Behavior/Discipline, Budget, Teacher Shortage, Vision: 2020

Chomping at the Bit

Dear JCPS,

I was 17 when I started teaching summer school. It was minimum wage so my paycheck was tiny. We were expected to wear dresses (with stockings) every day and we were called by our last names. Students respected me and I walked taller just knowing that I was changing lives.

I loved it. Loved the kids, loved the lessons, loved planning the lessons, loved learning how to keep kids on task and how to help them be their best selves. . . I had found my home.

I was hooked.

Degrees followed, along with experience navigating the horrors of No Child Left Behind (I paid for so many tests), a master’s, a Rank I, more training and a few more endorsements onto my awesome teaching certificate (had it framed in my classroom I was so proud). I am good and I love what I do.

After 11 years, I was ready to move to a district that would afford me opportunities for advancement in my specific area. As mentioned above, I am qualified above and beyond the average. I’m also a fireball teacher.

As I looked around the state, I considered a few different districts. JCPS offered me a competitive salary in an area with relatively low housing costs while providing the opportunities for advancement that I wanted. I made the move and began teaching in my new home.

I’ve been bit, hit, kicked, slapped, called a motherf#$king b!$ch (and lots more things out my name), tripped, been used for target practice (white boards leave bruises, FYI), spat upon, had death threats (credible ones), and generally been abused to the point that I’m wondering if the bullying policy might apply to teachers being bullied. I’ve had shots for hepatitis B and tetanus and I’ve had to pee in a cup to ensure that my kidneys weren’t bleeding after I was punched so hard that I went down. I’ve compared bruises with other teachers that have been obtained from the same student. I’ve been screamed at by parents and I’ve had administrators blame me for not “holding him” when I was being beat up.

I’ve been called to the carpet for being at fault for being bitten (not the most recent bite for those who know me) and I’ve pretty much decided that I need to be more vigilant when it comes to kids’ ability to inflict pain upon me.

My friends in private school say we get “hazard pay” and that they’d never go over to the “dark side” and teach in the public school system. I can tell you this, I’m really good at what I do and I can work anywhere in the world. Without that hazard pay, I’d be hard pressed to stay here. I mean, the allergies alone. . .

Furthermore, in response to the teacher candidate who has expressed her desire to never work for JCPS, we’re bad, but if you can handle it, if you can stick with it for a bit (or a bite), you can work yourself into a 100K job in the board office and tell everyone to duck faster.

I’m checking the jobs board now.

Ophelia Payne

NOTE: While the author’s identity is protected here, they are not anonymous to Dear JCPS. Any board member wishing to address the concerns shared here can contact our administrators to make a connection.

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