Teacher Shortage, Vision: 2020

What Message Are You Sending?

August 8, 2016

Dear JCPS,

Please be cognizant of the message you are sending to both employees of JCPS and to the community at large regarding the value of teachers within this district.

Today I spent my entire day presenting professional development to my colleagues. This consisted of a presentation, handouts, and instructional activities, all of which I volunteered to develop on my own unpaid time—time spent working instead of enjoying the waning days of my summer with my family. This professional development will hopefully help to further improve already great teaching practices happening in our building. But I am not a Goal Clarity Coach, or a Resource Teacher—I am a classroom teacher who chooses to not only accept opportunities to lead my fellow educators, but who chooses to seek out and make those opportunities on my own time and my own dime.

In the midst of this valuable work today that was preparing us for a strong start to another great year, we received a disturbing email from our teacher’s union regarding ongoing contract negotiations, which we had thought were pretty much resolved. Talk about deflating morale.

In light of this email, I felt it necessary to remind you that as teachers, we have chosen to dedicate our lives to giving other people’s children a future filled with opportunities to live up to their potential.

I cannot emphasize enough that we do not teach for the paycheck. Teaching in urban high-poverty schools comes with a unique set of challenges, especially in our district where students are bused all around the city and come to us from a variety of previous education and home experiences. This is a challenge that those of us working in JCPS have accepted, but our commitment should in no way be taken lightly. Please understand: We choose to teach because it is a calling to do something to benefit the future of our community, our country, and our world.

In the past six months, your shareholders—teachers, support staff, students, parents, preservice teachers, taxpayers, etc.—have repeatedly seen you trying to take things away from certified and classified educators. First with the misleading audit and the surprise report, to the last-minute freeze on step raises, and now with the list of demands we received today. In a district such as ours, with students who have very real, extreme, and diverse needs, is it not a priority to recruit the best and the brightest coming from teacher education programs? What is the message you are sending to them about what it is like to work in JCPS?

Tomorrow we will all sit in our schools and listen to Dr. Hargens’s YouTube video. If it is anything like last year, I predict it will be full of platitudes about how wonderful JCPS is and how excited we are to be starting another great year. She’ll probably point out an abundance of examples that prove we are #JCPSReady. Again, another fact I should not have to remind you of, but none of the schools would be #JCPSReady to start school on Wednesday without the work of teachers across the district.

In every decision you make in the future as JCPS school board members, it is absolutely crucial that you consider the message you are sending to current and future employees as well as to the families of our students and to the students themselves regarding the value of the educators who go above and beyond every day to educate this community’s children. If you don’t appreciate us, how can we expect them to do so?


A teacher who doesn’t stop when the bell rings

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