Category Archives: Education Funding

Season of Sacrifice

I have had “blog” on my to-do list for almost a month, yet kept moving it to tomorrow, and then next week, and finally sat down today, my one day of weekend, to write while a Nora Ephron book plays on my phone and the laundry launders. I still feel the guilt of sleeping almost all of Labor Day, waking up to phone calls from colleagues and texts from others needing information, ideas, or support. Each apologized for texting late or early, calling multiple times, asking questions that they can’t remember if anyone asked or not already. I told them no apologies needed….this is our Season of Sacrifice.

Tina Boogren (Self-Care for Educators) talks about the “season of sacrifice” in her presentations, podcast, and books on self-care and support of teachers beginning their careers. It’s the season of the school year in which educators across the globe sleep little, getting up early and going to bed late, work longer hours than usual and forget to eat, and eat worse when they remember to eat at all–ordering DoorDash or GrubHub or running through the drive-thru at whatever fast food joint is on the way home and still open. It’s the season where teachers see few people beyond their coworkers and some seem to forget they’re married and carry parent-guilt around in a large Target-brand rolling suitcase behind them interspersed with teacher editions, laminating to be cut, a computer and tablet, gradebooks in various states of “done,” and reading material about new and improved teaching strategies.

This year’s season of sacrifice involves relearning everything, going back to our first years of teaching and feeling like failures, figuring out how to remake lessons to work in a virtual classroom AND possibly an in-person one without allowing kids to collaborate, talk, sit near one another, and still honor the fact that a third group won’t see any assignment until late that night or the weekend because they’re completely asynchronous and working on school after parents are home from work or on weekends because everyone has other obligations in the evenings.

It involves teaching ourselves how to use technology that makes us uncomfortable and angry, fielding questions from families and those outside of education about when the hell schools are going to “go back to normal” because none of this is sustainable. It involves sharing fixes or shortcuts with everyone else as we find them because none of us has ever done this before…and some are happy to experiment on behalf of others. It involves using phrases and words we hate in with the fire of a thousand suns because we can’t think of others that fit: robust, out of the box thinking, asynchronous, new normal…

It also requires sticky notes to remind ourselves not to read the comments on news stories or on social media, the ones blasting teachers for “not wanting to go back to work after a six month summer break” and demanding they take pay cuts or lose jobs altogether in favor of paying parents to be at home with their kids while teachers teach online. This season requires us to bite our tongues and not try to explain to those who can’t understand what toll this is taking on us, our school communities, our colleagues, our own families, and ourselves.

This year’s season of sacrifice means teachers and parents are asking for resources and there’s not budget to purchase it. It involves writing grants that won’t be reviewed for another month hoping that it will pay for a part of what’s needed, but not soon enough.

It’s staring at spreadsheets, data, comments, and emails all asking for more when there isn’t more to give. It’s praying that dedication to the greater good will allow teachers to agree to take on blended classes or a class they never planned to teach to accommodate cohorting requirements and hybrid in-person groupings. It’s going in on Sunday so that a colleague can find a little peace and have one day with their family before we begin again on Monday.

It’s hoping that health for all of us holds out until…until God knows when…and that we don’t lose anyone to the multitude of things that could collapse it all…everything from COVID itself to mental health needs to family needs.

It involves a lot of tears, guilt, shame, frustration, and worry whether what we’re doing is right…or enough. And it involves purposely reminding ourselves to find the beauty in small things:

poetry written by children that paints a perfect picture of who they are

teachers sharing student work with excitement and pride

square shaped clouds at sunset

art shared that excites others to try it too

books written eons ago that are still relevant

coming home to patient pets, curled up on rumpled sheets and blankets

a couch covered in furs without jobs while I work sitting on the floor

Spotify playlists collaboratively created with other teachers to share the music that brings each of us joy

sleeping until the sun is up and seeing the sun shine on the mountain during our walk to the park

It’s the Season of Sacrifice for sure, and I have no idea when it’ll be over this year. Take solace in those little things and write them down to read when you feel there aren’t any good things and everything is awful.

