By Hillary Linardopoulos
After I read that the Philadelphia School District had given a number of administrative employees significant raises in recent months, I wondered how officials had found the money - especially given that teachers like me are spending thousands of dollars of our own money to make sure students have paper, pencils, and more.
Some of the more than $300,000 in raises were tied to promotions, and I recognize that some of these folks likely deserve more pay. But it's still hard to swallow when you're in an under-supplied classroom day in and day out, being told that you're just going to have to make it work.
Consider a concrete example of the lack of school resources and its consequences. Only a few years ago, we were promised smaller class sizes as part of an initiative to give more support to students in schools considered to be struggling. With little explanation, that initiative seems to have gone by the wayside. I have eight more students in my class this year than I did last year. And while class sizes remain under the mandated limits, the impact of eight more students in a single classroom is profound.
Or consider the community behavioral-health liaison who once worked at my school. She was able to coordinate therapy appointments for students, conduct interviews with them and their families, make home visits, follow up with mental-health agencies, and more. And then, just as suddenly as this resource was provided, it was eliminated.
There are countless other examples like these. Any teacher in the district can give you a laundry list of resources that we need but do not have, ranging from loose-leaf paper to summer school.
My students are wonderful, kind, and capable. As their teacher, I aim to meet them where they are and serve their educational needs, social and academic. They do, however, face serious challenges. And there is a point where what I can provide is not enough. The recent raises make me worry about whether my students will ever have what they truly need and deserve.
I teach where I am most needed: at a traditional public school in one of Philadelphia's most impoverished neighborhoods. We have a really great thing going there. Our students work hard. Our paraprofessionals work hard. Our teachers work hard. Our building staff works hard. Our administrators work hard.
The work we do together is profound, inspiring, and in many cases exhausting. Exhausting is OK: We signed up for this. That being said, our work should not have to be done in spite of what's taking place at district headquarters.