Everyone knows, in bowling, a strike equals a win.  In life, (and in baseball) if you’ve “struck out” you’ve lost.  When it comes to the state of public education right now, man are we ever–losing, that is.  I’m not really sure where to begin, but it seems, superintendents, privatizers, and tech giants are the only ones in this current climate winning.  So what about the teachers?  What about the kids?  At present, I feel like teachers in my state, and at least two others are that slow bowling ball that slipped off fingers accidentally, the one that lost speed, but still might get a strike–I’ve seen it happen.  You’ve seen it happen.  It’s possible.

When it comes to the service oriented field of education, unlike some other industries, the word, “strike” is and should be an alarm bell for the public who have trusted federal and state governments to: handle their tax money appropriately, decide what their children will be learning, and ensure that professionals deliver high-quality instruction, and prepare our young people for an uncertain future.  On the other hand, news of a possible strike looming also causes some folks to question teacher dedication to students.  I’ve heard more than a few times, “What will happen to the students, their education, their futures, if you stop teaching them for days, weeks, or even months?”  “Do you even really care about the kids if you would abandon your post just because you want more money?”  Such comments sting, but also get straight to the heart of the dual nature of civil servitude in a country that does not know how to show that it values us, by investing in us.  This country needs us, wants the services we provide, but does not respect–or sometimes even realize what it takes–to be us.

Truly investing in us has to mean more than throwing tax money at school districts, trusting it will be handled appropriately.  It has to mean more than that.  It has to mean including us in conversations about us, trusting us to know what good teaching looks like and rather than hiring outside “consultants” with little to no classroom experience to train teachers–empowering us to lift up one another–and paying us accordingly.  It has to mean that average citizens know how crucial it is to vote more than once every four years–especially in elections when school-board and city council members are chosen.

If people only knew, in some places “investing in education” today ACTUALLY–

  • looks like tech giants funding technology grants and not following through to make sure systems are implemented in a way that enhances, rather than replaces interpersonal interaction.  Do we really want the classroom of the future to just be about coming in, opening a Chromebook, and not talking to anybody?
  • looks like funding mid-level positions that may or may not produce immediate and clearly measurable results.  My district has “curriculum partners” –look and see for yourself how many of them there are (90+).  Some of their job responsibilities are to create professional development, design assessments, and provide push-in support for the many teachers who come into the classroom unprepared after attending brief and insufficient teacher preparation programs.  Designing curriculum and assessments, and supporting new teachers are all jobs teachers (and experts in such things) used to do–and be paid for–while teaching.  The results of the millions invested in funding this one department within the district remain inconclusive after several years.  The teacher shortage is real, so hopefully these folks will return to the classroom soon.
  • looks like increasing discipline and police presence in schools.  What can be more hopeless than telling our students we don’t trust them, they are violent, they need to be controlled, and policed, and therefore, we will create conditions in which they do not feel at home–or that they belong?

Unfortunately for those of us on the front lines mandated to implement all the technology pilots, attend all the PD sessions facilitated by folks who are not currently (and some have never been) in the classroom, and given directives to enforce the discipline structures, “investing in education” DOES NOT mean increasing our salaries.

The main reason Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association has stalled in negotiations with the district over pay–and a key reason behind the walkout for teachers in DPS is that ProComp incentives are inconsistently, sometimes never, paid out.  Try to navigate understanding the ProComp website.  Let me know if you can figure it out.  I’ve been trying for five years.

Additional incentives are supposed to make teacher life in my district seem so much more desirable than working anywhere else.  That would be true, if the following things weren’t also true:

One year grant money ran out, and leadership decided to get rid of the “extended year/extended day stipend” which we received to start work three weeks early during first semester, in August.  The A/C never worked, and the district really wasn’t prepared for students to come back that early, so everybody just accepted that one.

Another year, state testing changed from CSAP to TCAP to PARCC, the results about growth were “inconclusive” so nobody got the incentive teachers were told we would get for demonstrating teaching excellence with the groups of students we taught.  That stung a little bit, because the message was, “Work hard, deliver results, but we can’t measure the results, so though we have performance based pay–we can’t really do it.”

