To Whom It May Concern (Unfiltered version)

Letter of Recommendations: I’ve written a lot of these lately and usually choose my words and descriptions carefully. But if you want to know the real story, here’s how I see it!

For the brave teachers and administrators @ Paradise Intermediate School

To Whom It May Concern,

It is an honor to recommend my colleagues for any position that they may seek or covet. I have worked closely with this group of fine people and can assure you that they are excellent teachers who give their hearts and souls to their profession. As you can see from their recent experiences, their qualifications are exemplary as both educators and as human beings.

Our team has participated in extensive professional development together and have developed skills that look amazing on paper. These trainings include PBL 1 and  PBL 2 advanced training (where we spent hours planning exciting projects that may or may not actually work), GAFE now known as G-Suite (to those that accept that hip hop/tech term for Google Apps), CUE (where we get to be tech geeks and occasionally presenters too), PBIS (which is like the phoenix-  it keeps getting resurrected and rises again), CAASPP (it’s bookmarked on our district computers and keeps coming back during testing season so it must be important), and ATE which was formerly known as BTSA and is now known as something entirely different because new teacher mentoring is now contracted with another county. If you put all of this training together, these acronyms add up to many letters, so it must sound impressive to anyone in educational administration.

These teachers also have some amazing virtues. They are creative and can build learning spaces out of aisles on a hardware store, essentially creating forts and using metal shelving like a life-sized box of Legos. When faced with physical mishaps from these metal bits, they are resourceful and quick to offer looks of sympathy, chocolate and band-aids to whomever is in need. They are problem solvers who have figured out how to get electrical power to their spaces when the only plug is 50 feet away through a series of daisy-chained extension cords. Flexibility is key- when someone takes their shopping cart full of supplies without asking, one may search for it through the maze of aisles and only utters inappropriate language softly under his or her breath. Finally, cooperation is displayed on a daily basis. They take turns demonstrating stress or expressing melt-downs so the team can stay in balance. When one cries, another offers a shoulder to lean on or a sarcastic comment to bring a smile. Weekly work meetings are held at Raley’s next door and eating cinnamon rolls is encouraged (although some may say “pushed”) so sugar is shared by all. They sub each other’s classes with little griping and always share snacks, as well as essential oils to keep our immune systems intact when faced with germs or the smell of teen spirit in our middle school environment.

Many districts and employers look for emotional strength in candidates, and my colleagues are highly qualified. They feel deeply and affect change with their students and their colleagues as well. Dare I say, they would walk on water or carry their students through a fire if needed? In fact, many did, driving through black smoke and on roads close to flames while transporting kids to safety during the recent Paradise wildfire. When faced with injustice or new directives by district lawyers, they speak out to others who need to hear their concerns, whether at a union gathering or a school board meeting, even if no one asked for their opinions. This group of people stress-eat together, support the local community by drinking Sierra Nevada ales at gatherings (after work hours of course), and send supportive comments and inappropriate memes or gifs through group texts as a means of lifting group morale.

Finally, my highest praise for these teachers is their ability to laugh, and to incite laughter in others. When work conditions appear ridiculous, they offer cheeseballs or pork rinds. They have an extensive vocabulary and use terms such as “whackadoodle” to describe both changes in class schedules as well as student behaviors. They coin terms such as “alpha jerk” when describing middle school evolution, and “funkified” to describe, well, I’m still not sure.  They strive to be exceptional listeners and yell or mouth “What?” numerous times and ask you to repeat things repeatedly due to the echo in the hardware store. When you work at a school such as our OSH store, you may feel “OSHausted” or “OSHwhelmed” by “B’gOSH,” you never feel alone.

Teaching is a profession where some quit within a few years or get burned out with large class loads, excessive work hours and piles of papers to grade on weekends. Job duties are vast, and the emotional toil can be taxing. But these teachers should be appreciated, not pitied. Over the past year, it’s been my privilege to work with these amazing people, in a traditional school, in a one room school house at the mall, and on aisles at an abandoned hardware store.  Through good times and through bad, they keep education alive with creativity, caring, and experience to help students make it not just through school, but through life. They have earned not only my highest recommendation, but my utmost respect and deepest gratitude. If artifacts are needed, I have YouTube documentaries, empty Cheeseball containers, and late night email chains available to support my assertions.

Sincerely,

One member of Team Awesome

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Author: Erica Blaschke

I am a middle school English and technology teacher from Chico, CA and have traveled the Skyway to teach in Paradise for the past 16 years. A fast moving wildfire changed the lives of our entire community on November 8th when the #campfire destroyed the town. We are now redefining what school and learning can be as we start over, unable to return.

4 thoughts

  1. This is so true and from the start I have watched, wondered, admired all that has been accomplished. When you were in the mall I popped in a time or two just to say how awesome you all are and that still stands true as this school year comes to an end. I look forward to seeing how your next chapter plays out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The absolute best article I have read in a very long time! Thank you Erica Blashke
    💚💛💚💛💚💛💚💛💚💛💚💛💚💛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 100% fantastic article/post/letter. You are all teaching FREAKS and I admire and love so much what you have shown the world about how it is done. Congratulations to you and all of your colleagues at PINT — hello, ALL of the educators and staff at PUSD. You have weathered the most bizarre circumstances and are coming to the end of this school year intact (well… mostly, right?!). Marvel’s got nothing on you.. you are SUPERHEROES.

    Liked by 1 person

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