In January, I delivered a letter to the governor’s office.
Delivering this particular letter sort of broke my heart.
Actually, it didn’t “sort of” break my heart; it shattered it.
Throughout my entire teaching career—all 25 years—I have always fought for smaller class sizes (which means more funding, which means that much of my advocacy has been for increased funding). Teachers get surveys rather frequently about the issues that are the most important to us. The survey might say something like this: “Rank the following items in order of importance to you,” and then there will be a list of things like reduced class size, better benefits, increased teacher pay, and questions about the general work environment.
I have always answered that I want reduced class size, even more than I want increased pay.
In my opinion, smaller class sizes is the single most important factor in determining the fate of students. I can impact 25 students far more successfully than I can impact 40 students. Over the course of a school day, I can impact 150 students far more successfully than I can impact 185.
It’s simple math.
The letter that I delivered yesterday was about teacher pay. I believe in the contents of the letter (which is described in links below). I believe it 100%.
And that’s heart-breaking.
We’ve come to a point in Arizona’s education system, because of its lack of funding, when simply making sure each student has a teacher is more pressing than concerns about making sure that each student has small enough class sizes to truly reach his potential.
The bottom line is that we can’t recruit and retain teachers. The pay is simply not high enough to attract people into the profession.
The situation is so dire that teachers like me—the ones who have always advocated for student before fellow teachers—have to place the need for teachers above students. Granted, advocating on behalf of retaining teachers is still advocating on behalf of students (because students need a teacher in every classroom), but it’s no longer direct advocacy for students.
The education system is perhaps past the tipping point. We simply do not have enough teachers, and the situation is only going to get worse because 25% of teachers reach the age of retirement in the next few years.
So here I am…finally breaking down and asking for increased teacher pay, instead of reduced class size. If we don’t do something to make teaching attractive enough to recruit and retain teachers, our students are the ones who will suffer (as they already are).
I won’t stand by idly and watch that happen.
It breaks my heart to shift my focus from small class sizes to teacher pay, but our children deserve to have teachers in their classrooms. They still deserve to have smaller class sizes than this state affords them (we have 7th biggest class sizes in the nation), but that dream is impossible unless we have teachers to teach those classes.