Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kids Don't Get Laid Off, But Their Teachers Do

While writing this blog I have begun to understand a sense that some of the public is satisfied with teachers being laid off. I understand that the private sector has been hit very hard in the past three years, and that millions of workers in all facets of employment have been let go from their companies—some losing their pensions, their seniority, and many with no compensation for being let go. This effect then does trickle down to government jobs. If people have abandoned their homes, and property taxes help pay for schools, police, fire, roads, etc, well… one can easily see where we are at currently. I think there is a sentiment out there that some hold that it is about time that teachers (and other government workers) are getting their due.

A comment about my blog on the Daily Herald read:
I'm sick and tired of hearing about the poor teachers. Thousands of people have lost their jobs the last few years.

OK. Yes, people everywhere have lost their jobs. Please understand that this isn’t about the “poor teachers”. Personally, I’m staying positive, hoping something will open up, and if not, use my art skills to find a job in the private sector. I’m lucky that I have a skill set that (I hope) I can fall back on. It is just that I’d much rather be in a classroom—I really do love teaching.
But understand this—teachers losing their jobs isn’t about just teachers, it’s about the STUDENTS. Students don’t get laid off—they continue to be required to come to school with significantly shrinking budgets and resources (I taught my art class last year with a $0 operating budget).

The Chicago School Board recently decided to lay off 2700 teachers and raise class sizes to 35. I spoke with a CPS teacher last week who told me that at the beginning of school last year her fifth grade classroom had 47 students in it. FORTY SEVEN! Where in Gods name does one even sit 47 students?? Have you seen the average physical size of a classroom? They weren’t built to fit that many students.

How many of you reading this would even begin to know what to do with 35 elementary school children? I should mention... out of that 35 students, you have one with severe hearing problems, six with special education IEPs (Individualized Education Plan), three with asthma, one with a peanut allergy that has to stay in your classroom during lunch, a student whose parents just got divorce, a student whose brother was shot last week, and only five of them who are reading at grade level. This is not an exaggeration; in fact, I think many would be shocked to know the diversity in today’s classrooms. This job is an important one, and teachers wake up every day wanting to help that classroom learn.

Another argument people bring is that if teachers' huge salaries and gigantic pension were bargained down schools wouldn’t be in this position. I agree that some teachers are overpaid, and I also agree that like every job out there, there are some employees that don’t do their job effectively. Taking a serious look at revamping teacher tenure is on the horizon I believe, and I have no problem being held accountable for my performance in the classroom. However, don’t we want our teachers paid well? Don’t we want to incentivize the best and brightest into teaching our students? Don’t we want to reward individuals that choose to dedicate themselves to a profession that is becoming increasingly more criticized? Don’t we want a highly trained individual in the classroom I mentioned above?

What people need to realize is that most teachers take their job extremely seriously and work VERY hard at it. Teachers are constantly working on their craft and trying to improve what they do in the classroom. It isn’t an easy job, but most teachers would have it no other way.

To me, it is worth my tax dollars to keep class sizes smaller, and it is worth my tax dollars to keep effective teachers in their jobs. If you agree, let a teacher know how you feel, and call your congressperson as well. Help keep good teachers in their classrooms, and stop what is happening in Illinois and all over this country.


  1. I was hired by New Haven Publics Schools in 2006 as a co-teacher. I thought why not teach with a vet. teacher and learn from the best? Well that is not what happened. I began teaching second grade solo because a woman did not come back from her maternity leave. I did fine, and then the next year I was placed with this woman who was and still is a great teacher even though she subjected me to photos of lynchings and showed the grade graders!! Well I was told I had to be relocated and was put in a fifth grade classroom. I know that I am certified to teach K-6 grade but how is a teacher going to learn one curriculum if she has to learn an entire new one ever year? So I teach fifth grade in a not so nice neighborhood and immediately request an internal transfer. Wouldn't you know it, I was place in a third school and told a day before schools starts that I am no longer teaching first that I am going to teach fourth grade! I have now taught grades 2,3,4, and 5! - and I received a letter right before April stating my contract will not be renewed. My principal loved me at first but was told by the Superintendent to get rid of year four teachers. I am repulsed by the educational system. I am thinking of changing careers.

  2. This is too was refreshing!beautiful and evocative post!
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  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I hear you and "feel" you and so do thousands of other public school teachers. Our district's policy is that each school site must get rid of 2 teachers a year. It's a travesty.
    The public will never understand what is occurring to teachers in the public school system unless we speak out. I spent the last year self-producing a documentary on issues we are dealing with.
    The name of the film is LIKE A SCAPEGOAT ON A PENDULUM. Teachers were afraid to talk, but I was able to rally some brave souls. All of the segments are on youtube. Tell a friend, and then another. Hey. It's free. :0)
    We have to continue to get the word out. WE ARE MIRACLE WORKERS! You can also see the segments on facebook ( on the film's page) and on my blogspot (named after the film).
    Keep writing!

  4. Boy do I u dear stand what you are saying! I just retired. But I heard it when I was teaching. Not many professions work the hours that teachers do and don't put the time and effort into planning. They don't get public ridicule either. I hear you! Praying that it gets better for all teachers all over the country! Thanks for sharing! Happy Slicing! I love your blog name!