School Cuts

By now everyone has had their “protest” about school cuts.  Of course, nothing will change, but it’s nice to show up and try.  Needless to say, there’s no money.  You can’t get blood from a turnip, etc.  I’m sure that the old adages about teacher tenure (jobs and benefits for life) are abounding, as is the myth that teachers only “work” 6 hours a day (as if contact time was the ONLY requirement of teaching).  Therefore, while most people think it sucks, it’s not that bad and education should suffer just like everyone else.

Thing is, this entity, monster, social system — whatever you care to call it — is NOT like other professions.  Every time a part of it is killed, a part of the system dies.  You can’t get it back.  That’s why you have an educational system that looks NOTHING like it did 50 years ago.  We’re killing it off, like a giant rain forest, bit by bit, acre by acre, program by program, and we don’t get WHY it doesn’t work.  [SIGH]

Laying off teachers is more than laying off teachers.  In fact, I’d venture that what I’m about to write would transfer to many other businesses.  Here’s “the thing.”  Young blood (not just “young-as-in-age” teachers, but young as in “new-to-the-profession” teachers) bring a lot with them.  They bring enthusiasm, ideas (new and old) and a willingness to try.  They are willing to risk, to challenge, and to push.  Sure, some experienced teachers will try to knock them down (alpha dog system) or discourage them, but many other teachers will EMBRACE them.  They will want to work collaboratively with the younger teachers.  Younger teachers infuse experienced teachers by reminding them that “Yes, we can!” as well as we will or “I remember doing lessons like that!.”  In return, experienced teachers can act as mentors to younger ones — helping them navigate potential political mine fields or reminding them that giving 200% burns you out.

Layoffs also affect great teams.  By eliminating a strong second grade team which collaborates, shares ideas, and analyzes data well, you take that team back to square one.  Collaboration is key to school growth, yet it’s not valued.  We still think it’s all about ONE teacher in ONE classroom with ONE student.  Education is about a COMMUNITY of people who act as a family and are willing to get in each others’ business to move the whole school forward.  It’s incredibly HARD to establish good teams with common goals and the ability to WANT to work together.  Pulling that apart changes the dynamics and sets the community up for failure.  After all, now everything has to be retooled.  Add to that the grieving process and other emotional factors, and the school is now behind another year.  Because, my friends, it takes more than a year to establish a team.  Add to that cross-grade collaboration and cross-curricular collaboration, and you’ve essentially started a new school.

Layoffs gut the school community.  Everyone mourns for the loss of the programs that were offered, the people who offered them, their colleagues, and their teachers.  I understand “it’s about money”, but in teaching it’s NEVER about money.  It’s ALWAYS about people — little and big.  Even laying off peripheral staff — counselors, custodial, secretarial, associates, etc. can gut a community.  It’s often not known until they leave the impact they had on the community.  Sometimes it’s the associates who work with the parents to make the school strong.  Without them… well…

Of course, it’s already done.  It can’t be taken back.  We’ll write it off, have the funeral, go on to life as we know it.  We will never, as  a society, make it a goal to make sure every school has art, music, PE, computer classes, a librarian, and aides in every classroom, let alone smaller class sizes.  After all, that’s already gone.  Why bother?

Because it’s good for the kids and it’s good for the community.  Strong communities build strong societies.  In short, it’s our Democratic duty.

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