Being in the business of supporting early career teachers is like telling someone they will have to climb a mountain blindfolded in the winter with no shoes and unsure footing. It is a tough career.
At this present moment, Chicago public school teachers are on strike. In 2018, Los Angeles, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia went on strike. Each strike followed the same line of needs: teacher raises, smaller class sizes, and addition of mental health, social, and special education professionals.
When I first began teaching, in 1981, I knew I was in it for life. My colleagues went on strike, that year. Guess what they wanted? A raise in pay, smaller class sizes, and additional workers to assist in the classroom. Because I lacked tenure, I was put on babysitting detail, but I watched with wide eyes as my fellow teachers: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, coaches, and counselors fought for a wage equal to their advanced university preparation as educators.
In the end, there was all that give-and-take jostling of negotiations and some sort of consolation was reached. But I learned that the quality of my insurance, the protection of my job, and the minimal wage increases were fruits of organized teachers. I respected the process. I felt secure.
It was a wonderful and validating service as well as a career.
Today, things are just not the same. Asking for the same things today, as we did in 1981, is like asking for a Trimline phone on the wall while everyone else is using WIFI and Iphones. Today, the danger lies in the uncertainty of the safety, requirements, stress to have things ready for observation, stress from administrators and parents, in addition to make ends meet.
In 2018, there were 17 school shootings. One year....SEVENTEEN!
We never had a threat the entire 34 years I was teaching. There were certainly challenging students but the level of respect had a different tone. There were still parents who wanted to swoop in and I remember many an early career teacher tossing their nervous cookies before parent-teacher conferences began. But, they seemed so much more reasonable. They wanted the best for their children, even if that meant more effort on their child’s part. It wasn’t the evil teacher inflicting pain.
There are schools in our state that are hobbling along in the red, hoping that they can squeeze some kind of learning for students from substitute teachers. Worse, the fiscal climate for teachers sees the necessity to format their own pension plan and 401k, the stacking of two classrooms with unqualified teachers, the traumatized students do not get any help, the water might be full of lead, the heat might or might not work….
Why am I even trying to shoot this fish in a barrel?
Why do non profit work with no salary or grant money?
Someone asked me the other day, when will you be done with this work? It seems so difficult and you are retired. Take it easy.
I may be retired from the classroom, but when you have been an educator, you are in it for a lifetime.
I still believe that teachers make differences every day. I still believe that there is a force of young minds out there that is facing the uphill battle every day and they are doing it. I believe because there are Instagram and Twitter influencers who provide ideas and explanations, and give sound advice to whomever might be in need and googles “help for teachers.”
I believe that “to every thing there is a season”. Our time is coming.
Why, it’s here already.
Talk to school officials across our land. They can’t fill teacher vacancies because the teachers have gone to a different profession that appreciates their talents and rewards their behavior.
WE NEED TO DO MORE THAN PAY HIGHER SALARIES. WE MUST HOLD THIS PROFESSION IN THE HIGHEST ESTEEM.
It is really THAT simple.
Teachers should be seen for what they do for the future of America. Because, honestly, if we don’t support this tiny ember that still feels a passion for serving children to become productive adults, we will fail faster and more profoundly than has ever been seen in history.
BE THAT TEACHER WITH PALANCA LEADERSHIP IS NOVEMBER 16.
Spread the word. It is FREE for any educator.
Thanks for listening.