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An Open Letter to the Woodbridge BOE

A little bit of background for all of you that have no clue what’s going on:

The Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education has voted to eliminate ALL school librarians for the 2017/18 school year.

A public hearing has been scheduled by the Woodbridge Township Board of Education to discuss the 2017/18 school year budget on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Avenel Middle School, 85 Woodbine Avenue, Avenel, NJ.

LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!!!!

——

Dear Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education,

My name is Kailynn, and I am a proud resident of Woodbridge township. I am also a high school English teacher in NJ. While I am not yet a parent, I am truly concerned about the state of Woodbridge Township’s public schools, and the impact the Board’s decisions will have on both current and future Woodbridge Township School students.

Through the New Jersey Library Association, I recently learned that Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education has voted to eliminate all school librarians for the upcoming school year. This would be a devastating blow to not only the youth of our town, but to our community as a whole.

Literacy in America has been on a steady decline for the past few years. As a fourth year English teacher, I have seen my students enter the 11th grader with less and less proficiency in their reading and reading comprehension skills. While I may not be a statistician, I am an English teacher. Every day I see how my students have grown through out the school year. I believe I large part of this growth is the fact that I have made it a priority to have my students read independently at least once a week. Without the availability of a library or a friendly librarian to help them find a book that interests them, my students certainly would not be reading on their own. I am horrified to even imagine what their education would be like without the opportunity to develop key literacy skills. The removal of all school librarians would leave an irreparable hole in the education of our township’s youth. It would be simply shameful for the Board to allow this to happen, let alone support such a preposterous idea.

The students of our township deserve the very best. After all, the vision statement of our school district is to “engage the entire community in instructing and inspiring our students to be successful and significant beyond our classrooms.” Without the support of a school librarian, how can we even begin to come close to this vision?

School librarians do more than organize books. They teach our students to be avid learners, to research topics of interest and importance to the world, and to become better citizens of the world. School librarians create strong educational bonds with teachers in order to help students discover digital and print resources, as well as help develop research projects. Curriculum is further enriched by the knowledge and expertise of school librarians.  To destroy these positions would be a tragedy.

Woodbridge Township School District claims that their mission statement “is to develop, through a technology infused curriculum, life-long learners who are responsible citizens prepared to make positive contributions to the global society. We are committed to engaging all members of the community in the process of providing a learning environment that fosters interdependence, embraces change and values diversity. “ If the school district is so determined to develop life-long learners and responsible citizens, the district should undoubtedly keep their school librarians. Getting rid of such vital members of the school community would be a complete travesty, and a disappointment to both the school community and the Woodbridge community as a whole.

Our students deserve better than this. I want them to read. I want them to succeed. I want our students to do well in life. I’m sure you feel the same. After all, any teacher or parent’s goal is to see their student succeed.

Before I end this note, I hope that you will consider the following facts about literacy in America.

  1. 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
  2. 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
  3. Kids who don’t read proficiently by 4th grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
  4. As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less well educated than the previous.
  5. Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
  6. 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day,” while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.
  7. 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  8. Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty level and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than the girls their age who can read proficiently.
  9. Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.

(Facts from “11 Facts about Literacy in America.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.)

I truly hope that you will consider the severity of the Woodbridge Township School District Board of Education’s vote to eliminate the remaining three school librarian positions. Not only do these esteemed educators deserve better, but so do our students. It would be a disgrace to be a part of a township that supports setting up current and future generations for failure with the removal of school librarians.

Thank you for your time, service, and consideration.

Sincerely,

Kailynn

 

 

I did it.

IMG_2323

In a matter of hours, I’ll be done being a student. (Unless I pursue my Ph.D, but that’s not going to happen for at least a few years! I need to recover from the past 17 years of my life.)

 

I graduate from grad school at 4:30 this afternoon. I’m graduating with a 4.0 GPA, and receiving an award at the graduation ceremony. I’ve worked my butt off during grad school, and it’s actually freaking me out to see the results of all of my hard work.  I’ve been nominated for a few awards this year, which I’ve kept to myself because I get embarrassed talking about my accomplishments. I was nominated to represent my grad school as a student teacher of the year, and I was also nominated to be the student speaker at graduation. I didn’t receive either of the honors, but it truly blew my mind that my advisor–and others– would think I was worthy of these moments of recognition for the hard work I’ve put forth in becoming an educator.

 

In the spirit of graduation, as well as the disbelief that I’m actually graduating this afternoon, I’d like to share the speech I wrote for graduation with you. One of my friends was selected to be the student speaker for graduation, which is awesome because she’s an amazing public speaker. Plus… I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop crying if I had to read this out loud.

 

Thank you all for supporting my journey to become the best educator that I can be. I may be unemployed at the time of graduation, but I also know that I will find a job where I can make a difference in the lives of students. It’s what I’m meant to do.

 

Without further ado…my speech:

Thank you so much faculty, staff, distinguished alumni, family, friends, loved ones, and, of course, the Rutgers Graduate School of Education Class of 2013! I’d also like to take a moment to thank the behind-the-scenes people, whether they be the guy who sends us countless emails– I’m looking at you Ken– or the College Ave Gym workers who made sure we had at least three fans in the place today. Everyone in this room has made this day possible, and I want to be sure that everyone knows how grateful we are for each and every one of you.

We’re about to receive a piece of paper– or, at least a temporary piece of paper until our “real diploma” gets mailed to us– that tells the world we are now eligible to be educators. For some of us, this paper is sending us ricocheting into the world outside of the college bubble for the first time. For others, this paper is adding a slew of letters to our last names. No matter what the case, we’re all about to take the education world by storm!

