Graduation ceremonies for my school system have been completed and at this time of year I am reminded of the iconic response to a teacher’s letter back in 2014 by Sen. David Curtis.
It’s worth rereading for me in part because Sen. Davis Curtis’s response to Sarah Wiles literally started my foray into public school activism. It helped spawn the desire to start this blog.
You can review the texts of both Sarah Wiles’s letter and Curtis’s response here: http://wunc.org/post/teacher-email-legislators-draws-harsh-reply#stream/0.
My response to Sen. David Curtis was my first open letter to a legislator. He still has not written me back even though I have tried to engage him many times since. A copy of that initial one-sided conversation can be found here: https://dianeravitch.net/2014/05/20/a-teacher-in-north-carolina/.
There is one part of Sen. Curtis’s original missive that really comes to mind near the beginning of what many call “summer vacation.” He talked about our “eight weeks of paid vacation.”
Specifically, he said,
“Since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed, here are my suggestions for what you should tell your potential new private sector employer: …
- You expect at least eight weeks paid vacation per year because that is what the taxpayers of North Carolina gave you back when you were a poorly compensated teacher…
What many may not realize is that teachers have 10-month contracts. What Curtis called “vacation” is actually unpaid time that is spent getting renewed certification, professional development, or advanced degrees—all of which are paid with teachers’ own money that gets taxed by the state. There is also summer school that will start on many campuses to help students recover credit.
And like many other teachers, I will often come by school during this time to get started on the new year. In fact, what many consider is “summer vacation” actually is an extended “pre-planning” period.
Last year on the one of the first days of “summer vacation,” I went to school to work on final arrangements for the printing of the school’s literary magazine and its submission to national rating.
Of course the school was bustling with activity.
- Offices were open to conduct business.
- Student Services was open for registration and transcript analysis.
- Teachers were on campus conducting various tasks.
- The yearbook staff is already at camp in Chapel Hill working on next year’s edition.
- Rooms were being cleared and cleaned.
- The baseball coach was conducting a baseball camp for community youth. He also coached over the weekend at the state games helping local talent get more attention from college programs as that might be a key way for some of them to go to college.
- The soccer coaches also had their camps going teaching community youth skills. Some of the current and past players for a state championship team were on hand to help out.
- State sanctioned workouts were happening on other fields.
- Summer school classes were about to begin to help students regain credits.
- Some teachers were already back from grading AP tests.
- Some teachers were in professional development classes in various places.
- Some teachers were prepping for new courses they are to teach because populations change and numbers of sections change.
- Some teachers were preparing for National Boards.
- Some teachers were moving materials on campus to facilitate summer cleaning and maintenance.
- Some teachers were helping interview potential new teachers and then helping those hired get more acclimated with the campus.
- Some teachers were taking inventory.
- Some teachers just came to campus to get work done to prepare for next year like send items to print shop or get websites and databases ready.
And that was just the first week of “vacation.” And that day is not an outlier. Wait until August when fall sports start official practice.
Lawmakers like Sen. David Curtis are still literally talking about the budget for public schools right now. If his current views of public schools, teachers, administrations, and support staff still holds with his views expressed in that response to Sarah Wiles, then I would suggest that he and others who feel the same take a tour of local high schools in the summer time.
They might be surprised. More importantly, they may not look at the funding of traditional public schools in such a sterile, antiseptic fashion,
Our kids deserve better.
Maybe they will find out in November.