My warm-up return to the world of writing:
A whirlwind of emotions swept through my school this week with the announcement of a ruling allowing LAUSD to impose 5 furlough days this school year. This announcement is on top of the RIF notices already delivered to 3/4 of our teaching staff and our principal. Spirits are dipping and the fact that this happened during testing season, when teachers and students are buried under a mountain of tests is ironic. While I am not impacted by RIF notices, the pay cut due to the furlough days impacts me as does the fact that I have not had a raise in 7 years, other than the increase I earn from earning my Masters Degree in 2008. Fifty dollars per pay check. My student loan payment is $250.00 per month so essentially I am going into debt each month for the privilege of my higher education. How is one to keep one’s head up and carry on?
I decided to refocus for the sake of sanity and to feel empowered instead of dwelling on feelings of helplessness by taking a look at what I do for 7 hours everyday. Children arrive in late summer (this year that will be pushed back to August 14th) to my Transitional Kindergarten classroom, some with preschool experience, others with no school experience or socialization skills. They merge, and our classroom becomes a family. This is no small feat and requires planning, preparation and daily lessons from the Conscious Discipline program by Dr. Becky Bailey. We learn about using our “big” words (speaking up for ourselves), seeing the best in others, being helpful rather than hurtful, making positive choices, learning about the consequences of our actions, exhibiting empathy when encountering diversity and controlling our emotions through breathing. My students follow the school rules: Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful. All of these social skills help the children evolve into students capable of paying attention in class, taking turns and learning. Many of the students spend more time at school than at home each day and they look at the classroom family as a true part of their family.
Each day I instruct the children in phonics, math, social studies, and beginning technology skills. They receive instruction in physical education and science, drama, art and music taught by myself or by specialists, passionate about their subject area. What is the impact? Children that take part in Transitional Kindergarten have more school success.
While it is true, that teachers are in it for the outcome, not the income, a competitive living wage would be a welcome relief and a much needed moral boost. Taking care of the people that take care of our youngest makes sense in the same way that funding educational programs for young children is an investment in our future. It is time to look carefully at the priorities of our society and at the consequences we impose upon ourselves by allowing the 1% and corporations to suck funds in the form of tax breaks, from those in our society who need it the most: the young and the elderly. It is time to fund those who care for and serve the polar spectrum of our society, and who better to do that, than those making millions from the products sold to them?