Highs and Lows
I'm not quite sure how I feel about charter schools. There are some fairly obvious disadvantages to working in a small, business driven, school setting; disadvantages that ironically seem to illustrate the abundance of misused resources in public schools- public schools that are functioning on very little, if that gives any indication of what we are working with. We have such a small staff and at times, I feel like I am unable to keep up with the demand expected of us, like I am treading water with weights continually being added for conditioning--morning duty (one out of four days), lunch duty (three out of four days), after school supervision (daily). Planning time goes by quickly and Fridays have very much become a beacon of sanity enabling me to keep my head above water.
We teach a four day school week, the belief being that a shorter school week would encourage students to actually attend. This year, some changes are requiring students to attend "Friday School" if they have any unexcused absences during the week. It makes sense, but this has turned a previously positive time for planning and tutoring into a hassel of babysitting and convincing students who don't want to be there to accomplish something. This in turn, forces me to accomplish very little, and forces my beacon's light to waiver substantially.
I only received half of my paycheck yesterday. I've never before worked in a professional environment that was unable to pay its staff. I knew taking this position that the school was already teetering precariously, temporarily resting on a shallow root, mid-way down the slope of bankruptcy. Tyler and I were well aware that as a married couple all of our income would come from this one place. We accepted our positons only because the school is on a grant. That means, apparently in theory, that the money is guaranteed to be there. Disheartened somewhat sums up my feelings right now, apprehensive is probably more appropriate.
Actually, I kind of feel like the high school's "library" (pictured above), all bits and pieces of hope that some student will still manage to see promise in the information I'm trying to provide, still manage to succeed amid the bullshit that is weighing us all down.
Three rescue attempts have been made for me.
Reddit has become my favorite new internet based playground. About a month ago, they had a free teacher gifts offer. I was matched with a "donor" who sent me twenty notebooks for student use in my classroom. Seriously overjoyed, I carried that box all the way home from the mailbox during our evening pup walk, a mile at least. Yes, I was sweaty and exhausted once we got home, and yes, I was completely ecstatic--to get single subject notebooks.
One of my personal goals upon taking this position was to try to help students outside the classroom, to provide some opportunities that they might otherwise not have. Last month, we took some students swimming at a community pool. This next month is pumpkin carving. I did a little research and wrote to a company called Pumpkin Masters asking if they would donate some pumpkin carving kits to our community opportunity. I received confirmation this last week that they will be sending about twenty kits. It absolutely made my day.
The third rescue attempt made me tear up in front of some students. I wrote to a handful of my favorite authors, included the picture of the "library", and asked if they would be willing to send copies of their books and/or copies of books that impacted their lives. Barbara Kingsolver's peeps sent a package including eight of her books, plus a note saying how Ms. Kingsolver was impressed by ME and my commitment to the students. The note also said how they'd send me 12 copies of the same book so that they could be used in class if I wanted. One of my students asked after I had opened the box and read the letter to them, "Aw, does it make you want to cry?" "No," I said, but I was already misty eyed.
Moments like these make me happy...helping to strengthen my beacon's light, helping to make me a better teacher... a better person.