Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse……….. At the risk of writing what some may view as a complaint column, I’d like to share something that took place in my life this week regarding the upcoming school year.
I just happened to check my school email (which I try rarely to do in the summer) and saw a message from our department chair. I opened it and immediately wished I hadn’t. The message included a forward from our Associate Principal in charge of scheduling. The AP had sent our department chair a question inquiring whether or not it would be okay to schedule the International Baccalaureate art class (an advanced level art class) within the same period as a first level crafts class. There would be nineteen students of each in the class making a total of thirty eight students- together, in one period, being taught by me. The district requires that all classes be filled to maximum capacity (thirty two) or they cannot be run. The International Baccalaureate class requires extensive in depth work culminating in an exhibition/ assessment. The year long class is intensive and involves a great deal of individual assistance and guidance by the instructor. Since I am the only teacher in the district qualified to teach the course, I am the one who has to fight the yearly battle trying to get the students scheduled properly and appropriately. Every year it has been a fight with me advocating for the class to have only advanced level students in it and the counselling office clicking their tongues about class size and full capacity. Usually the schedule can accommodate level 2 art students and the IB students in one class. The idea of putting two totally different classes together in the same period and expecting a quality learning experience is just preposterous.
I am not a first year, fifth year or tenth year teacher. In August I will be starting my thirtieth year in public education. I have earned the right to refuse to teach under such conditions that are hurtful for kids and stressful for me. Every year I think that I have just completed the hardest year of my career and next year just has to be better. And then just when I think it can’t get any worse, somehow it does. I sent an email to our Associate Principal offering to assist her with redesigning the schedule to accommodate both sets of students and serve their needs appropriately. Unfortunately, her response was that she would dismantle both classes instead and they would not run in the coming school year. Wow, that really serves kids. How can we make it clear to administration that arts classes deserve to be scheduled with the same regard for quality as any academic? Do we need more arts educators to become administrators? How do we get them to get it?