Friday, September 8, 2017

A La Cart

A fellow music teacher posted this on Facebook:

“I found out today at 3:00 p.m. that our K-1 building is adding a first grade on MONDAY and they have decided to take my room. I have to pack it up tomorrow and Saturday. I have never taught on a cart and have to figure it out for Monday.”

Amongst the many comments from her Facebook friends:

“If anyone can make lemonade out of this YOU can. You always have a smile and inspire everyone around you.”

“You will find a way to make it successful and wonderful for the children wherever you end up.”

“Sorry to hear that! I have faith you will find a way to make it work!”

“If anyone can pull this off, you can, but I’m sorry you’ll have to,”

“We are teachers and that’s what we do. You got this.”

“Wishing you resilience and strength.”

“So sorry. I know that you will be the best music teacher you can be for them and they are going to learn a Lot and have fun!”

I just have three things to say about this.

1)    If anyone ever doubted the status of the arts teacher in schools, here is further proof that we are low on the proverbial totem pole. Imagine the admin folks or the math teachers having to push their wares around like a homeless person with a shopping cart. And note the amount of advance warning (three days) and the expectation that she will have to pack up the room she so meticulously prepared (and proudly displayed with excitement on Facebook earlier in the week) and she will do so without extra pay, never mind Saturday overtime.

2)    Note the caring support of her fellow music teachers, who have either been there and empathize or (luckily) have never been there, but can imagine her pain. These are good people. 

3)   Note also that their response is mostly about “making lemonade out of lemons” and encouraging her to make the best of a bad situation. As I said, these are good people, but I find it disturbing that the expectation is that she has to make lemonade and there are very few suggestions for organized protest and political outrage. And I said as much in my response:

“Interesting the responses! Yes, it's a good skill to make lemonade out of lemons, but that also makes it possible for these things to keep happening. If we are always passively accommodating such outlandish demands, taking one for the team, there's not much pushback for admin and we'll continue to be counted on to go the extra mile to make things work. It's not her fault that this happened and it's not her job to be nice to the people making these decisions and just make the best of it. What about political outrage? What about charging them overtime Union wages for having to work on Saturday? What about a petition from kids and/or parents about substandard working conditions that will impact the quality of her program? What about getting a note from the doctor about the physical risk of constant cart moving and demand an assistant to do the heavy lifting? What about negotiating and letting them know you'll consider it for the short term to help them out, but you will need a room and a deadline for them to get it. What about demanding that other teachers in other disciplines and admin can share the burden and take turns pushing a cart for three months of the year? As the Wobblies used to say, "Don't mourn! Organize!" Or make lemonade but leave out the sugar and give some to admin to drink.”

I believe that if a teacher is hired to do something as life-changingly important as to teach the arts and give children the tools to not only survive the troubles that lie ahead, but thrive—the healing power of the arts!—then they deserve to give them the full meal and not be satisfied with an “a la cart” menu.

Music teachers, unite!!

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