We need a new mantra in the schools.
Teachers started the year with larger classes, fewer supplies, salary cuts and position reductions.
“You must do more with less.” Is the message coming from above?
Combine that with some students who would rather check their Facebook and smoke their medicinal marijuana than learn, and it’s a pretty challenging time to be in education.
California ranks rank 47th in per student spending, in a state that is wealthy enough to become its own country. The United States spends about $8 billion a month on our various wars and non-wars. I could go on, but you know the story. It’s time to PRIORITIZE EDUCATION.
Today, Friday, Aug. 31, is the first of eight furlough days in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. Eight days conveniently placed mostly on long holiday weekends to soften the blow of what amounts to about a $2,500 salary reduction for me. The decision makers did a nice job of including the community and teachers in the implementation of dealing with the deficit, but reality hurts and that hit to the pocketbook will mean another little chunk taken out of the quality of life of teachers. Of course, those chunks have been removed slowly over the years, so we don’t get that angry. We’re like the frog in the slowly heating hot water. At least I have a job.
The big secret about teaching is that it’s the greatest job in the world. Helping shape the minds of the next generation, creating programs and curriculum that inspire and watching those programs grow, is simply the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. The intrinsic reward when I bump into a graduate in Sonoma Market and he tells me that I turned him on to education, to why learning is important – that’s a feeling you can’t buy.
Last year, I created an elective called Social Responsibility in which students have to create and implement a global project, a local project and a school-wide project.
The class cleans Natheson Creek every Friday as a school project. We work with the Sonoma Valley Teen Center as our local project, and for the global project, we are working on a social movement, a combination of Kony meets “Pay it Forward.”
It starts now, with you, call it the PRIORITIZE EDUCATION movement. Two words, type them out, send them around, Facebook them, tweet them, stencil them in a responsible place, just get them out there. E-mail them to the White House (whitehouse.gov) or the governor (gov.ca.gov), blog about them, put them on a T-shirt, shave them into the side of your hair, and just make their importance known.
Education is at the root of every social, cultural and ecological issue facing the world. A smart population thrives. Say it with me, PRIORITIZE EDUCATION.
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Walt Williams is in his 14th year teaching at Creekside High School.