There’s No Crying During Zoom Wine School

Shortly after the world stopped turning and we hunkered down at home in mid-March, a restaurant not remotely local to me began having a wine class every Sunday via Zoom. Friends shared the link with me, and I started going. They said the learning was good, but the chat was why they went. It lasts about an hour or so, and the chat was full of good people, funny people, and people looking for connection when there was so little to be had.

I started going and I don’t think I’ve missed a week since. Someone created bingo cards and there are t-shirts (I have two). Another proposes a wine school field trips when all this nonsense is over. There are guest speakers, winemakers, wine buyers, sommeliers, and other people from the restaurant world from their local area and beyond. And yes, the chat is spectacular. People worry when others don’t come or are late. I have never met any of these people yet I am willing to spend an hour or so of my Sunday afternoon with them and look forward to it every week. I learn some things about wine, and yes, that’s interesting to me, but moreso there’s connection, which many of us are lacking.

Social media right now is a hot mess. A friend deleted FB from his phone and is slowly managing withdrawal. Others have blocked friends and family because conversations have ceased to be kind, and others have simply unfollowed in the hopes that those people will stop commenting on posts to create drama and cause problems. In many ways, it’s almost as bad as it was just before the 2016 election, with outright lies, misinformation, denial of actual occurrences, unkindness, insults, and refusal to understand that behind every opinion is a human being.

A friend noted the other day that now that the 4th of July has passed, summer break is more prep than relaxation. In the before times (probably the best description I’ve heard yet), teachers spent a lot of July working on curriculum, taking PD, prepping their classrooms, supporting Target singlehandedly with school supply purchases so there would be extra just in case. This year, none of us know what to do because we don’t know what school will look like. Trump and DeVos are calling for all schools to reopen and things to get back to the way they were or else they’ll pull funding–kids don’t get sick, right? State and district-level administrators are brainstorming ways to keep kids and staff safe and healthy, while still complying with the demands of this administration out of fear they’ll lose MORE funding and have to cut even more positions, putting additional teachers out of work.

Building level administrators have it the hardest I think. While upper levels ARE thinking about kids and staff, they aren’t the ones fielding questions about exactly what the fall will look like and how their kids and families will be impacted. If you flipped through social media lately, you’d think that teachers were once again the problem and they didn’t want to come to work. But that’s just it–we do want to come to work, desperately…we miss our kids and families. Teachers are researching things on their own like face shields vs. masks, fresh air and how to get it into windowless classrooms, how to create a flipped classroom to maximize the time they get with kids, what to do when there is no AC and air recirculates throughout the building, how to have class outside or online while some kids are at home, how to create a community of learners who aren’t allowed to be anywhere near each other nor see one another’s faces, and what to do when teachers have left the building and go home to their own families, their own kids…is there a pile of teacher laundry in the garage and a shower to hose off with before they walk in the house to be with their own families?

While I was listening to wine school this afternoon, I came across a post a friend shared on her social media from someone else and I got a little teary which then involved some questions from others to just me if I was ok (Lambrusco doesn’t generally evoke tears I guess). Remember, none of these people actually KNOW me…but they could SEE me, and that mattered an awful lot.

I’m not a religious person necessarily, but sometimes, we have to pull out all the stops and call on whatever higher powers might exist. This is the post:

From Kathleen Caldwell Dial, “Wrote this today in response for a group of friends asking how they can pray for me. Wanted to share with you…

As you know, I believe in the power of prayer. Here are some ways you can pray for me, and any school leader at this time: Pray for our health, the health of our staff, and the health of our students. We love those we serve. Pray we can be innovative with safety measures given the resources we have and the mandates given. Safety is our highest calling. Always has been. Pray we can appropriately and excellently staff the array of school options we are giving families. We long to do great work and make a difference. Pray we can strongly support student and staff social/emotional/mental health and character development. This matters. This isn’t one more thing on the plate–it is the plate. Pray we can accelerate learning. Pray we can have the stamina needed for the big work and long days we have before us. Pray for wisdom. We have never done this before, neither have those who lead us. Pray for us to lean on one another, and our teams. Together is better. Relationships are central to our work. Pray for us to keep hope in the equation. It can feel like we are hard pressed on every side. Pray for our hearts. ❤️

