The blues are in full force at my school. As of Friday, eight of the 16 teachers received pink slips, otherwise known at RIF notices. For some, it is the third year receiving the notices and then having it rescinded in June, just before the deadline. For others, it is the first time the certified humiliating notice has arrived. For me, and my veteran teacher colleagues, it is a time of sadness and nervous anticipation. We have a wonderful school, with an API score of 918, which we have achieved through dedication, teamwork and a consistent staff. We are a family of educators, dedicated to our students and to each other, having survived a lack of supplies, cuts in custodial help, cuts in office staff, cuts in on site nurse hours, cuts in library aide hours and have written grants, posted projects on DonorsChoose, pleaded for donations from the parents of our students and our community and poured our own money into our classrooms to cover the rest. What we haven't done is deny our students material that will enrich their learning, or let our students be privy to reality. That is until now. Now we will demonstrate in front of our school, the students will know whose jobs are in jeopardy and unfortunately, they will join our sadness.
I just spent two wonderful, invigorating, exciting and inspirational days at the Southern California Kindergarten Conference in Pasadena, Calif. Spending two days with hundreds of dedicated kindergarten teachers, attending workshops ranging from art to reading, to singing, to creating community within the classroom to using yoga in the classroom, I was awed by my colleagues, spending their weekend and in most cases, their own money, to revitalize their spirit, learn new tricks and techniques and feel the joy of camaraderie. We attended a lunchtime meeting discussing the implementation of SB 1381-Kindergarten Readiness Act and spoke to the Board members of the California Kindergarten Association. I was struck by the dedication of these professionals, even in times as difficult as these, with furlough days, budget cuts, increased class size and lack of resources. Most of us have been teaching for a long time, and realistically, there are not too many new teachers left, they have all been riffed.
I really cannot imagine who wants to become a teacher these days. I have been teaching for 32 years, but now, it is hard to recommend this profession to anyone. Teachers are not respected or offered competitive pay and we are blamed for the impact society's ills have on our students. Parents are off the hook as are District administrators and legislators. We are to blame for it all and therefore, we do not deserve health care, a livable wage, retirement or respect. Our career, our profession, has been reduced to mediocre childcare and will only continue in that direction as class size increases and creative teaching is replaced by rote memorization of test material. At this point, group day care would be a better and more cost effective option for our government.
I can agree to the diminishing benefits as long as it is uniform with all public employees including elected officials. Let's take away the bargaining power of Congress, the extended health benefits and the lifetime pensions. Let's take away the publicly paid for bodyguards, cars, travel expenses and other compensations. Oh, and I think that any elected official should be required to send his or her children to public school, volunteer in the classroom, and help with fundraising. In order for things to change, they must have a vested interest in public education. This year I spend way too much of my own money on my classroom, only to find out the tax deduction for classroom supplies had been removed by our legislators, so now I am out money as well as pride.