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About the Authors

Playing around in my kitchen.

I’m Sabrina. Nice to meet you!

I went into teaching because I (mistakenly) believed the hype about bad teachers in our worst-performing schools, and I wanted to Be the change I wished to see in the world. When I was rushed to the hospital after fainting from exhaustion in my classroom, I started to suspect that the situation might be more complicated than the conventional wisdom on education reform would have us believe.

I started this blog to help shed light on the complex issues that face our most troubled schools. I believe that in order to have real education reform in this country, we need to get beyond the stereotyping (i.e. “Teachers are unqualified”), oversimplification (“All we need to do is…”), and political posturing that dominates so much of the current process. To me, that means we need to listen less to politicians and “the powers that be,” and more to real teachers and communities (also known as… the people who actually know what’s going on in the schools!).

Click here to learn more about my thoughts on certain “school reform” issues.

In my “free” time, I also read, cook, knit, sew, sing, dance, hike, and play the guitar.

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Not my real picture

My name is “Maria” and I am pleased to be here.

I have over 15 years of experience working with children and have spent most them teaching young children in a struggling Colorado urban school district. I share Sabrina’s notion that we should strive to effect change through our daily actions, so I stay in a frustratingly mismanaged system rather than work in a more affluent and higher-achieving district. Advocacy for children and their parents is a part of my role and to that end I have actively participated in school and district reform efforts.  However, my disappointment and frustration with the system’s ongoing failure to achieve meaningful change is developing into a deep sense of remorse, and even disgust, at the waste of talent and resources.  Therefore, maintaining my sense of humor is of high priority.  Click here to read my thoughts on the reform movement.

Books and reading for enjoyment are an essential part of my life, despite the fact that I live in a house filled with children and pets. When I do have free time, I like to travel and explore or work on any number of creative projects.

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Hello all. My name is Mark Friedman. I have taught social studies and worked in Rochester, New York for several years. Before formally entering into teaching I worked in after school programs and created a music program for elementary students. The politics of education surrounding the last decade of reform measures had me constantly reading, writing, and speaking out to whoever would listen. As the terms of the debate for teachers, parents, students and any other genuinely interested stakeholders became increasingly difficult, I became more interested in investigating change. I came to the conclusion that I could no longer flirt with the concept of community organizing based around progressive, anti-racist education. I needed to actively and strategically pursue an activist route in and outside the class room.

As the continual manipulation of public opinion distorts and misleads many on the best directions in education and politics, I’m hoping to educate myself and others on resistance. By empowering teachers and others on the front lines with direct experience to speak truth to power regarding the complex realities in schools, I see us building alternatives to the predominate narrative and prescriptions for “low-performing schools”.

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If you work in, learn in, or are otherwise directly connected to a public school or school district (particularly a low-performing school, one among the Five Percent or the suspected 10,000 that need “vigorous interventions”), we want to hear from you! To send us your story or availability for a video or audio interview, e-mail TeacherSabrinaFSP [at] gmail [dot] com.

26 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck Crowley permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:58 pm

    The email address that you gave me keeps bouncing back. Please email me.

  2. mklonsky permalink
    August 5, 2010 5:03 pm

    This is a great blog. Thanks.

  3. TeacherReality permalink
    August 6, 2010 10:14 am

    Thank you for putting the teacher’s voice in your blog; it is much needed. There are countless untold stories of teachers’ experiences in the classroom and we don’t hear many of these realities as they are drowned out by the current political rhetoric of “blame the teacher”. It is unbelievable the numbers of teachers, who are on the front-lines in high poverty schools, whose voices are silenced. As a Title I teacher, I come home everyday feeling used up and spit out. In addition, my voice has been silenced and I am publicly chastised as “ineffective” because of failing test scores. I appreciate you shedding light on the complex issues surrounding our “failing schools”. Perhaps it will serve to turn on the light for many “ed reformers” and give them a reality check.

    • mariasallee permalink
      August 6, 2010 10:24 am

      Thank you for your input. I know those very feelings you describe and that’s exactly why I got involved with this project….

  4. August 6, 2010 8:41 pm

    What a great blog. Thanks for putting your voice out there! I am a 9 year veteran teacher in Florida, teaching a subject that has rapidly lost standing in this state: social studies. I am also a doc student at UF.
    It is great to see a place like this, with a real voice.

  5. August 9, 2010 5:38 pm

    This is a fantastic blog. A friend of mine at the NYC DOE sent me your link, and I must say I’m quite impressed. Please stop by our blog when you get the chance.

    Keep up the good work!

    Mr. D

  6. Yvonne Siu-Runyan permalink
    August 14, 2010 3:00 pm

    Thank you for this GREAT site. I couldn’t agree with you more. Keep up the GREAT work.

