About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a seven-year-old son and a wife living in Los Angeles. I was a public school teacher for twelve years until a chronic medical condition made it necessary to leave my teaching career.

I've always been described as "quiet" - really, I'm just biting my tongue. I've got lots to say, and lots of thoughts to share, I just prefer to write them. That's the purpose of this blog. Each Wednesday, I post a personal essay offering my observations and thoughts.

A few fun facts about me: I've wanted to be a writer since second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me a "book" with a yellow construction paper cover. I have never learned to whistle, have always preferred sunflowers to roses, and have spent my life living within the same zip code.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, DivineCaroline.com, RoleReboot.org, XOJane, and Brain, Child Magazine. Additionally, my personal essays have been included in several anthologies, including: The Barefoot Review, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World, Ka-Pow!, How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times, Breath and Shadow, The Grey Wolfe Storybook, and Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
I am a regular contributor at MomsLA.com, and you can also find me at Goodreads.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Feel free to comment and share my blog with others!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Do Your Best

“Do your best.”  That’s what the sign says that hangs above my classroom door.  
I am a teacher who hugs, plays multiplication volleyball, uses tortillas to teach fractions, and reads aloud to my students each day after lunch.
I am a Los Angeles Unified school teacher with ten years experience.  I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career at one school.  I’ve made close relationships with students and their families.  And I go home each day knowing I gave my kids my all.  I admit that I’m a better teacher now than when I started.  I admit I still have plenty to learn (why is it so hard to have children walk in two straight, quiet lines up and down the stairs?).
Teaching has never been just a job for me.  It’s been a passion.  Now, though, I’m tempted to call it quits. It’s not the money; it’s the blatant disrespect.  
The Los Angeles Times decided that the fault of public schools rests on the teachers.  We are the reasons our test scores don’t go up.  I’m here to tell you, no we’re not.  As I tell my students, those state tests are important, but they are not the most important thing.  When all is said and done, those tests measure a student’s performance during one week in May.  
This year, I have a class of inquisitive, spunky children.  Two speak very little English.  One has a terminal illness.  One has autism.  One lives with a parent who has a second grade education.  Many do not live with their fathers.  Five of them are pulled out for resource.  Five more are pulled out for reading intervention.  Ask me if they’re smart.  And I’ll say, “Hell yes.”  These children have challenging lives.  And yet, every night, they go home and complete their homework.  It’s not always right, but the effort is made each night, by each child.
I don’t post grades where my students can see them.  Work hung on bulletin boards is representative of each child’s best work.  They are competing with themselves, not each other.
They are trying to do better than they did before.  They are doing their best.
So am I.
The Los Angeles Times disagrees.  The Times decided to publish an online database listing teachers and their perceived effectiveness.  And The Times said I was a “least effective teacher.”  I read those words and the computer screen blurred and my stomach hurt.
How could anyone say that about me?  When my grade level’s test scores have been going up.  When my kids are making progress in all areas of their school life - grades, effort, attitude, and work habits. 
I firmly believe you cannot measure a teacher’s effectiveness based on students’ test scores.  There are too many variables over which I have no control.  I’m with my children from 8:11-2:35.  What is happening to them when I’m not around? 
Not every student is going to score “Advanced” on a multiple-choice language arts and math test.  It’s not how we’re designed.  
My job is to help each child succeed.  My job is to help each child believe in themselves.  


  1. You are an EXCELLENT teacher, and any child that gets you for their teacher is a very lucky child. You go above and beyond with each and every child you come in contact with. How anyone can rate a teacher by the test scores the class receives is way out of line. Some children hear the word test and they know the work but just freeze up. I wish you had teachers when you were going to school like the teacher you are. I know reading what was said about you was very hurtful but don't ever believe it. Just look at your children from when they first start the school year with you and when they finish and see how much they have improved and that is all because of YOU.

  2. A REMINDER--Just remember that you have parents that request you as a teacher, and you have children that come to visit you that have never even had you for their teacher.
    I love you and am very proud of you.

  3. As a parent, person, & teacher, I am very proud of you. How you shape your students, teaching them, to do the "Best You Can", is a tribute to the effort you put in. You are given difficult students because you will work with them. You always go above and beyond.

    Love Dad

  4. I have seen you in action. I have seen you work with the toughest kids and transform their behaviors and attitudes. They love you and look up to you. It does not matter what the LA times, administration or outside world says about you. You work miracles with those children and I am honored to have seen it first hand. Remember who you are working so hard for, the children who do not eat a good breakfast, who don't have parental support and who the whole world has turned their back on. I love you.. GOOD JOB.. thank you for keeping the love alive!!

  5. I have seen you in action as well-- four years, pretty darn close up. I won't forget. You taught kindness and understanding along with math, language arts, science, and social studies. You're an amazing teacher and the kids will remember the life lessons you've taught them, even once they forget how to find the common denominator or the rules for commas in a series. The LA Times is a biased rag, unfortunately. They should validate their silly claims by having someone sit in your class for a month and see what it's like. We aren't robots, and you interact with each student in accordance with that idea.

  6. Honey,

    You are an incredible teacher!

    You also teach these kids the important lessons in life that can't be graded with a multiple choice test.

    I Love You!