The next year, the SLO (Student Learning Objective) measurement tool was found to have some “inconsistencies and errors” that made measuring student growth wildly variable and inaccurate, so bonus distribution was inconsistent and answers about when and how much folks would get were never clearly given.

I have been hung up on by payroll several times when calling to ask about payouts for being rated “Distinguished”–that never came.  Navigating the incentive payouts schedule is confusing and one can never be certain of receiving anything.  Excuses and evasions are plentiful, apparently the money for the district to pay what it claims it will pay, is not.

If neither the public, nor teachers themselves can trust that money invested in education has been spent wisely, or economically on technology integration, teacher pay, teacher training, facilities (do not get me started on the state of the 30+ year old building I’m teaching in), or numerous other things, what happens?

You get teacher walkouts and the potential for a strike.

We obviously want our strike (if we have to have one) to signal a win–for us, and for our students who stand with us.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say….

I know that I DON’T want increased police presence in my school or any schools.  I do want an organization like Chicago’s No Cop Academy in my city to fight back against moves to increase police presence in neighborhoods that have historically been marginalized and robbed of resources, like Montbello, and so many others across the nation.

I know that I DON’T want more money spent on mandated PD from curriculum partners or specialists hired to make up for lack of education and training in teachers.  It is insulting and a tremendous waste of resources to assume that everyone, teachers and students alike, is operating from a place of deficiency.  With such an obvious and desperate teacher shortage, hiring under qualified staff, promoting qualified people into middle-level management positions so they can then train the under qualified people who will then want to be promoted to middle-level management makes no sense to me–it seems the kids are the ones who lose in that scenario by constantly being subjected to folks who are still learning and perhaps not yet at the top of their game.

I know that I DON’T want more unsupported (or sporadically supported) technology integration billed as “help” from the tech industry to try and make learning more relevant for 21st century learners.  Folks come in with devices and programs and grant funded positions and apps.  Then, the power doesn’t work, so students can’t charge their chromebooks.  Schoology doesn’t talk to Google Classroom which doesn’t talk to Infinite Campus, so one winds up navigating all of the systems separately, or not at all.  The grant funded positions are for folks who are spread thin, running between three (or more) schools–and they are usually two to three year positions, tops. The apps are cool, but my students need a library…

So, tomorrow at noon, I, along with all other educators across the state of Colorado, will be walking out in solidarity with educators in other states who know that we want, and what we deserve.

First of all–and I am still in shock and disbelief about this one–we deserve so much more than to be left out, completely, from the presidential debates (past and future).

We deserve so much more than to have major conversations about the future of education held without the involvement of folks who’ve been in the classroom, and to have a Secretary of Education who was never a classroom teacher.

We deserve so much more than to have to teach in buildings without heating in the winter, and cooling in the summer.  Learning is affected by the environment.

We deserve so much more than to be told that things like an increased police presence and clear backpacks are the only way to decrease violence in schools when in actuality, increased discipline and surveillance in schools creates conditions that empower those with privilege and bias to commit violence against, further disenfranchise, and oppress Black and Brown students.

We deserve to be paid consistently, fairly, and competitively for our efforts to serve our communities.  Almost every teacher I know has one or two side jobs and the teachers I know who have taken international teaching positions that offer perks like grocery stipends, private drivers, paid housing, airfare to see family twice a year, childcare, etc. do not want to come back–I can’t say that I blame them.

We deserve to be seen as professionals who have dedicated our lives to a cause and to the betterment of this country because we love the youth, have passion for our content, and craft, and believe in the future.

Though many of us are blamed for our deficiencies, so many haven’t been in the profession long, others have been in it for far too long, but their dedication and love for kids keeps them from leaving even in the face of tremendous oppositional forces.  This job is not easy for anybody these days.  It would help if people respected that, without us having to take to the streets to demand it.





Published by: Julia E. Torres

I am a mother, high school Language Arts teacher, activist, world traveler, and reader. Here you will find the story of a woman making her way in the world and making her mark, one word, and one classroom at a time.

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