This is Jocelyn Lam. She is a fifth grade student at Camino Grove Elementary school in Arcadia, Ca. Arcadia is about 10-15 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, and one of many communities that is close to where I personally live. Jocelyn is a sweet, caring, generous young woman who should be looked to as an inspiration.
Here’s her story:
As is happening in public schools and districts across the country, influential teachers are “teaching” their students about the current budget issues in the state. Jocelyn’s teacher, Todd Weber, said something that caused Jocelyn to donate her entire life savings of $300.00 dollars. Incidentally, her brother also donated $177.00, and other students are also donating money to the school. Jocelyn included a letter with her donation:
Dear Super Indendant (sic) and Board Members,
Hi. My name is Jocelyn Lam. I’ve heard that 65 positions will be laid off and ten of them are from my school! This really breaks my heart. Those teachers had taught me a lot. They guided me to fifth grade. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now writing this letter. They changed my life.
I save all this money I earned from chores and high grades. Now I want to donate all this money to save the teachers. I really hope this $300 will help save the teachers who are about to be laid off. I also hope that this is enough to save more than one teacher. PLEASE put this money to good use. I beg you! SAVE THE TEACHERS!
As a teacher, this act of kindness and charity from a student is inspirational. To think that this child is willing to give up every bit of money to her name in an effort to save the teachers she so obviously loves and treasures really pulls at the heart-strings. It is a reminder of why we do what we do. Quite honestly, if this doesn’t affect you, you are heartless. On the other hand, the adults involved remind me of why I personally do this blog, and why I personally teach the way I do, and why I stand against the unions that control many of the teachers. I’m left with many questions. Here are just a couple big ones.
Just what did Mr. Weber tell his students that motivated them to donate everything they have? I’m not going to try to put words in Mr. Weber’s mouth here. I will say that I don’t teach the politics of the union, the teachers, or the school district to my kids. I will answer direct questions in an honest manner, making sure that I do not try to convince my students that my opinion is fact. I will give both sides of the argument, explain my position as well as the opposing position, and clearly tell the kids that both sides have merit. For example, if a student asked me about teacher lay-off’s, I would tell the student that the state is constitutionally required to spend certain percentages of revenues (taxes) on schools. Since the recent budgetary crisis, which started really impacting life about five years ago, the actual dollar amount that goes towards public schools has decreased. The districts have to adjust to the lesser income; much like many families have had to do, and make changes to how they spend the money they have, again like many families have done. Some of the possible solutions are unpleasant to certain groups involved in the decision-making process. The unions, the district, and the state government are all debating the best way to proceed. I don’t make a values judgment on either side. I think that any teacher who does otherwise is acting under a conflict of interests. These teachers need to understand that their job is to teach impressionable children first and only. The adult political stuff has no place in the classroom.
Did Mr. Weber use Jocelyn’s misguided generosity as a teachable moment for thrift, savings, and prudent investment? Again, I don’t know what Mr. Weber said or did beyond what is in the news story. I can only say what I would do in his position. I would thank her for her donation, send or take it to the office, and have her money returned to her parents. Then I would talk about the importance of budgeting, living within that budget and establishing an emergency fund. Since Jocelyn provided the catalyst, we could have a great question on these issues that would be tailored to a fifth grade level. It appears that the school accepted the donation which opens up several cans of worms for them if they are perceived to be selling grades, favored status, or anything else of value to Jocelyn, or if they are indeed soliciting money from students by virtue of indoctrination and intimidation, which seems to be the case.
Look, at the end of all of this, Jocelyn’s $300.00 won’t even pay for the large pinky-ring of a union leader. It is a sweet gesture, and Jocelyn should be applauded, but the gesture was misguided. I know that many parents have talked about donating to their school to help protect the teachers’ jobs. I’ve heard parents talk about it. They ask me about it. I don’t think that’s the best way for parents to spend their money. Parents have a lot to spend their money on already, and this is not their responsibility. We all pay for public school already, the stakeholders just need to learn to work within the budget, just like you do, just like I do, and just like little Jocelyn will in a very short time.
And now, a few words on the reality of the situation from union member sean combs.