« Growing Our Own | Main

Being A Brighton Teacher


It is the last week of school and as I put on my bright yellow-gold Brigthon t-shirt with burgundy lettering, I thought about how many months I had this shirt before I wore it to school. I really can not explain why I did not wear the shirt since purchasing it last fall because on Fridays most of the teachers wear a Brighton t-shirt. I remember the many Thursday nights I looked at this shirt hanging in my closet and thought I just can not wear it yet. It was not that I was not proud of my school, but I thought the teachers would resent my wearing “their” shirt. I felt so out of place and considered that by wearing the shirt I was somehow forcing myself on the faculty; a faculty I had brought more attention to than I ever intended. I finally got up the courage to wear my Brighton shirt. I was so relieved when several of my colleagues commented that the shirt was a good color for me. I know they meant this comment literally, but I hope it also meant I was finally becoming a Brighton teacher.

I have learned much about what it means to be a Brighton teacher this year. I have learned you have to be realistic about having a failing label and accept accountability for the academic needs. Brighton teachers are asked to work long hours and adapt to new programs and schedules with little input. Brighton teachers have to be extremely flexible as our school is in a state of constant change to find the best practices that work. Brighton teachers are often called on to defend our school and the longtime unjust reputation. Brighton teachers have to strive to maintain high expectations and not yield to the negative culture of poverty and failure. Brighton teachers have the awesome responsibility of being a stable force in the lives of Brighton children.

Two weeks ago, our school had our Southern Accreditation Five-Year Review. In the final conference with the visiting team of evaluators, the chair of the team shared with the teachers a very positive report and concluded with what the students had said in their interviews. The chair looked at the teachers and said “Your students love you.” She went on to say quite passionately that each child’s response about what they liked best about the school was -their teachers. As I looked through my own tears at my colleagues, I saw the same reaction to her statement. One teacher had tears streaming down her face, others had tear filled eyes and a few had shaky smiles. It was one of the most emotional moments of my teaching career because this is why we do what we do, it is for the children and the hope that we can bring. At Brighton, like in other high-need populations, school is so often the very best place for our students. At school our children are safe, warm, fed, and nurtured as well as taught. This is truly the calling of a Brighton teacher to make a difference in the life of a child that maybe no one else will or can make such efforts. It takes a special person to become and remain a Brighton teacher. I am so proud to be Brighton teacher and to wear my yellow-gold Brighton shirt with the burgundy letters.

This year has been the hardest year of my professional career. I do not think I have ever been on so many emotional roller coasters. I have learned so much and I know I am a better teacher today than I was last August on the opening day of school. Our school is ending with a positive note due to several events. Our young children have shown significant gains on the state mandated reading test. One of our kindergarten classes benchmarked at 100%! This has been so exciting to see the rewards of hard work. In our Five-Year Review, the committee stated that our school should be a model demonstration site for school improvement. This has been my vision from the first day I walked inside Brighton School and I now see this becoming a reality. I look forward to continuing this upward journey next year. I have high expectations for what will be accomplished at Brighton. I plan to remain at Brighton for the last four years of this part of my teaching career. I will continue to use my teacher voice for the inequities in education. I have adopted a new quote for my philosophy that all children deserve an equal chance. The quote comes from the book,Whatever It Takes, the authors quote Rick Stiggins who states as educators, our motto should be “Do not deprive of hope.” I am going to take this on for all the “Brightons” as simply, “ Do not deny hope.”

Last year, I had the most incredible year in my travels as National Teacher of the Year. One day last May, I was sitting in a beautiful, corner room at the Ritz Carlton in New York City, eating my room service lunch, and enjoying the view. I thought next year when I am back in a school, I will remember this day. Well, I am back in the lunchroom eating grilled cheese, watching the antics of young children, and it feels so good to be home because Brighton is where I belong.

This is my last post and I want to thank you so much for your comments. So many of you have spent your careers in high need schools and I felt very driven to represent your years of work in a deserving manner. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be a voice for teachers. I wish you continued success in your work and thank you for the difference your making in the lives of children all across our country and in other parts of the world.


Betsy, your diary of your first year at Brighton has been a no-holds-barred look into your own teaching soul. Thanks for having the courage to say what needs to be said about conditions in our highest needs schools -- schools that many would prefer to ignore. Thanks for respecting the Brighton faculty and the challenges they face. I hope you'll chronicle your second year on the Teacher Leaders Network website!


Did another school year just pass us by? Are Shakema and Roger and Rita etc. moving on to another teacher in another grade? Wasn't it yesterday that we were watching you roll up your sleeves, as we were all doing the same?
You know, I can remember as far back as third grade, when September rolled around and I made my school resolutions that began with "This year is going to be different..." As both student and teacher, I've never stopped saying that as I began another year. For you this certainly HAS been a very different year. What a privilege it has been for this stranger to share in it. Thanks for being such a clear and thoughtful voice for those of us who struggle to bring education to life for the neediest students.

PS I like your motto
PPS I don't have a motto but one thing I try to say at least once a week, to keep my attitude straight as I enter my classroom, is, "So... what can I learn from you today?

Betsy, you might consider starting your own personal blog like so many other reflective, achievement-oriented teachers. I hate to think this is the last I will read of you.
Thank you for sharing your story.

Dear Betsy,
I agree with the others that you should start your own personal blog. I look forward to reading your blogs every week and had wondered whether you would stay at Brighton after this year's experience.

