Teaching in November


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!


8 responses to “Teaching in November”

  1. Though I am not a Teacher both my Landlord and roommate are teachers. They are dedicated to the students. My Landlord spends hours after classes helping his students. My roommate who is an Art Teacher spends money on art supplies for students. Albeit I believe that the State of New York does reimburse teachers for said expenses.
    My brother Stephen Palmer has Autism and sadly New York State has cut the budget resulting in the elimination of the Art Teachers.
    This past spring and summer I spent hours calling every last elected official in Brooklyn where I live and in Queens where Stephen lives. I’ve been emailing and messaging not only politicians but the governing bodies overseeing the care and quality of Adults with Autism and other Developmentally Disabilities. Both my brother Stephen and I have been to Albany along with other organizations to petition Gov. Cuomo and state government. I have even participated in demonstrations, marches, protests and rallies to restore and increase funding. I truly hope that the parents rally to your side and all teachers.

  2. This is BRILLIANR! Thank you for doing this. Are other teachers at JFS doing this as well?

    1. *brilliant

  3. So beautifully said, Linda. I was so sad and so angry taking down my bulletin boards. Seeing my walls full of student created work makes me smile every time I pass them. I hate that we had to do this, but I hope it makes a statement to the district. We have stripped our walls, just as the district is stripping our classrooms of the funding needed to provide a vibrant environment to our students. The current budget proposal with cuts to prep, increase in class size to our already bursting classrooms, and possible furlough days will burden teachers so much that having the time to create and design a beautiful bulletin board will be pushed the bottom of our already maxed our list of things to do. I hope this action provides an opportunity for families to ask why and follow up with questions and concerns posed to their own school board and the superintendent.

  4. Teachers appreciate your efforts! Our district reimburses us for expenses within our annual budget from the state–about $300 a year.

    1. Hopefully this link will work. It’s a photo collage that Stephen and I created together but mostly Stephen. I’m trying to bring Art back into Stephen life. I’m also leaning on various elected officials and politicians to restore funding.


    2. Stephen Photo Collage. Autism does not limit Stephen creative abilities. Stephen also loves museums.


  5. Your post touched my heart. Something is very wrong with the government when they balance the budget on the backs of kids and disabled people. Let’s hope folks wake up as to what’s really happening. Hugs.

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