Lately, I haven't been blogging, largely because I've been working. I've been grading around the clock, meeting yearbook deadlines, and trying to balance that with what little personal life I can eek out. I want to write, I want to blog, but lately my spark is dim. My fight is dying. So I am going to write an epic opus about all the weights upon my shoulders, and let the world sort it out.
I think I'll start small and get bigger. Our school site is in danger. Our district wants to cut our buses, as part of the budget cuts for next year. Over 1/2 of our student population is bused in. Let me tell you about the school where I work. It's a K-8 school, which already makes us special and unique. In my opinion, K-8 schools are beneficial for middle school students because it encourages them to be role models, to cultivate their nurturing sides. They also are better because a small school environment allows for me to be in close communication with my colleagues and the parents, and it is therefore easier to catch problems and support students. In addition, our school offers a unique magnet program--language immersion in either Spanish or French. By the end of 8th grade, our students are all bilingual and biliterate. Thanks to busing, our demographics almost exactly replicate the demographics of the district, making us one of the most diverse schools in terms of race, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood. But if our buses are cut, our school can't stay viable. It will close. And not only will I lose my position and my students their school, but we will also be losing one of the most exciting and successful educational programs in the district.
In addition, we are looking at layoffs. I am lucky enough to be safe in my position, but our school is losing amazing teachers that really have helped to make our school what it is. One of our PE coaches has spent tireless hours working on creating sports opportunities that our students have never had through school before. He emails me from the library as he sits with my problem students, making sure they are writing their essays. We have fought year in and year out to get him, but the district wants to take him from us again. And again.
The district is cutting Palomar, too. For one week a year, our 6th grade students get to get out of the classroom, experience hands on Science instruction, see parts of San Diego they never get to see otherwise, and meet students from other schools, learning to get along with others and break down barriers. Outdoor school programs are beneficial to our students in so many ways, and without witnessing it first hand, you can barely even imagine. Things like this are being cut because they are being considered non-essential. But I think we are losing a grasp on what essential really is. My students will never remember or care about the test-prep lessons I am forced to teach. They will never benefit from 2 weeks of bubbling in circles on multiple choice questions. But they will never forget camp. And those staff members at camp being layed off? Amazing, dynamic, brilliant and innovative individuals that our short-sighted district can't even find a way to keep.
And then. Well, then there's the educational climate in this country. The media telling me every day that I make too much money (how is it that I can barely make ends meet, then?), that I am ruining education, that I am the reason our country is in this handbasket. The teacher hate is exhausting. And I don't even have the strength to fight it anymore. Am I supposed to be writing letters to the state? What, exactly, should be my focus? They've cut everything from us. We have no supplies, no support staff, no resources. And yet, supposedly, everything from war to plague is my fault. How am I supposed to fight that? We're being crucified. We're your scapegoats, and it's really sad that you have to pick such good people to be your scapegoats.
And you know why we don't fight it? Because YOU are not our priority. My time is spent lesson planning. Researching counseling and mentorship options for my students. Grading essays. Organizing spelling bees. Teaching. Working on the yearbook. Creating rich experiences for our students. YOU are not important to me. But you are not-so-quietly, not-so-subtly, creating such a hostile workplace that I can barely function. And you know who ultimately suffers? Well, we all do. Because those kids are going to grow up to be your leaders, your doctors, your politicians. Your teachers, too, if we don't completely destroy compulsory public education in this country. And when they are crippled by the world you've created for them, you will suffer. That's the bottom line.
We can't fight this fight alone. We're too tired. We need parents, community members, and kids who think that this is bullshit to fight back with us, however you can. Write the state. Write your school board. Blog. Speak up when the assholes bash teachers. Write to the media. We can't do this alone, and public education is being eaten away, bit by bit. Soon it will be too late to fight it.