I'm a Laid Off Teacher -- So I Started a Blog

Twenty-three art teachers have pink slipped, myself included. Over fifty teachers at Elgin High School are being laid off. These numbers are stark across the entire district.
06/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Welcome new readers! I started a blog (link located in my bio) to raise awareness of the crisis in educational funding. Huffington Post asked me to join their blogger ranks, so for my first post, I'll share what I first posted (slightly edited) on my original blog:

I have started this to raise awareness of the awful circumstances surrounding public education. Teachers around the country are being laid off in ridiculously large numbers. I am writing this specifically from my own experience as an art teacher in school district U-46 in Illinois. Twenty-three art teachers have pink slipped, myself included. Over fifty teachers at Elgin High School are being laid off. These numbers are stark across the entire district. Next year's $1.3 billion dollar cuts to education in the State of Illinois will result in the lay offs of 13,000 teachers. The situation is grim, it is devastating, it is unfair, and frankly, it stinks. This will have monumental, long-term, detrimental effects for students across the state, and this country.

I invite anyone who reads this blog and would like to submit a personal story of how they are affected by this crisis to send me an email of their experience. Stories can be written by anybody--teachers, students, parents, administrators, or anyone else who has a stake in this (which is everyone!). The more we can put a personal face on this issue, the more the public can become aware of what is going on.

My disclaimer is that I am not a trained writer. I'll write from the heart, but there may be the occasional grammar mistake. Things on this blog will appear that are opinions.

Now for my story. I came to Elgin High School four years ago. I was hired as a photography teacher despite having no actual photography teaching experience. (My teaching certificate is K-12 art, which includes specialized classes.) My boss at the time said she hired me because after my interview, she felt like I could teach anything--a moment of pride in my career, for sure. I took a photo class at College of DuPage to brush up on the photo skills I had from undergrad. After my first year, I had a real sense of starting something great.

The next year I developed a new digital curriculum for the entry level class. I began teaching digital photography and Photoshop skills. Real world things that could help spark interest in photography or graphic design careers, or simply grow into a life long hobby. I began to have a real sense of ownership of this class--it was my baby. I grew it, I developed it, and I have adapted it and changed it each year to make it better.

This year my students have started blogging. Each one of their completed artworks end up online in a digital blog/portfolio. I love that my students have the opportunity to learn these 21st century skills in my class. After surveying my last semester classes, over 40% said that they were likely to blog in the future. You can visit it here: EHS Art & Photography. I also use the website Edmodo to post bell ringer activities for my students. I usually have them comment on something like National Geographic's photo of the day.

March 12th I posted this link: Nat Geo POD Ashley N. wrote:

This image is powerful because it's telling a story. Her shirt is torn, and way too small for her. Also, she only has one earring. All of this shows that she's very poor. Her facial expression shows that she's very sad & hopeful for a better future. You can see in the blurred background that her house has as little as a mat to sleep on. The photographer uses her skin color to sort of blend in with the background. The colors are faded. I honestly think I wouldn't have done anything different when taking this photo.

Awesome. She is looking at, and thinking about, a photograph. She is using deeper level thinking. I am happy to be her teacher.

Also on March 12th, I met with my principal. In this meeting he told me that he would help me out when it comes to finding a job. I believe he will. I think he might have had a worse day than me--he has had to have this same meeting with fifty some teachers. In my district, because of what the State of Illinois owes us, teachers are being laid off in record numbers. Art instruction at the elementary level has been reduced to thirty minutes per week. This resulted in the loss of 20 teachers. We also lost 2.5 high school positions because students in high school are required to take a study hall next year, thereby reducing enrollment in electives.

Somebody with seniority over me will possibly be involuntarily transferred into my position. I do not disparage the person that ends up in my position--I certainly would take it rather than not work. Ultimately, though, it just stinks. It is unfair to all students--those at the elementary level losing their teachers, and those at the high school level who will have new teachers replacing the ones who they were looking forward to having next year.

Please pass information of this blog on to anybody and everybody that is affected and especially those who would be willing to share a story. Thank you.