Open Letter from my son Malcolm to Sen. Berger – Teacher Assistants are vital

This letter was constructed this past November, but I never shared with any blog, news organization, or other media. But I did send it to Sen. Berger on behalf of my red-headed little man. The talk of teacher assistants being slashed from budgets is still being bantered about and with the long session of the NC General Assembly approaching, I thought I would allow Malcolm to talk about his amazing teacher assistant.

For those who know Malcolm, you can attest for his infectious personality, unfiltered passion for sports, and a love of life. The fact that he has an extra 21st chromosome doesn’t define him. He could care less, especially if it involves basketball. We literally play it at least two hours a day during this spring break on his specially adjusted goal that Grandpa Ed made him.

If you know Malcolm, then you know McK, his big sister and probably the best teacher of life he has ever had. When it comes to helping Malcolm be the best he can be, she is the MVP.She certainly has taught me much.

Yeah, she has red hair too. So does my wife.

Even the dog is kind of red-headed.

I don’t really have any hair.




Dear Senator Berger,

My name is Malcolm. I am 8-years-old. I have my mom’s red hair and her blue eyes. I like sports like my dad. I am in second grade at Sherwood Forest Elementary School in Winston-Salem.

Oh, and I happen to also have Down Syndrome, but I don’t think about that much. It does not define me. What defines me is that I am like every other kid here at school. I want to learn and be part of this world. And I need helpers along the way.

I asked my daddy to help write this for me. I do know my numbers and letters and my vocabulary grows all the time. But I am still getting trying to get enough muscle control to write. So I asked my daddy to help me. He is a teacher for big kids. He loves his job.

I have a teacher at school and there is someone who helps her. She is the teacher assistant. I do not learn as much if that teacher assistant is not there. She helps me to become more independent. She keeps an eye on me and helps me learn. In fact, I hug her every day. And I do not hug many people.

I was hurt that you said you do not want to have any teacher assistants in North Carolina anymore. That means that you don’t want me to learn as much as I do now. That means that you don’t care if I don’t get the attention and help that I need to be better.

My daddy showed me the video of your speech at Best NC’s legislative meeting ( I really was hurt by your comparing teacher assistants to manual typewriters. It seemed like you were calling them names. I asked my daddy what it meant and he said the following,

“Well buddy, Sen. Berger thinks teacher assistants are a waste of money, especially when it comes to his misguided and narrow-minded interpretation of education reform. When Senator Berger speaks about what ails education he forgets that it all starts in Raleigh on West Jones Street. Many like him have taken actions to weaken public education so that they can brand their own form of reform like charter schools and vouchers to help a few make profits from public school money.

“But I think he doesn’t realize that his comparison of teacher assistants to manual typewriters might not be far from the truth, if you look at it from a different angle.

“Manual typewriters make a lasting impression. Every key stroke makes an indelible mark on each piece of paper that passes through it. No need for electricity. No need for software programs. No need for internet. No need for printers. It does it all by itself, totally capable of working in any room or environment. It doesn’t even need to be updated. In a day when all electronics are built to become disposable and dependent on some other source of energy, those manual typewriters stand tests of time and use.

“Manual typewriters are authentic and remind us of days when there were no shortcuts to producing something genuine. Do you know that when I teach my high school students all of those novels and poems, that many of them were composed on a manual typewriter? And the very same words those famous writers wrote and typed are still read today.

“Sure, we have computers today, but the keyboard is the same. The letters and numbers are in the same arrangement. But if you walk in many offices today, there are still some manual typewriters, because there are jobs that only a manual typewriter can do best that cannot be replicated. That sounds a lot like teacher assistants if you think about it. They are still needed because they perform duties that no one else can fulfill.”

I think my daddy is right. Only my teacher assistant can do the things that she does. And I am successful because of her. I don’t need unnamed and uncited research to know it either. I experience it each day.

I asked my daddy if he thought there was any chance that you would actually read my letter.

“Probably not, son. He will most likely have one of his assistants read it for him. According to a Feb. 13th, 2015 Asheville Citizen Times report by Gary Robertson (“NC legislative leaders’ staffs keep growing”), Sen. Berger has over a dozen assistants working for him alone. Over half of them command at least 100K in salary. In fact, he’s got more assistants than your whole school does.”

Wow. That doesn’t seem right.

Senator, you also said that we should take away our schools of education. I think it is rather odd that you want to take away schools in order to make schools better. That doesn’t make any sense. Even a second grader can tell you that.



Exceptional Child in Public Schools
Son of Stuart Egan, a public school teacher