    I would love to chat with you. I live in Boulder, CO. Would love to connect with you.

  7. August 15, 2010 7:50 am

    Dear Sabrina,
    I am delighted to come across this blog. Susan Ohanian wrote to me to tell me about it. (Her website is I am also going to forward the link to my office at the University of Northern Colorado ( Perhaps we can work together. We have a website established ( to alert parents of their exemption rights in the boondoggle of high stakes standardized testing. The past five years we have purchased bill boards to let parents know that they can exempt their children from CSAP testing. Your message is very strong and so important to debunk the stereotyping that goes on regarding teachers – particularly those who work in inner-city schools. I have a number of colleagues who would be enriched by knowing of this blog of yours. So, from my computer at UNC, I’ll work to make some more connections. Poco a poco llegamos lejos. (Little by little we will get far.)

    Thank you,
    Don Perl

  8. August 22, 2010 7:14 am

    Hooray! I read through sister Conny Jensen’s communiqués that you have connected with Jesse Turner on his walk to Washington. By doing so you represent all of us at the Coalition for Better Education, Inc., and we honor your courage and willingness to speak so articulately for our children and public education. ¡Adelante! (Carry on with ever growing strength.)

    In humble appreciation,
    Don Perl
    The Coalition for Better Education, Inc.

  9. September 6, 2010 2:28 pm

    I have bookmarked your site. I have been teaching English at a “Program Improvement” high school in LA Unified for eleven years – OOOOOH, the stories I could tell.
    Our school is currently under review through the district’s “school choice” provision. We are told we must come up with a “reform plan” or we will be overhauled and turned over to charters or “reconstituted.” I feel like a hostage with a gun to his head being told to parrot the ideology of his captors. The whole process is a huge compulsory “mea culpa” – yes, it’s all my fault. Test scores are bad because I’m a bad teacher. I don’t buy into that for a second. As one of our school’s union reps it’s hard to get myself enthused about writing a plan. The school board probably already has its mind made up.

    • September 22, 2010 12:19 am

      Thanks, Phil! We’d love to hear those stories sometime!

  10. September 28, 2010 10:02 am

    Is there any way to contact you via email? One of your blog posts got me thinking about top-down mandates and how teachers experience them in classrooms. I was wondering if you might be interested in writing an article about it for It seems to me that they must really stifle teachers’ motivation and abilities to influence children in a classroom, because they’re often prescribed without much knowledge of pedagogy and without any knowledge of the children in any given classroom.

    Anyway thought you might have some good insights to share. Let me know if you’re up for it!

  11. October 22, 2010 1:11 pm

    I came across your blog a few days ago. I really like the realness expressed in your entries. After 10 years of teaching in the classroom, I had to leave due to unfair practices, corruption at the district level, and complacency among employees, especially teachers, to speak out. “Going alone to get alone” can go one for so long till it take a told on you. Yet, I wasn’t and still am not built for that.

    In light of the economic crisis and the recent attack on our beloved profession, I am not eager to return to the classroom. I missed my “babies”, but I believe I can better serve them by speaking out and fighting for theirs and my colleagues’ behalfs, via blogging, writing letters to government officials, and supporting other pro-public education causes. As I go through my personal journey in determining the next phase of my professional life, I will always remain passionate and supportive of public education, yet remaining critical of the current education reform gimmicks.

    Again, thanks for all you do and continue in the fight, for the sake of the children we serve.

    Lessons Learned
    Atlanta, GA (originally from New Orleans, LA)

  12. November 17, 2010 10:20 am

    Hi Sabrina, Mark, “Maria,” and other “failing Schools” posters,

    I really enjoy this blog and I thank you for sharing your insights and for your activism.

    I recently started my own education blog and would be honored if you would give it a read. I have linked once or twice to posts here:

    I also follow you all on twitter.

    Rachel Levy

  13. papertrail permalink
    November 20, 2010 11:08 pm

    I found you through TeacherReality. Thank you for being here.

  14. mariasallee permalink*
    November 21, 2010 11:33 am

    Thanks to Lessons Learned, Rachel Levy, papertrail and others for your interest and recent statements of support. As Sabrina mentioned in a recent post, Denver ed. politics have made it a bit quiet from the Colorado front. However, we’re still here and have no plans of going away.

    • eiso permalink
      January 26, 2012 10:24 pm

      You can not avoid the radiation towers they will go where you go miriam

  15. May 24, 2011 8:22 pm

    Great site. Sabrina, I can’t find your funny youtube videos. What’s the url? Why not post them here?


  1. An introduction, and invitation « Failing Schools
  2. Introducing Maria! « Failing Schools
  3. Welcome, Mark! « Failing Schools

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