In your earlier blogs I had my doubts that you could handle the battle in the trenches for more than a year. I thought you believed you were the annointed knight in shining armor coming to show those mediocre teachers how things were supposed to be done. I thought you would be so discouraged that you would only stay for the year. As your blogs progressed, I could see the gradual change in your reflections. I am so happy that you have decided to stay, because our schools need people like you who are dedicated to the poorest and neediest students.

I had to laugh about the statement that this year was your hardest year in your professional career. Welcome to the club!!!

p.s. I will post your blog in our staff lounge, and highlight your motto.

Way to go Betsy

Brighton needs you and we so very much appreciate you. I know that in August when AYP results are released, we will see what will eventually turn from an slight trend upwards in student achievement into a total eruption of good news stories coming from Brighton. The predominant colors of the Brighton shirt must be the colors of "caring" and "devotion". Joe Morton

“Your students love you.” Thank you for sharing your hope.

Betsy, you the epitome of a hero. I have so enjoyed reading your entries over the past year. I look forward to hearing from these children in the future about the many ways you have touched them. Congratulations to you and all the wonderful teachers at Brighton for your many successes and challenges. Best of Luck next year.

While doing some research yesterday, I came across information that led me to these postings.
I am currently teaching in a school (K-6) that seems to be much like Brighton. Where can I learn
about some of the instructional methodologies and
curricula that you are using? Where are you in the development of a writing framework? What staff
development opportunities do you provide?

I look forward to hearing from you.

I've really enjoyed your posts, and also the comments urging more people to keep online journals of their teaching efforts and thoughts. I have two kids in public schools right now, and some days it is hard to get a sense of what is going on in their classrooms...so it would be wonderful if I, and other parents, could refer to their teachers' blogs for stories and such.

I'm thankful that you shared your experiences, ups and downs. Isn't it strange that teachers with years of classroom experience have no leadership roles in our national education policy? I mean no disrespect when I name our Education Secretary, whose qualifications for leadership appear to be effective political choices in Texas instead of effective educational choices for students in all our communities. Why is it that classroom teachers don't have leadership roles in education policy--are we disqualified by lack of knowledge or skills--or could it be that we have the wrong kind of skills to become successful politicians?

I enjoyed a chance to see the rare combination of teacher leadership at work. The results speak for themselves.

Regards, Mike Benefiel, Maryland


I have followed your trials and tribulations throughout the year with great interest. It is refreshing to know that the hard work of both you and the Brighton staff is starting to reap rewards. I hope you continue this blog as it was refreshing to hear similar tales of woe from the trenches and encouraging to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Best wishes!

Lisa, New York

Great job Betsy and all the Brighton teachers! The poor children of Birmingham, AL deserve ALL we have to give them.

Your motto reminded me of the adage, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." However, upon hearing that many years ago, my true Southern white-glove wearing, steel magnolia grandmother (who is now 89-she was probably in her late 70's at this time) replied that this was the stupiest saying ever. She said she always felt that which does not kill us simply makes us wish we were dead. What we did after we realized we were still alive was what is important!

Betsy, you being alive in the trenches DAILY is what matters and your inspiration at Brighton is what matters.

You probably need to buy another tshirt because I bet you'll wear your old one everyday next year. Go Brighton! Go Betsy! Go Bo!

(Oops, sorry. I got a little carried away with the Alabama thing at the end. Teehee.)

Like others, I feel in a small way that I traveled with you this year to Brighton. Please don't let the journey end now. Consider blogging, or consider an even higher calling--writing a book on your experiences, and especially, sharing with us all what works. You write with a passionate voice. That voice needs to be shared to a wider audience. Thank you for giving to us the gift of your time through this web log. Best wishes to you and the fortunate Brighton students during your next four years.

Betsy, I have not read all of your entries, perhaps four of them. What an adventure you have had. I admire, and am envious of your fortitude in putting yourself in the trenches, so to speak. I retired this last summer, but I find that what has been a part of me for the past 20 years is just not ready to be laid to rest. Especially after reading your journal. My last four years was spent teaching computer skills and research, as well as providing professional development to teachers who were in awe of what curriculum/technology integration could do in the classroom. In the entries I read I did not get any notion of what technology is available to you and your school. I was wondering if there was any attempt, or any funds available, to include technology as a part of the curriculum. If so, do you think this makes any difference in an overall outcome? Like the previous comment, I also would like to keep reading about your journey at Brighton and your success among some of the neediest of our children. What an inspiration, and how brave, you are. Thank you for sharing.

Betsy - I too choose to work at a school similar to Brighton. Your blog has helped me through a very challenging year. This year in our "corrective action" year, we have instituted an entirely new reading curriculum, found out our prinicpal of 15 years is leaving and recently learned we have missed this year's reading AYP by 1.1 points. Please continue this blog - your words have inspired me and I look forward to each post. Thank you for allowing me to share your journey.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Christine Reed: Betsy - I too choose to work at a school read more
  • Martha Foster: Betsy, I have not read all of your entries, perhaps read more
  • Rhonda Phillips: Betsy, Like others, I feel in a small way that read more
  • Kim Hendon: Great job Betsy and all the Brighton teachers! The poor read more
  • Lisa: Betsy, I have followed your trials and tribulations throughout the read more



Technorati search

» Blogs that link here