A few weeks before the end of the summer I went to a family reunion. My dad's side of the family is very close and we have reunions every other year or so. I had a chance to talk quite a bit with my relatives about what it's like to teach in my district, and they were surprised by a lot of what I had to say, so I thought I'd share some of those things here.
It's funny, too, because my dad's sister was a lifelong teacher and her husband went into teaching after years being miserable in his first career. The two of them are now, as my brother and I like to say, poster children for the joys of a much-deserved retirement. But even though we've had these two teachers in the family for years, most of my family doesn't get teaching.
OK, in no particular order...
1. My dad's other sister (whose children went to one of the wealthiest public schools in the suburbs of a major US city) was stunned to discover that the federal government gives students free or reduced price lunch as well as free breakfast. (About 90% of the students at my school are on free or reduced lunch.) When I told her that families need to provide proof of their income to qualify and that they do not game the system, she seemed skeptical at first.
2. At my school, students are offered a choice between chicken patties and pizza for lunch EVERY DAY. Their "vegetable" is an apple or an orange. Their drink is a sugary orange drink.
3. I probably spent $1000 of my own money on school materials last year.
4. This year, my department did not have enough money to buy more than one book per quarter. So we have 4 books to teach this year. And we added a whole new grade level.
5. I spend at least an hour every day making photocopies.
6. I teach approximately 150 students (my mom has heard this number a dozen times and she is still stunned every. single. time.)
7. Last year, I taught a class of 35 students, and I only had 32 desks. The other 3 students sat at a table that I had, so it wasn't so bad.
8. Many of my students do not have a computer in their homes.
9. Many of my students read below the 5th grade level as high school students.
10. Many of my students need glasses and can't afford them.