Report from Louisiana: Back to School Wish Lists

Posted: August 1, 2022 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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By:  Pat Austin

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

SHREVEPORT – This will be my second fall NOT to return to the classroom as a teacher! I retired a year and a half ago and let me tell you, I have zero regrets. Ze.Ro.

I loved my students, I loved my school, I loved my classroom, I loved my principal.

I did NOT love scripted curriculums. I hated dumbed-down curriculums. I hated the politics of it on all levels. The pure, unbridled vitriol from the public whenever the school board asked them for a raise. It was ugly.

So many things about public education are wrong. And so many good teachers have left the classroom because of this.

The pay is abysmal. And I have heard it all before: “You knew the pay was low when you signed up for this job.” Or, “You do it for the children, not the money.” Even, “But you have three months off in the summer and all those holidays!” 

In response: Yes, I knew the pay was low but I thought it would at least be a living wage without having to get a side hustle. Yes, I love the children, but I have bills to pay. And No, I do NOT get three months off in the summer. I was paid for nine months of work which was divided by twelve months so that I got a check every month. I never got paid for not working.

Now that my friends are returning after their summer break (which included professional development and workshops, all on their own time), they are posting pictures on social media showing off their classrooms “ready to go!”. And I am so glad I don’t have to do that.

They are also sharing their Amazon Wish Lists. This is one of the things wrong with public education. I was the beneficiary of many a gift through Amazon; I published my own Wish Lists and man people are generous! And when I decided to create a classroom library, and published a book wish list, people came through in spades. It was AMAZING!

But why oh why does an American public school educator have to do this? Most of these wish lists include items like looseleaf paper, pencils, pens, spiral notebooks, chalk, dry erase markers, tissue, hand sanitizer. It just seems to me that parents and schools should supply these very basic materials. And while I realize there are parents in need, and times are tough, we have “Stuff the Bus” campaigns all over town. And churches collecting supplies. And businesses collecting supplies.

I true “Wish List” should not have to include the minimal basics to educate a child. A “wish list” should include things like pretty room décor, a new teacher desk chair, a fancy keyboard, that sort of thing. Non-necessary things. My classroom library was a luxury – a Wish. It was great to have and my students benefitted greatly from it, but it wasn’t a basic necessity like paper and pencil.

It is sad to me that teachers have to beg for these supplies. It makes me wonder where is all the public education money really going? Over-inflated salaries? Sports programs? It’s certainly not being spent on the cafeteria lunches!

I picked a couple of teachers from my old school and sent a few things from their wish lists. I want to help where I can and I know how hard their job is.

And I’m really really glad it’s not MY job anymore!

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