schoolconsolidationIn relationships, the balance of give and take is usually not 50-50. Sometimes you give your half and the other party doesn’t. Sometimes it’s the other way around. If you stay in a relationship with this imbalance, there is usually a reason; maybe not a good reason, but a reason nonetheless. With shame, I admit that I am in a relationship with an imbalance. I stay in it, but I have reasons. After reading this article, you make the judgment.

There can be no question, the unified school system is anything but unified. They are treating inner city schools differently than county schools. The county purchasing departments is ignoring longtime vendors from the old city schools in favor of vendors that dealt with the county schools. The purpose of consolidating was to give city residents their proper place in the public school system since we were helping to pay for it. But this is ridiculous. I cannot believe how little power the commissioners from Memphis districts are wielding on the Board. They appear to be in the minority when they are the majority. All I can do is kick myself in the butt for supporting the consolidation. It was a tremendous mistake.

Above is a quote by a prominent citizen in my city. We are going through a school consolidation process and this quote was posted on May 30, 2013 on Facebook. As I read it over and over again, I realized that I am in an unhealthy relationship with our school system. I have been a part of the system for 12 years. In those 12 years, we have had four Superintendents with four different philosophies on how to run a school system. Even in a confused situation such as this, I stay. Why, you may wonder? However illogical, I stay because I think I can make a difference. Even through an unwanted consolidation, I still think I can make a difference in the life of a child; a forgotten child.

To understand my ramblings, we must go back to my beginnings in education. Before I changed careers to become an educator, I ran a tutoring program in an impoverished neighborhood in Memphis, Orange Mound. I really became excited when the students in the program, who were sometimes years behind their peers, grasped a concept. I was excited to expose them to things and places they had never been.

My first teaching job was in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Memphis, Frayser. I was in Ridge Grove, to be exact. I started as a long-term substitute to a group of 1st graders who had teachers who abruptly left. I got very little help from the other teachers on the team. All I had to rely on was my desire to help those children and the information I was learning at the beginning of my teacher education program. These babies were forgotten by those who were charged with their education. I had a desire to help and I did. After my first partial year, I was hired as a permanent educator of older children. When I began to teach 5th and 6th grade, I was determined to give those students authentic educational experiences that they could carry with them for the rest of their lives. I succeed with some and some I did not. After five years, I was satisfied with the job I did, but I knew it was time for me to move on to another post.

I then moved to an optional school. These students were more motivated to learn and had decidedly more advantages than the students I previously taught. Although the challenge was not as great, I still believed I could make a difference in the life of the forgotten child; the different child. I have done that.

The unhealthy aspect of my relationship with my school system comes into play with the whole consolidation process. We have an imbalance. I do my job. I teach the students what is academically required (my test scores reflect that). I also teach them to become better citizens. I encourage community involvement. I model and encourage helping others and the development of the whole student. I teach the students to treat people fairly and give all people an equal chance. I am doing my part. I give my all, but my system does not seem to be able to keep their end of the agreement.

It seems that the children and the teachers are being forgotten in this consolidation process. Schools are being closed and teachers are losing jobs. Students are being forced to attend the school of their chief rival, which can be dangerous. Teachers are being told that they can attend a job fair, but they will not be given priority even if they are an exemplary teacher.

One of the simple, but sticking issues is dress code. One system requires the students to wear uniforms and one leaves it to the discretion of the particular school. Instead of changing to one policy or the other, our consolidated district has decided to leave the policy as is. Confused? Let me break it down for you – the schools that were in the system that required uniforms will remain in uniform and the schools that were in the system that left it to the schools will keep their policy. How does this model the equality and fairness that I teach?

Sadly, it doesn’t match what I teach, and sadly, I am planning for another school year in the same system. I still think that I can make a difference, but at least I am aware of my relationship status. I know that my relationship is unhealthy, but I stay for the children. This may not be a good reason, but it is my reason. How long will I stay? I am not sure, but I am yet preparing for the day I leave this relationship and begin my healthy solo life or a better relationship where we have a 50-50 balance of effort.

On with my grind…

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