This is a picture I took after school yesterday of the hallway outside my classroom. A little more than an hour before this, the walls teemed with pharaoh portraits, 3D pyramids covered in Egyptian symbols, cartouches with the kids’ names in hieroglyphics, an art prep project of watercolored bug jars, Mesopotamia posters, Model Novel paragraphs, portraits and descriptive paragraphs of their NaNoWriMo novel characters, haunted house pictures with descriptive paragraphs, mosaic names, and zentangled silhouettes of their heads. The walls were full and colorful. They screamed active, happy, working students. And now it’s gone. I took it all down.
I know many of you are not teachers. Each of the eight projects above took hours to plan, prepare for, execute, and display. I do it because I love teaching in a colorful place. I do it because the students are happier in a colorful place filled with their work. It’s possible to teach all year, cover the curriculum, and not create anything to display on walls. At my school, none of us teach like that. We have floor to ceiling stapleable walls and we must use them! But if you visit my school next week during Parent Conferences, you will see bare walls in every wing.
Some of our parents visit school only a handful of times a year, maybe Back to School Night, parent conferences, and/or Open House. I know if I were to visit their places of work a couple of times a year, I might not notice a change in wall decor. I hope that parents coming to school next week notice, and ask about, the lack of student work.
When I was taking down the projects yesterday, I could see the face of each child as they made the project. That sounds melodramatic as I read it back, but it’s true. Those papers represent them as they are in my class. I’m proud of them and want to show off their work. Removing each staple made me sad. And angry.
Our school district and our union are currently negotiating teacher contracts. For the last several years, this process has grown more and more contentious. There are strong beliefs on both sides. The district is able to send emails and flyers home to parents that state their side. Teachers are prohibited from doing the same. If you are a parent, no matter what school district your child attends, ask the teacher what’s going on. If you ask, we can, and will, tell you. Please ask.
Three years in a row, we have received a small raise (3.25%, 4%, and 2%). In all three of those years, however, the rise in our piece of the health care costs has offset what the raise added to our salary, so my salary has not matched the cost of living increase in San Jose. Teachers are paid on a salary schedule dependent on their level of education and years of service. It maxes out at ten years. If you have been teaching for twenty years and have a master’s degree, like I have, you get no raise for the rest of your career unless a cost of living raise is negotiated in the contract. Now the district is considering increasing class size (I have 32 students this year), eliminating art specialists (who give us an hour prep a week to grade papers and plan for 32 students), furlough days, and eliminating aides for kindergarten and TK.
At the beginning of my career, Evergreen School District was the place to be–good salary, good benefits, good work environment, good support from the district. I’m sad that has changed. It seems every week there is another decision that affects my teaching day–requiring us to adopt the new NextGen science standards with no district-adopted curriculum, for example. I don’t put in the extra hours at school that I used to, and I no longer take anything home. My administration no longer appreciates that extra effort, so I don’t give it. This makes me sad and angry.
So next week my students’ parents will come to parent conference. We will discuss progress toward standards and behavior in class. We will discuss seating arrangements and issues with other students. We will discuss homework time at home. And, if you ask, we will discuss our negotiations status. Please ask.
**UPDATE: Teachers in Evergreen School District, if your walls are bare this week, post a picture here in the comments. ETA has posted this, so it will be visible to all. Thanks!