We Love You, Ms. Ferris

The EduMom is not anti-teacher. Nor are we anti-union. What we are is anti-stupid. 
Unfortunately from a parent perspective, in our education system, a lot of stupid is happening.
Our situation with Ms. Ferris is a perfect example.
Miles Head Start/Pre-K teacher is a wonderful young lady named Jessica Ferris. Throughout the year Ms. Ferris has gone above and beyond in the classroom for all of her students — engaging us in educational and cultural activities, opening up new avenues of communication and building strong relationships with families.  
And personally as a parent, it’s warmed my heart to see the genuine love and care she displays for my Miles. During good times and bad, tricky situations and challenges, Ms. Ferris has always been patient and kind and unequivocally #TeamMiles — literally everything I could have possibly asked for in a teacher.
About six weeks ago, our family received some terrible news. My ex-husband was very suddenly diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of inoperable stomach cancer at the age of 39. While the news would be devastating for all three of my boys, I knew it would be especially difficult for Miles. I know I’m biased, but I think Miles is a pretty special kid in a couple of different ways. In addition to being a very sensitive, sweet and empathetic kid … 

(Here he is at the Women’s March on Boston Common.)
… Miles is absolutely fascinated by the human body, and …

… is literally an expert on the digestive system.

That’s right. Your kid is bringing you home a picture of a house he made or a nice picture of the beach. My kid? The digestive system. Which is amazing, but further complicated our situation with Daddy because I knew there would be a million questions.
My first move was to reach out to Ms. Ferris. I emailed her at about 6:30pm and had an email back just after 7 expressing her good thoughts and prayers, but also pledging to reach out to others for help.
The next morning I met with Ms. Ferris and was trying to be strong, but I was drowning. Our families definitely didn’t see this coming, and honestly, the only way I can describe it is like being forced to watch your kids stand in the middle of the highway with on-coming traffic barreling toward them. In slow motion. And there is nothing you can do to protect them or make it any better.
I was at a loss. I literally had no idea how to even start this conversation with them, but given the diagnosis, it was going to have to happen quickly. By the time we had arrived at 8:30am, Ms. Ferris had already compiled a packet for me, giving me details about books that might be helpful, effective ways to start the conversation, and even some resources for me to cope.
I sat down in the lobby of the school and sobbed my eyes out sitting next to her. She asked me if she could give me a hug which I gratefully accepted while wiping my nose on my sleeve, much like the 5-year-olds that fill her classroom every day.
Ms. Ferris was literally a beacon of light in what has been one of our darkest hours as a family.
Later that night, looking for something — anything — positive to channel my energy into, I fired off a Facebook message to my school committee member. Ms. Ferris was someone who I had mentioned to several other members of the Somerville school committee in the past, but this time I wanted to see if they would recognize her formally for being so amazing for our family.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Let’s give an amazing teacher who goes above and beyond, some recognition for her extraordinary work with a family that really needed it.
Uh, nope. 
My ward 4 school committee member, Andre Green, was on board. He was totally up for the idea. Went to the Superintendent. Other colleagues. 
"We don’t have a mechanism to do that."
A mechanism? To do what? Recognize excellent teachers? Have parents express their gratitude for an educator? There’s got to be a citation, right? Some kind of certificate we can give her? Mention her at the meeting? Give her an "attaboy" and a high five? Something?
"Nope. Someone suggested you could write and email and send it to the Superintendent and just cc her on it."
What? Can’t you just stand up at the meeting and say something? I’ll make the damn certificate. Can we just ask her to come down? Anything? The woman deserves a shout out. 
"Well, the Superintendent said maybe we can do something in October."

The Superintendent gets to tell the school committee when they are allowed to speak and about which topics?
Who works for who here?
"Well, the Powder House Innovation Schoolis taking up all the time until October."
Yes. Discussion of the Powder House Innovation School — an in-district almost charter school — means we have no time to recognize a great teacher. 

(For fun, here’s a picture of our Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone acting as a lead anti-charter surrogate during the No-on-2 campaign last year. I’m rolling my eyes behind him. Right after this picture was taken Joe called me a "disgrace" for being a charter school supporter. He loves the Powder House Innovation School.)

I seriously don’t get it. Maybe I’m just an idiot, but I really don’t understand what is so hard about a parent asking the school system to recognize a teacher and why "the system" prevents it from happening. STUPID.
So, Ms. Ferris — here it is. Sorry it "couldn’t be done" in a more formal way — and it will only reach our thousands of EduMom readers, but anyway — thank you. For everything.
Dear Andre,
I am writing this afternoon to ask the Somerville School Committee to recognize Mrs. Jessica Ferris of the Healey School Pre-K/HeadStart class for her extraordinary work as a teacher in the Somerville Public Schools.
Jessica has consistently done an amazing job with my son this year and I have been consistently impressed with her efforts in the classroom. She has an incredible rapport with the entire class and we have enjoyed her thoughtful approach to learning, her dedication to developing a culturally inclusionary classroom and her commitment to individualized learning that has helped my child and many others blossom under her guidance.
While all of that has been wonderful, her effort this week with our family has been especially incredible. This week our family was faced with the news that my ex-husband is facing a diagnosis of stomach cancer and difficult days and tough conversations lay ahead. I immediately felt comfortable reaching out to Ms. Ferris because of her close relationship with Miles.
I emailed her on Monday night to give her a heads up that the conversation was coming so she would have some context in terms of changes in Miles’ behavior and asked for any advice. She immediately sprung into action, contacting colleagues to provide us with a guide around the conversation and compiled an entire packet of resources and information for me that she was able to hand us the next morning. Knowing my child and his fascination and the human body, she is working with us to provide him support, information and comfort during this difficult time. I cannot tell you what this has meant to our family and what an incredible gift this has been to me personally. Above and beyond does not begin to cover it.
I would encourage you and your colleagues to recognize this amazing teacher who is truly a gift to my child, her classroom and our community. We are incredibly grateful for her.
Best,
Keri Rodrigues Lorenzo
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