Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 / 2 comments
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Hi Betsy,

I know that this really hasn't been your week...weeks...year??? 

Anyway, I know that you've been struggling to convince educators that you are truly invested in education for every child, that you trust the skilled and experienced teachers working in our nation's public schools, and (let's not pull punches here) that you actually understand pretty much anything that happens during an average day in a public school classroom in the United States of America. 

It must be rough to tweet something or say something in an interview that you think makes perfect sense and conveys all those ideas only to be pilloried by people on social media who "simply misunderstood" what you were trying to say. 

With this in mind, I thought I would write you this quick note. In it, I want to discuss your most recent Twitter tempest:
Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweets: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos
Yes, all teachers today stand in the front of classrooms full of just white children who all desperately want to politely participate in whatever that teacher is talking about...

You have actually been IN a public school since you accepted this position, right Betsy?
I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt (a big challenge, because the tweet is really, really bad, Betsy) and assuming that you were attempting to convey that schools today need to be continually striving for innovation. We must do this to meet the needs of our changing student population and the changing world they will be entering after they leave our schools.

Did it surprise you that teachers were upset by this tweet? 

I'm asking honestly because I am struggling here. Your job is to advise the President of the United States about the programs and activities related to education in the United States. How can you meet those responsibilities but still think that this stock photo is an accurate depiction of what teachers and students experience each day? How is that possible, Betsy? 

I mean, I'm sure some intern in your office picked it out for you...but surely you have some oversight on what goes out with your name on it. So you must have looked at that tweet and thought..."Yup, looks good. Send."

This tweet even had its own counter hashtag movement: #myrealclassroom

Just a quick tip, if they create an entire hashtag to debunk/disagree with your're doing it wrong.

Here are just a few photos from #myrealclassroom, Betsy. I teach 9th grade and 12th grade English in an actual classroom in this country. 

This is what was happening in my English classes the day you tweeted about what you believe most of our classes look like in 2018.

Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVosBetsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

Let me begin by apologizing for the low lighting. Many of my students dislike the harsh fluorescent lights and find lamps more inviting. Some are students with disabilities that find the sound the regular lights make distracting or even painful. Mostly, it's because it makes my classroom feel more like a home. And that's what it becomes for many of my students...a second home. A safe space. A place they want to spend time in. 

Did the teacher in your stock photo spend hundreds of dollars to make that classroom feel like a home for her students? Because most of the teachers in this country do, Betsy.

I won't lie, though, the ugly "old school" desks are still there. The intern in your office got that part right. They aren't in rows, however, because that isn't the way we teach anymore and...most of us hate rows. They aren't conducive to the kind of collaborative, integrated teaching we're doing. (And if we have rows, its often because we have so many students in our classrooms, Betsy, there's just no other way to arrange them...but we'll save class sizes for another day)

But, you know...things like buying more modern, innovative classroom furniture cost money, don't they Betsy? 

And the students? Like the students in the stock photo, my students are also engaged and participating. But again, my classroom (and the classrooms of so, SO many other teachers) diverges from the ones in your tweet because my students aren't engaged in answering MY question, Betsy. They're engaged in the discussion they're having with each other. They've taken the instruction I've given them and are putting it to use in a collaborative discussion.

I wish you could have heard their conversations. I wish you could have seen the looks of frustration, determination, humor, and interest in their faces. They don't always have the right answer. But in our classrooms, Betsy, they work together with their teacher and with each other to find it.

That is what your tweet ignored. That is what your tweet belittled. That is what made your tweet a lie.

Your teachers, Betsy (and we are yours whether we like it or not because you are our Secretary of Education), are struggling to believe you care about our students, our schools, and us because you put out messages like this one. And it isn't ok. And you can't make it right by following tweets like this with a bunch of corny, little inspirational ones about "being bold," or "rethinking education."

Come into our classrooms, Betsy (even if we grumble and protest about you being there). Come see what we're doing, how hard we work every day to meet the needs of our students in this ever-changing world. See how much our country's educators do with so very little and while facing so very many challenges, roadblocks, and obstacles.

You are welcome in my classroom at any time, Secretary DeVos.

But if you can't or won't truly educate yourself on what is going on in the public schools in this country...please do just one thing:


Most Sincerely,

Meghan Mathis

Betsy, We Need to Talk About the Tweet: An Open Letter to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos


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