educationally.

Parents may reach a tipping point and leave the system en mass.. That seems a far more real danger than all the teachers leaving. Our kids don’t belong to the state. When our kids leave the system our support for taxes that support the schools leaves too.

old teach

April 15th, 2013
5:59 pm

Mountain Man, assessments fall into two main categories: formative and summative. An example of a summative assessment is the unit test, taken after completing–you guessed it–the unit. But it’s critical for the teacher (and the student!) to get feedback on his level of understanding before the unit test is administered. So formative assessments–like graded homework/classwork, quizzes, and even question/answer sessions in class–enable the teacher (and the student!) to gauge his/her understanding at many steps during the unit.


April 15th, 2013
6:09 pm

Here’s a question. I was led to believe that tests measured how much time I as a student put in learning the material. So exactly`how are tests that demonstrate an individual student’s aptitude indicative of a teacher’s aptitude? Maybe the impact a teacher has on a student, but not the student’s proficiency.

Pride and Joy

April 15th, 2013
6:34 pm

Cagtlady asks a good question: “So, MM, when all us good teachers leave WHO will teach those children?”
The answer — better teachers. The kind that don’t whine.


April 15th, 2013
7:34 pm

My resignation (after 16 years of garbage) won’t look anything like this “resolution”. For those people who are under the illusion that there are highly qualified, motivated and exceptional teachers lining up for these great positions…you are in for a big surprise. The secret is out, this career is a dead end. And then you also have the bonus of ignorance like that displayed by pride & joy. If you don’t like the “whining” on this blog as much as we dislike your crap attitude and the disrespect we have been getting; do like me and just walk away.


April 15th, 2013
7:49 pm

We are not intimidated.Teachers are now apologists all the way up to the graduate level. They are the foot soldiers for the fraud that an American education has become.

mountain man

April 15th, 2013
8:04 pm

“So, MM, when all us good teachers leave WHO will teach those children? I mean, if there is a shortage?”

When there is a scarcity of an item it becomes valuable and there is competition to get it. Schools will offer better working conditions and pay and perks. Why do you think stars can ask for (and get) only a certain color M&Ms in their dressing room? But teachers have NO power when there are unlimited replacements for any teacher that leaves.

mountain man

April 15th, 2013
8:06 pm

“So, MM, when all us good teachers leave WHO will teach those children? I mean, if there is a shortage?”

Or, if the traditional public schools won’t change, the teachers at the new charter schools will teach all the children. Perhaps it is the traditional schools which will go extinct. Charters might address attendance, discipline, and social promotion.

mountain man

April 15th, 2013
8:08 pm

“The answer — better teachers. The kind that don’t whine.”

Pride and Joy – it is not the better teachers that don’t whine – it is the weak teachers who are so fearful for their jobs. Better teachers just go to private schools, better school systems, or charter schools (or make the leap to private industry).

Pride and Joy

April 15th, 2013
8:20 pm

Good point, Mountain Man. Better teachers will leave to go to charter and private schools and the public schools will die away or be a very insignificant number.
Good point, indeed!


April 15th, 2013
8:41 pm

“So, MM, when all us good teachers leave WHO will teach those children? I mean, if there is a shortage?”

Excuse me, but is anyone really teaching kids today?

80% of NYC graduates unable to read:

The headline they wont print?
80% of NYC student’s parents could care less if their kids learn to read.

Who cares anyway, soon enough they will be a movie star or a rapper or a football player and all our problems will be solved.