This afternoon, I want to let you all know that I will not use the t-word in my speech, which is a little odd considering this is the Graduate School of Education Convocation. Before I go any further, I need to take a moment to reveal something about myself, something that only a few members of my Cohort know. It’s something I’ve struggled with since I became part of the GSE, and I’m not too sure how many other people in here identify this way. Folks… I don’t identify as a teacher. I identify myself as an educator.

The dictionary defines a teacher as “a person who teaches, especially in school.” It defines an educator as “a person who provides instruction or education.” While the two words may seem like synonyms to most of you, to me they are worlds apart. According to the dictionary, a “teacher” is defined by his or her profession. An “educator” is defined by providing something that has the potential of changing and saving lives. This is what the GSE nurtures us to become.

Now, I know not everyone in the class of 2013 will receive the “teacher title.” Some of us are going into College Student Affairs or becoming Supervisors. Others are going into Counseling. Some of us have earned our Ph.D’s or are becoming Faculty Members somewhere. Others are here because they’ve become certified in something or are becoming Coaches. This gym is filled with graduates going in so many different directions with one thing in common: we are here because we wanted to continue our education. We wanted to dive further into the education field and make a difference some how, some way.

Every single one of you will make a difference in the lives of people, whether you realize it or not. You are the educators of the Rutgers GSE. You are intelligent, willing to be challenged, and undeniably amazing. You have the power to change lives for the better, and the power and knowledge to inspire others to do the same. You will get through the easy days with moments of grace and finesse, and even get through the tougher ones with determination and resilience. That, and a lot of caffeine. You are survivors. If you can make it through hurricanes, life, death, and the RU Screw while at the GSE, you can do anything. You can take on the impossible and put it in its place. You are the best of the best, and nothing is going to be too hard for you to handle as you face “the real world.”

In the last week of my student teaching internship, the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting occurred. In a semester that had already caused my students to lose their sense of security and stability because of Hurricane Sandy, I knew my students would want to discuss what had happened… and I let them. In my Creative Writing elective course, the students discussed the various individuals who had either lived or died in the shooting, and how the media had conveyed them. Victoria Soto, the teacher who hid her students in their cubbies and then took a bullet for them, was brought up. I could feel the inevitable happening, and, sure enough, one of my students said, “You know Miss B, this whole thing has me wondering… would you take a bullet for us? Be honest.”

As educators, especially in today’s world, we’re going to be asked some tough questions, some of which we may not have the answers to. We’re going to have to think on our feet, and we won’t always be right. We may say or do or even be “the wrong thing,” but at the end of the day, as I responded to that student, as educators, it is our priority to create a safe learning environment for all of our students. We need to not only change the lives of our students, but save them as well.

I know that each and every one of us is about to continue on an amazing journey. Each and every one of us has worked extremely hard to get to this moment. Our legacy begins today, and I cannot wait to see what mark the Rutgers GSE Class of 2013 educators will leave on this world.

I am so proud to be one of you.

Thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of this afternoon… We did it!!

Ten Minute Musings #1

I started my summer grad classes the other night, and one of them is a “Teachers as Writers” course. It works under the premise that all English teachers have the ability to be a writer of some sort. We were told we will be given ten minutes to write at the start of every class, and that eventually the time allotted for writing will be upped to half an hour. It’s a pretty fascinating course, and I’m excited to actually be given the opportunity to write. I decided that I’m going to post each of my “ten minute musings” as I’ve dubbed them… why not? Here’s the first one. Enjoy!

Ten Minute Musings #1
5/29/2012

“Write for about ten minutes,” she said. Funny, that’s exactly what Susan tells me. Actually, it’s what her mentor, Marie Ponsot, tells her. “Write for ten minutes every day and you’ll be a writer.” I’ve heard this sentence uttered countless times over the past four years; I took 7 poetry courses with Susan, and each one came with the same advice. I never took it, mainly because I was too wrapped up in my own life to make time for myself. I’d sit down with my moleskin to write, and suddenly the world would need me. Friends would call, residents would come to my door crying and in need of advice, Mom would call to vent about Grandma or my brother or some other meaningless thing… no matter when I sat down with the moleskin, my life was always interrupted by everyone else’s lives.

In March, I caught an acute case of Senioritis. I went to a “Sex, Love, and Dating Conference,” and, due to the fact that I knew nobody else there, I took on a persona. I pretended to be writing about my time at the conference for a website. My imagination turned into reality, and by the next evening, I had bought a domain. “GingerSass.com” was born. (Or, as it was pointed out to me, “GingersAss.com.”) Somehow, writing for my website ignited a fire in me. I strived to make my site presentable, and with a steady stream of writing, plus a few contests, some fun graphic design, and a lot of whoring-my-brand-out on Facebook and Twitter, my site has had over 2,000 views, was featured by some prominent sites in the queer community, and I was well on my way to becoming a Z-list celesbian.

Being a Z-list celesbian has its perks. I can still go out places and not have people be fake to me, unless they want to buy me a drink. Then I’m fake too, smile, bat my eyelashes, and ask for the fruitiest rum filled drink I can think of. I’ve only had one “fan” run up to me at an event, and it was because she recognized my face from a post I wrote about volunteering with the NOH8 campaign. I also think it’s because I flirted with her a bit at the NOH8 event. I’m one of three lesbian-identified writers being honored at a Pride Event. My name–and website– are getting out there. People actually respect my opinion, and I have a drive to write for the first time in awhile. I have a fan base waiting on me. Maybe this whole ten minutes of writing thing actually works for me… it worked just now. I guess listening to Susan after all these years is finally paying off.