Most nights it’s 11 or 12 before I’m finally settling in for the night. I teach a full day, which, on odd days, includes bus duty and other meetings after school, including IEPs, my department, faculty, PLC, and facilitator, along with parent-teacher conferences. I immediately rush home because start times have changed and I have a 5-minute window before by partner goes to work and my daughter is alone. As soon I get home I start working again. I work another full-time job, running a small business, because who can live on our salary?
I try to carve out time to cook big meals several nights a week because leftovers are my best friend; I already know I won’t have time to cook every night. Miraculously, I manage to get my daughter to gymnastics, too. I pack lunches, lay out clothes for the next day, and make my second job checklist, which I must start again the minute I get home from school tomorrow.
I don’t make a livable wage. Insurance costs eat up more than our “raises.” Duties are added to our plates with zero compensation. My school building is so filthy it makes people sick. We have unresolved transportation issues. I’m expected to “do more” meaningless data collection that does not benefit my students in any way, shape, or form. The list goes on and on. I’m. Tired.
My own daughter doesn’t get the best of me—she gets a tired, frustrated, emotionally drained, financially stressed mom, literally every day. My students get the same. I drag myself in every day and some days I’m in tears when I pull into the parking lot. This isn’t the same job I started 15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids and I love the ideals of my job; however, that part of my job is virtually gone. Some days I have to assign computer work so I have time to grade and plan, because let’s be honest, unencumbered planning time is a joke.
I was my building’s Teacher of the Year in 2013, yet I feel so far from that person. How can so much have changed in a few short years? The shameful pay, demands, data collection, ridiculous evaluation procedures, lack of substitutes, unsuccessful bandwagon ideas, lack of student accountability, poor funding, disgusting working conditions, and lack of community support have absolutely drained me. There isn’t much of “me” left and, to be honest, I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. Sadly, I’m not the minority. I’m the majority.
Virginia, we have to fight. We have to stand united. We have to spread our message to as many colleagues, friends and neighbors as possible. We deserve more. Our own children deserve more. Our students deserve more. It’s time to fight. This fight, honestly, is the only thing keeping me going right now. Wear your red. Paint your cars. Take selfies. Hashtag like crazy. Eventually, people have to listen. Really listen. Speak clearly. Speak loudly. Speak the truth. We will be heard.