My partner has been a public school teacher for the better part of the last 16 years. Every year at this time, he gets preoccupied with the emotional, mental, and physical work of getting ready to start the school year.
Over time, this focused preparation has become more and more marked by anxiety. Year by year, since 1999 when he first started teaching, resources have been slowly stripped. Rather than being able to apply his expertise to constantly improve the learning experience of his students, each year he must instead face one more new barrier to giving his kids the education they deserve.
At different points he has had to give up planning periods, lunch breaks, his classroom. He moved from teaching all 600 kids in 5 days to seeing them all in 4 days two years ago. He has never had an adequate budget for basic supplies like pencils, paper, paper towels, markers, or books – we have always paid, from our family budget, to make sure his students have what they need. Many of our closest friends are teachers and they face the same thing.
All over the country, teachers are bracing themselves. Not because they don’t love teaching. Not because they don’t love their students. Actually, it is because they DO love their students and they want to do the best the possibly can by them.
Many teachers I know dreamed and worked towards being a teacher from high school or college – they are consummate professionals, always striving to improve and excel. Always trying – and often succeeding – to do the best they can DESPITE the conditions they face. Every teacher I know has asked themselves – can I really do this, under these conditions? Am I doing the right thing – for my students and my family and myself – to go back to teaching in the form it has taken after years of budget cuts and austerity?
Many have made the extremely difficult decision to leave the profession they loved and put time, money, and years of preparation into.
I just wanted to say that I see you. I see you struggling mentally, physically, and emotionally. It feels like a battle because it actually is a battle. We are fighting for our schools. We are fighting for our children. We are fighting for a future in which our children are educated in a way that builds their self love, their intellect, hones their brilliance, and prepares them for living. We are fighting because public education is under attack.
Sending love and thanks to all of the school workers out there getting ready to go in for our kids.
~Valerie Warren, Director of Development and Operations
Her husband, Todd Warren, is a Spanish teacher in North Carolina and an activist for teachers.
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