Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The Winter of Our Discontent
Yes, I know it's spring. But the heat hasn't worked in my classroom for at least two weeks. The heat works in all the other classrooms in the building. Just not mine. And being that it is a 100 year old building in California, there is no insulation. So it would be basically the same temperature inside as out if there weren't 18 little energetic bodies warming it up. Even with that, I'm teaching with my coat and scarf on. The thermostat guy has been out to see it but left again and there's still no heat. I'm afraid he's taking lessons from the clock guy.
And the union just voted for a strike. Or, not necessarily a strike, but likely. Without getting into district/union politics, which I have plenty of opinions on, I just need to say that I can't go on strike. I mean, morally. I also can't really afford to, but that's another story. I have three kids in my class who have had both parents abandon them and are living with grandparents. I have another who lives in fear of his abusive parents, and the majority of the rest of them have had one parent leave them for one reason or another. As scary as it may seem, I am the most stable adult in many of their lives and definitely the adult who gets the most waking time with them. They won't understand the strike as anything other than another adult who said they loved them leaving.
But I also want to be recognized for what I do. It would be nice to be paid what I'm worth, but I'd settle for it being acknowledged. In case of a strike, the (largely unqualified) subs will make $300 a day. Over twice what most teachers make (although without benefits) and fewer hours. The superintendent says that education will continue. Really?
Are these $300 a day subs going to go to kids' games, karate tests, birthday parties and churches? Are they going to dream about the kids, pray for them, make lists of the good things about them, find their favorite books, search the Internet for the one subject that interests that kid, feed them, and use up their cell phone minutes calling their parents for good and bad behavior? Will they beg everyone they've ever met to volunteer or donate, worry that they've ruined the kids' lives forever, pull out their hair, explain that repeating first grade does not make you stupid, listen to descriptions of relatives' funerals, make up funny nicknames for each kid, know that 'white kid' means Latino, scold them in Spanish, know the names of kids in other grades, or tell the kids they love them even when they yell? Are the kids going to know that these subs love chocolate and reading more than anything, frequently check out so many books from the library that they drop them all over the playground, can catch them swearing in Spanish, know which streets not to drive down, want to have beautiful brown skin, dye their hair, fall down stairs because they're reading, or have a dog who takes cheeseburger wrappers out of trash cans?
I have a lot to learn still about both teaching and loving these kids, but even for $300 a day, you can't replace me.