Big Fish to Fry

Amy Weisberg, M.E.

This year, so far, has been a big one for education, beginning with the LAUSD teachers’ strike. We teachers have gone through a lot.

Our world of education is constantly changing and we have seen this more often lately. The requirements teachers now face have increased, including trainings in digital grade books, assessing students with limited English, assessing students using difficult online state-required assessments, analyzing data to determine student progress, trainings in child abuse recognition, trainings in how to help students deescalate from emotional trauma and behavioral challenges. This is on top of our curriculum trainings, grade level collaboration and planning, adjunct duties including serving on committees, attending school and community events, and holding parent conferences.  

     Teaching our students, what we love doing the most, sometimes seems to be something we have to fight for. That was what the strike was really about as we fought for smaller class size, help for our students through an increase in counseling and psychological support, and school nurses on campus every day to help keep our students safe and healthy.  

We collaborate with our cafeteria manager to ensure that all students get the food they deserve and that no student is hungry at school. Most people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at school. We have students who lack the basic needs: shelter, clothing, food, and medical attention and, of course, the academic support that some students need in order to succeed in school. We are committed to our students.

We are also committed to our own children and families. We have our own lives filled with joy and experiences, and sometimes we face hardships and sorrows.   Nevertheless, we show up at school each day and we are “on,” stepping out of our personal lives and into our roles as teachers, mentors, confidantes, social services navigators, and educators.

We are there for each other, too, as sisters and brothers in education. We are there during the good times when we learn a new strategy to help our students, discover new, cool educational materials, and attend a motivating workshop that inspires us. We are there for each other when our own children succeed, get married, have children of their own. Some of us have gotten married, some of us have had changes in our relationships but, through it all, we have been there for each other. This is what a teaching staff looks like.

We are a group of committed teachers and though we are not required to work 24/7, we often spend our time away from school pursuing further education, preparing for our students, and thinking about them. We learn to navigate the challenges of setting boundaries, separating ourselves from our teaching roles and maintain the balance between work and home as we seek to alleviate stress, to stay healthy, and practice self-care. We aim for longevity.

The education community is bigger than teachers, including parents, extended families, the surrounding businesses, and people in the neighborhood. We call all of these people “stakeholders” because they really all have a stake in what happens to our students. If they succeed and grow into contributing members of our community, and into our society, we all benefit. If they suffer due to circumstances, do not acquire the education they need to succeed, we, as a society, suffer too. It is in everyone’s interest to help our children succeed and adequately funding our public schools, supporting students and paying teachers and all school personnel a fair, living wage is at the base of the foundation needed to build strong members of our society.

According to Evie Blad in the blog “Education Week,” which sites a report by the ACLU, the funding is focusing on the problem of school shootings and students’ behavior problems that don’t receive funding to help teachers and school personnel support students’ mental health. According to the most recent data collected by the U.S. Department of Education (2015-2016):

  • 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors.
  • 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses.
  • 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists.
  • 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers.

This is a nationwide report, but if we look at the suggested ratio of one social worker for every 250 students, we can see that locally we are not even meeting that recommendation.  

This impacts our community and it is time to let our voices be heard, through social media, demanding school health (nurses) and mental health services (counselors, psychologists, social workers); through voting in the upcoming 2020 election which has a ballot measure addressing school funding; through becoming active participants in our own child’s education, and as advocates for students in need.  

There are a variety of educational options for parents, ranging from home schooling, to small private schools, religious-affiliated schools, special education schools, independent charter schools, and public schools. All offer different options for parents and students and part of parenting is figuring out what school will best meet the needs of your children and the beliefs of your family.  

Selecting what works best for your child is a first step in beginning to create a foundation that will support your child. From that step comes your commitment to wholeheartedly support your child, the school of your choice, and your child’s teacher. This demonstrates to your child that you value education and are committed to their success.

    We all have our own beliefs and our own agendas that we would like to see implemented, but these days, in education, we have big concerns at stake. In order to support all children, we must step outside of our family circle to include supporting all of the children we know by sharing information with other parents, checking in to be sure children are safe and taken care of, supporting parents and children who need help, and teaching our own children to develop empathy for their friends. Developing a strong community of successful children is a contribution we can all make to the future of our community, our society, our own future, and the future of our children.

 

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Amy Weisberg

Amy Weisberg—A mother with three grown daughters and a teacher with 38 years’ experience who consults with teachers and parents as well as provides support for students. Her website is www.CompleteTeach.com, email amyweisberg@gmail.com.

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