Freedom to Teach, Freedom to Learn: A Year at Mission Hill

Chapter 4: Love and Limits


Chapter 4 of A Year At Mission Hill gave me anxiety.  As a teacher of ELLs (English-language learners), some of whom have significant special needs, I pictured myself trying to teach NYS and NYC Common Core curricula (test prep) to the group of special needs students profiled in this short chapter.  One of my biggest challenges is trying to keep my cool in this climate of high stakes testing. The pressure to show progress – via test scores – of our SWDs (students with disabilities) and ELLs while simultaneously giving each student what he/she TRULY needs, both emotionally and academically, is very palpable.  I spend most of each school day trying to loosen the knot in my stomach.

Mission Hill is a K-8 public school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA (note: since filming, the school has relocated to Jamaica Plain).  It is a full inclusion school, which means students with special learning and/or emotional needs are integrated into regular classrooms.  As you will see, teachers and staff make it a priority to collaborate in investigating their students’ issues and in customizing action plans for them.

At the end of chapter 4, the narrator states, “Academics don’t exist in a vacuum. Yet a frequently held belief is that schools have to choose between children learning emotional literacy or learning to read a book.  Schools like Mission Hill realize this is a false choice.”

After watching chapter 4 of A Year At Mission Hill, we urge you to write a letter to Bill Gates.  How have corporate education reform policies impacted your ability to sufficiently teach emotional literacy to students with special needs? What toll has this taken on you as a teacher?

We look forward to reading your letters!


Katie Lapham, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates


About Highlighting Members' Needs

We are running for the following Renton Education Association positions because we believe in the following planks: Becca Ritchie, Candidate for REA President, Nelsen Middle School, Computer Tech Susan DuFresne, Candidate for Primary Executive Board, Maplewood Heights Elementary, Integrated Kindergarten ✅  Demanding a healthy work-load/life balance. ✅  Bargaining competitive professional compensation. ✅  Challenging the status quo test culture with: Less is more! ✅  Emphasizing our professional expertise. ✅  Prioritizing equity and access for all. ✅  Utilizing 2-way 21st century communication tools. ✅  Acting in solidarity with all unions. ✅  Supporting ALL members. ✅   Implementing developmentally appropriate K-3 curriculum/assessment.
This entry was posted in Democracy, Freedom to Learn: A Year At Mission Hill, Freedom to Teach, Inclusion, Our Schools Are NOT Broken, Real World Education, Schools are not broken, Social and Emotional Learning, Special needs. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Freedom to Teach, Freedom to Learn: A Year at Mission Hill

  1. Ann Gray says:

    I have mixed feelings about the latest push to send pleading letters to Bill Gates begging him to see the light. Why are we legitimizing him as a leader on education issues? Frankly, I think we need a MASSIVE class action lawsuit against him, or something similar…

  2. Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

    I’ve been hearing that more and more. Thanks for this. Katie

  3. elliew123 says:

    Exactly, who gave Bill Gates the right to destroy public education? Bill Gates gave Bill Gates the authority, oh and also the sycophant politicans who ride the money train that is electoral politics added their stamp of approval. But NO ONE ever asked communities, parents, teachers or students how they wanted to educate THEIR children.
    So why in the name of god do teachers write these pathetic letters to Bill Gates begging for mercy. Its like the victim of crime begging the criminal for mercy they laugh at you. Bill Gates and the politicans are criminals and they have stolen PUBLIC EDUCATION.

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Good morning, Ellie ~

      You are correct. No one gave Bill Gates the right to destroy public education. America used to be a much more democratically run government. The current state is run by corporations and the wealthiest 1%. By American’s sitting back and allowing that to happen, we ALL bear responsibility for that corruption, in my humble opinion.

      You say: “So why in the name of god do teachers write these pathetic letters to Bill Gates begging for mercy. Its like the victim of crime begging the criminal for mercy they laugh at you.” Teachers are not writing pathetic letters to Bill Gates “begging for mercy”. We are victims of a crime and certainly as noted above, teachers bear some responsibility, as does the public in general for allowing these crimes to take place. Much like abused spouses, however, it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to ones’ abusers. These letters are a form of resistance from previously silenced voices. They show courage and strength as they speak truth to power.

      Will Bill and Melinda read any of these letters? Have they? At this point, we have now way of knowing. What we do know, is teachers, parents, and students from around the world are reading them. These letters serve multiple purposes to a much wider audience than merely the two individuals they are addressed to in the greeting. These letters are empowering for other teachers and offer a window into the hearts, minds, and classrooms of American public school teachers which has previously been cut out by the propaganda of mainstream media. The world of bloggers brings the truth into view for all of America to see. We are not begging for mercy. We are standing up and ask more to stand with us.

      Thank you for your comments. We agree – what is happening to public education is in fact, criminal. The children need someone to file a class action lawsuit. They are the ones who will stop this madness for they are the real voiceless victims in this crime. Teachers are standing up for them in these letters, for parents, for public schools, for communities, and for democracy — as well as for themselves.


      Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

      • elliew123 says:

        So yes these letters address issues that people arond the world can read just Do Not write them to Bill and Melinda Gates. It gives them legtimacy they do not deserve nor do they have without teachers acknowledging their right to to do what they are doing. The only thing they should say to Bill & Melinda is go to hell and take your money with you.

      • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

        Good afternoon, Ellie ~

        Respectfully, we reserve the right to speak truth to power, especially when that power was stolen from us. There is little legitimacy involved in cowering and not confronting those influencing policy with money around the globe. I suggest you read “Get Up, Stand Up – Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite” by Bruce Levine.

        Thank you again for sharing your comments with us. We agree on much.

        Kind regards,

        Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

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