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.