The Life of a Public School Teacher

In an effort to adapt to the blog culture, perhaps it is best to alternate between the themes of public schools and politics in the Middle East.  Here then is a public school-related posting.  Most of the opinions one hears expressed on public schools come from folks who’ve not set foot in a school for a decade or more.  This story comes from a friend who is a very well-educated teacher of high school math/science and gifted/talented classes.  I asked her why, given that so much taxpayer dough ($11,000+ per student per year in Cambridge, MA) was allocated to public schools, people still weren’t happy with the results.

Her words:

Maybe the perception is there that money gets poured into the public schools, but I certainly never see it.  I take home $1500 a month after taxes and have an increasingly expensive healthcare plan.  I’ve been waiting for five months for the state to consider whether to pay me at the Masters degree level, which would add $3500 more over the year.  With my student loans and other unconvered expenses like vision and part of dental, I save no money.  But obviously we don’t do this for the money. 

How about the job satisfaction?  I came back to my OKAY job to have it turn into a HORRIBLE job in one week.  All my stuff got moved w/out my knowledge, some personal things were thrown away, and I lost my space for consultations, meetings with parents, and computer access… This was all done to accommodate an administrator they moved into the area (a teacher work area, how humiliating for her).  I am no longer allowed a key to the area so I can’t get to my desk much of the time.  So now I keep half my crap on a cart, which I roll from room to room, getting stuck on any small bump, losing papers all over the floor.  I keep my purse and lunch out in the lockbox of my truck so I can get to it.  Of course, ALL the teachers lost their one last work area, and since even if they have their own room, it is used by a floater teacher during their planning, they either have to try and work at their desk with a class going on around them or wander rather aimlessly in the halls…. The room I use for one of my classes, which is out in one of the portables (so the above-mentioned cart gets rolled outside, where gusts of wind tend to blow things everywhere), now THAT teacher stays in there while I’m trying to teach, and on Friday even kept his radio on and had a loud conversation with one of this students.  Thank God my students (gifted and sharp) are very patient and understanding, because I feel that my environment is truly making me incompetent as a teacher.   I had to move my parent conference the other day from one room to another halfway through because my room was booked for a class, and another room had just opened up.  And none of this was held near my files, nor could I get to them, so if I needed to look something up, too bad.  Combine all of this with my good ol’ boy/former coach principal YELLING at me for (a) crying when I discovered personal things had been thrown away,  (b) for sending an email to the gifted supervisor saying I was concerned because one of the vice-principals was trying to make my gifted class a dumping ground for other students, and one of the gifted student’s parents is already ready to sue us, and (c) for having the AUDACITY to ask that same vice-principal if the students he dumped in my class came with teacher recommendations, because their academic background was weak, and he told me he spoke with them and thought they should try it (later the same kids showed up, said, ‘What’s this class?’, and immediately dropped the classes because of difficulty).

When I was being yelled at, the principal was saying things like, ‘You’re gonna sit there and listen, little lady, and I don’t want no attitude out of you… I’m the boss here, I say what happens… I’m in control, and if you don’t like it [they] can pull gifted out of this school…’

Like I said, none of this is particularly unusual.  The principal is stressed and yells at lots of people.  I know 7 people (plus myself) who are leaving next year because of working conditions. 

End of her words.

She starts her new job in a private school this fall.

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