Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pro-Child, Pro-Teacher

"As adults, it is our responsibility to work together toward this common goal. And while the district and the union may differ on some points, I believe we can move forward in a spirit of mutual respect, setting an example - even now - for the children we serve," said Dr. Anthony Hamlet, Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. 

 As adults, Dr. Hamlet, let's level with each other. There is a lot of work to be done in our District. I know you know this. However, there is work I attack daily that I am sure you don't know about, because you simply have not been in my shoes (or in my school) long enough, or authentically enough, to understand what's grittily real here. 
We have a student-run food bank, but no working computer lab. We have a teacher who has been turned down repeatedly for a class set of textbooks for his classroom, so he spends his time copying the tattered remains of the teacher's edition to teach with. We have teachers who do Donor's Choose fund raisers for pencils. 
Today, I spent a lot of my day comforting children facing trauma and need in their lives. That's my job, and I love it, and I love them. One of my colleagues left the building in tears, because she had had one too many classes scream curses and taunts at her, and she just needed a break from the heartbreak. She'll be back tomorrow. She loves her students with all of her heart. She's an adult, and she is committed to her work.  
Firstly: if we, meaning not just you and I, but yourself and all the teachers in this District, are to work together toward a common goal, you are going to have to drop the inflammatory language you are using to shield yourself and the Board who hired you from blame about the break down in negotiations of our contract. 
 In a career such as ours, in which self-reflection is a daily practice, your intention behind the usage of the phrase "as adults" should be clear. Infantilizing teachers in an attempt to make our efforts to negotiate a better deal for the District's teachers and children won't work. Pittsburgh Public Schools' parents know who we are. They know we love their children. They know we don't take the idea of striking lightly. For many of us, an unknown number of weeks off without a paycheck represents a serious financial risk in our lives. But, for a year and half, our union's efforts to negotiate common-sense measures to protect the quality of the classroom experience for children have been met with stonewalling and flat-out denials. 

Here's what we know. Parents want smaller student-to-teacher ratios. They want expert teachers working with the appropriate grade levels and subject areas, and they want teachers who strive to further their own educational levels and masteries. They want the best teachers available in the field, who can choose to work in challenging schools without being financially penalized. They want coaches who know and love their children, and who are compensated well. They want Pre-K teachers who are the top of their field, and who can afford to stay in the classroom as a long-term career. 

These things are ALL pro-child. What they also are, unfortunately for folks who have to be elected, is tax-payer funded. I am sure no Board member or Superintendent wants to discuss raising taxes to fund Pre-K teachers, for example. Why don't we work on elevating public attention to things that undercut funding for public schools together, such as the corrupt EITC system, which allows wealthy folks to fund private and parochial schools with money that could fund public education? Or why our elected city officials seem to have so little interest in garnering equitable funding for our public schools? We know Pittsburgh Public Schools has money in reserve. Let's spend it on the children in front of us, and then work together to secure extra funding we need. 
So, please-- don't stoop to dog whistling with comments such as "as adults," and "set an example for the children we serve," when teachers are the ones getting ready to sacrifice on the grocery bill, and when they are calling their credit card and mortgage companies to discuss the possibility of upcoming late payments, as they prepare for the possibility of a strike.
If we strike, I will be setting an example I will be proud of for the children of Pittsburgh Public Schools, because I will be sacrificing for what I love and believe in: my students. So will ALL of my colleagues. Walking a picket line for no pay, in order to provide smaller classes and better prepared colleagues for my students is pro-child, pro-parent, and pro-Pittsburgh Public Schools.  Let's be adults and agree that nobody has to.

No comments:

Post a Comment