The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people. - Cesar Chavez\
'Teachers deserve respect,’ I explain. ‘Why do they get it for free, when everyone else has to earn it?' -Jodi Picoult
It's been a while, dear reader, too long since I've written, but it looks like I might be part of a strike. And it felt like a good time to resume blogging, so here we go. I took part in a strike vote, and voted yes. I had put my trust in the goodness and logic of human beings-that a strike vote of "YES" would motivate the school board to make some concessions and we wouldn't have to go through with it (to be fair, we don't know just yet, but based on school board actions, it's not looking good). And I had this hope not for me and my salary, but for my students. Because I know what one day off routine does to them. Because I know that missing a day of school is missing a lot. Because I know that I can continue living with my current salary, while some of my students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Because I didn't go into teaching for the money.
But that's just the problem--that many who find themselves as teachers don't do it for the money, and find themselves constantly putting their students before themselves. It's admirable, and it's part of what makes a good teacher, but it's not fair. It's not healthy that there's this culture in America that many jobs equate success and doing a good job with long hours and sacrificing your personal life. But many of these jobs that glorify long hours are jobs that may be lucrative or high paying--where those sacrifices of personal life and sanity are compensated. But teaching? Your soul may be compensated, but your ability to pay for utilities, rent, and small luxuries are not.
I certainly didn't accept my current teaching position for the money. I accepted it knowing that SCUSD pays less than the two previous districts I worked in, but I didn't take the job for the district, I took it for the school. I accepted it because I found the perfect opportunity at the right time--that I had stumbled upon a school whose teaching philosophy strongly matched my own--that I could learn a new way of teaching that somehow didn't feel so new--that I found a principal who is approachable and supportive and visible at school--that I found what I didn't know I was looking for.
But it was never about the money...and I realize that that's part of the problem. If I could support myself and my current lifestyle, I would teach for free because I love learning, I love working with children, and I love feeling that my job makes a profound difference (which at the same time is terrifying). But I shouldn't have to! There's a whole other direction I could take this argument--and I won't go into it now--but the fact that teaching (especially elementary teaching) is female dominated absolutely contributes to the lack of respect and low salaries that teachers get. But that's a topic for another day.
Back to the strike-the strongest argument for not increasing the salary scale in SCUSD is that we have good benefits--and it's true, we don't have to pay anything for health insurance. Which is great, but I looked at a pay stub from when I worked in a nearby district where I was contributing to my health benefits, and I compared it to a pay stub from the same month last year. With a year more of experience, I made~$50 more in take-home pay for that month. But ~$150 was being taken from my paycheck each month for health benefits at the previous district, which means my take-home pay was really ~$100 less. Long story short, the good benefits doesn't make up for the lower salary. I would gladly pay a little something for my benefits to get the SCTA's salary proposal.
Benefits or no, what makes this situation all the more frustrating is that the district has this whole "make Sacramento the destination district" campaign going on...and yet every week I get multiple emails with the subject "Notification of Vacancies." And two months into the school year there are multiple teaching vacancies. How can a district expect to attract students if families cannot reasonably expect quality teachers at every school--much less enough teachers at all? So for this, I voted for a strike, and for this, I will follow through on that vote if it comes to it. Because it's high time teachers were treated with the respect-and compensation-that they deserve, or at the very least a comparable amount of respect and compensation that other teachers in our state also receive. (Because, as in everything in teaching, it is never enough-never enough time, money, or resources-to truly put our children first.)