Whether you are a praying person or not, these are the thoughts that our educators need right now. They need to know that they are supported. They need to know that you recognize that their fears are not selfish and that they’re not trying to get out of work. They need to know that their lives matter. They need to know that the things they are trying to do for the kids and families they serve matter–they’re well aware they won’t make everyone happy but they’re trying. They need to know that the public recognizes that they understand that there is risk involved in re-opening school…and that they’re scared too. Everyone from the first year teacher to the seasoned teacher and all of them in between and around them is scared too. A lot of what if’s are hanging over us, putting even more weight on our shoulders.

It was good to be seen today by those at wine school…just seen. They didn’t ask me to fix anything or go deep into explanation, didn’t make me feel bad for having feelings and showing them to a hundred plus people I don’t know, didn’t share their opinions on anything. They simply said yeah, we get it. And that was enough. We can get through this together.


Teachers across the country are rallying for better funding for schools.  And the American public has a problem with it.

People believe that because we choose to teach, we are not entitled to the same standard of living as the rest of the country.  Our jobs are perceived as essentially volunteer positions by many, with a healthy dose of self-funding for our classrooms and our students.  The words “do more with less” continues to be the mantra of a variety of groups, and often, the words that get attached involve “no more funding until test scores increase!”  I made the mistake of reading the comments on an article yesterday and I was so angry with the commenters and their lack of fundamental understanding of how society is supposed to work and what is truly important in education that I had to close the tab and go for a walk.

All this leads me to something else entirely: the idea of abundance.  The public sees the millions of dollars allocated to education and are incensed by the fact that teachers are still asking for more funding.  This funding will help them personally, yes, but more importantly, it will also provide for millions of other things beyond their paycheck.  To the public, it’s as though teachers aren’t grateful for what we have been provided and have no right to ask for more…not for our schools and most definitely not for us.  We, both teachers and schools, should budget what we are given better, live within our means, not spend money on frivolous things.

Why does the public get to determine what our budgets should look like?

Growing up, money was always tight.  My school uniforms for school were never new and always handed down through swaps with the wealthy families I attended school with.  I still don’t know how my parents afforded to send me to a parochial school–they aren’t cheap.  Most of my other clothes were sewn by my mother or purchased during end of season sales hoping she’d guessed right and they’d fit by the next season.  A loaf of hot french bread was a treat, and meals were almost always casserole types that would last several days. We went on drives if there was a little money left over for extra gas, packing sandwiches to eat on the way, but never a real vacation for fun.  Books weren’t bought, they were borrowed.  If I got sick, it was a huge deal because a doctor’s visit wasn’t cheap, and neither would the medication be if it was needed. Often it was a question of whether we paid the utility bill or the phone bill or the rent if something happened to the car or if something else needed to be repaired. (Parents, just a warning–you always think the kids can’t hear the discussions…but we do…and we feel the tension across the table at breakfast, and we hear the heartbreak when the car won’t start… again.)  There was always a sense of being behind…that there was never enough.  I feel sometimes as though I’ve been behind my whole life.

I went out of town on behalf of my school a few weeks ago, and had pretty significant car trouble once I got there which impacted my ability to focus on why I had driven two hours to begin with.  I did what I had gone there to do, but I was worried the whole time about what the repairs would cost, how I would get home, if I’d have to stay there another day and pay for a hotel with money I didn’t have, how missing a day of work would impact others in my building and how I’d be perceived both by administration and colleagues for not having a backup plan and not having enough money to pay for the needed repairs.  Luckily, most of the repairs were covered by warranty, but I had to borrow funds to pay for the remaining repairs that weren’t.  The dealership arranged for a rental car for me to drive home and I could pick up the car in a couple of days, which happened to be a work day so my being gone would be less of an impact to others.  I could pay back the money owed out of subsequent paychecks over a few months.  I don’t like owing people for anything…not time, not service, and definitely not money.

