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A real memo from a real school about what it’s like on the ground

December 2, 2017
This great memo went out from the principal at public elementary school Mandarin immersion program just before school began this year Anyone who’s spent time in an MI program as a parent or staff will recognize the issues the school has faced.
It’s hard to keep good teachers, especially highly sought-after Mandarin teachers. That’s even more true in the crucial 4th and 5th grades. That’s because many states mandate smaller class sizes in the early years, which means class sizes suddenly get big in 4th and 5th grade.
In MI programs, which by definition have a constrained group of students, that often means creating either one big class in one of those grades or a 4/5 split grade, both of which are very hard to teach. It’s a structural problem that districts somehow figure each school will work out, but one created by a system the school itself has no control over.
Rather than letting all this make its way through the parent grapevine, leaving old parents fearful and new parents wondering if they should have signed up elsewhere, the principal at this school dealt with the struggles head-on and honestly.
I’m publishing it here with permission (and with names changed) just to remind folks that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It may seem like other districts have all the kinks worked out. But even this established program deals with ups and downs every year.
A note to administrators: Honesty and forthrightness go a long way in making families stick it out.
Hi Everyone.
It’s hard to believe but summer is beginning to wind down for some of us. As I go about preparing for the next school year I am aware that there is some anxiety about the stability of teachers as we move forward so I’d like to let you know what is happening.
To date we’ve lost four teachers from the Mandarin program: Ms. Ai, Ms. Bei, Ms. Cui and Ms. Duo.  While I am not able to comment on teacher personnel issues, some of the teachers have made their own announcements to parents about pursuing other interests or cutting their commute time. We wish all of them well.
Since these announcements Ms. Fei, Mr. Gui, Mr. Carley and I have been regularly interviewing teacher candidates. In addition, we have had extensive discussion about placement of our candidates so that we create the most stable and supportive environment for new teachers. This includes movement of our current teachers so that each grade level has an experienced teacher partner. However, we currently expect that Ms. Murphy, Ms. Hui, Ms. Liu, Ms. Mei and Mr. Ng will all remain in place.
Our recent teacher hires are excitedly preparing for the new year. They have a variety of skills and interests and include a teacher from [a private MI school],  a former biotech scientist, and a writer and science major from Big Name University. Ms. Oh who has worked with the 4th/5th since February is also returning.
We are continuing to interview this week for our last open position and I expect we’ll be finalizing our roster soon. Hold on because there is other great news happening at school including a science room and funding that the district is returning to us. It won’t be long before you’ll have an official letter from me starting the school year and providing all the details.
Thanks for your support. I look forward to seeing you all soon,
Principal X
One Comment leave one →
  1. December 6, 2017 10:52 am

    This is quite reassuring.
    My son’s small, private immersion school is dealing with the same difficulty of retaining Mandarin teachers.
    He’s no longer getting 4 hours/day as school advertises, but more importantly, missing out during precious early childhood.
    I will continue to try to push a new hire, and hold out as long as I can.

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