Fast forward to the next paycheck.  Bills are paid or scheduled to be paid, and there is money left over. It feels like there is too much left over. What got forgotten?  What got missed?  When the repairs were being done to my car, they noted I’d need new tires too so I started pricing those.  That cost eats half of what I have left, and then the question becomes is it worth it to buy the tires now after being told they’re needed or should I try to wait another six or eight months, hoping they last that long, and squirrel away money for it every month and hope that nothing else goes wrong to eat into that stash?  If I just buy them, I’d have enough for groceries and basic needs (and a few things considered frivolous), yes, but what if something else happens?  I’m afraid to spend anything, fearing that if I do, I’ll just be behind again.

The judgment in my head begins talking: If I buy new tires, what if they fall under “extravagance?” in the minds of others? What if I choose the wrong set and their cost is considered a waste of money because they weren’t the least expensive available?  Should I just have driven less altogether to make them last longer?  I’ve already been told more than once that I should save more, but I’ve never had a month where I was ahead enough to save that magic amount Dave Ramsey and others tell adults they ought to have in an envelope stashed in a drawer–and interestingly enough, nothing’s ever said about what happens when you need to use it.  Well-meaning friends tell me that much of what I choose to spend the money I earn on is a waste or frivolous altogether.  People have shared with me (with best intentions of trying to be helpful) that having my hair done every month or so is a waste of money (Supercuts is seven dollars for a trim..that’s plenty to spend on a simple haircut), acupuncture, doctor’s visits to seek out answers, and other self-care are things that aren’t necessary, the items that fall into the grocery category that I buy are too expensive or unneeded altogether. I should meal plan like it’s the Depression, thrift store shop for everything I wear, and use only the least expensive personal care items.  I shouldn’t feel entitled to doing anything with the money I earn that most others can without even thinking.  Live within my means…but what does it mean to live?

I watch as others purchase beautiful condos with big-city views or second homes in the mountains, shiny new cars, and listen as friends make plans about vacations to Europe for the summer and full home remodels and extended hotel stays while the work is being done.  I listen as people share plans for outdoor adventures and time away from the world. I smile silently listening to friends plan weddings and talk about graduate coursework and retirement plans.  They’ve earned all of these things and I’m happy for them.  They rarely lament having to buy tires, make car repairs, replace furnaces or water heaters, and they don’t sigh heavily as the checker at the market tells them their total, mentally calculating how much of their food budget is left for the next 25 days.  They always seem to have more than enough to do both what’s needed and what they want to do. They don’t live to work…they work to live…to have the life they imagined.  Very few of these people are teachers and very few have ever had any of what they’ve done with the money they earned questioned.

There’s a lot of judgment out there about how teachers do their jobs and spend their time, and now how they spend their money.  People question the effectiveness of teachers based on scores from tests that were created by non-educators that don’t test the right things to start with. Friends report that in other states you can lose your job for simply being in a restaurant that serves alcohol, whether you’re drinking any or not. Others report that if you are seen out in the world dressed in a way that a community or board member feels is inappropriate (e.g. swimsuit on a beach) you can be fired. Our social media presence is constantly under scrutiny, and clicking “Like” on the wrong thing or posting a picture someone might find questionable could have a letter of reprimand in our file or at worst, fired. Few other jobs in the world are under the same level of scrutiny by the public.

And now the public believes that it gets a say in how our money is spent: both teacher’s checks and money provided by the state.  The problem is that they don’t understand how any educational funding is spent and it’s really quite complicated.  I listen to my admin talk through budget items and it’s not a simple as “Yes, buy the things.”  There are a thousand questions to be considered before anything requested gets bought, no matter how critical the purchase is to the work teachers are doing for kids. I think that’s part of why teachers end up buying so much on their own too–we get how complicated it is, but still need the things, so we just go ourselves for the things we need to make our work lives run smoother.

I wonder sometimes what it feels like to just be able to buy the damn tires without worry over how it’ll be perceived or shame over not having enough saved up for when they needed to be bought.  For a lot of teachers, this is how they have to think about everything from rent to groceries to how to supply their students with what they need in the classroom.  That same inner dialogue happens for both kids’ parents and school administrators too…  How do we do more with less?  How do we find a sense of abundance?