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This is a question I ask myself and that many people often ask me. Mostly, it's because of the kids and also because of the staff. While the kids have been known to drive me crazy, I have been teaching many of them for almost 4 years. I have watched them transform from little 3rd graders into young adults. They know me and are comfortable with me, and that is important. It helps me reach them when I am teaching, and it makes what I do more meaningful and enjoyable. I got 4 Christmas cards from students and I don't even have my own class!
The staff is also why I stay. There are some very dedicated and talented teachers in the school, and while not every day is peachy, I know that it could be a lot worse somewhere else. I don't go to work to make friends, so it's more important to me that the work that I do is enjoyable and that I feel that I am really teaching. Which I do.
It still is depressing to walk up the stairs every morning past dirty steps, curse words written on the walls and peeling paint, and then enter my classroom where a strange smell is wafting in from the heating duct. I just remind myself that while this is my place of employment, this is also the place where my kids spend most of their day, too. For some of them, it's preferable to home, and for many of them, we teachers give the only hugs and kind words they get all day.
So for now, I'm still here.
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Since the building is 100 years old, everything is externally wired and configured. This means that many of the pipes run outside of the walls and that all of the electrical wires are run externally as well.
The walls are made of a thin plaster that reminds me of what the Ancient Egyptians used to wrap mummies. Most classrooms' outlets fall out of the wall. As a computer teacher, power is very important to me, so I taped mine back up. (see photo below)
What's worse is, nothing ever gets fixed because for the last 4 years I've been here, we've been told we're getting new building. The excuse has always been, "Why fix it when there's going to be a new building anyway?"
We've had a student go to the hospital with burns from the radiator, and a teacher last year got asthma (she never had it before) from the air quality in her room. There are no excuses for the way our students' and staff members' health and safety are at risk.
This radiator is along the 3rd floor hallway. It leaks a puddle almost every afternoon. The white areas are where the water steams because the pipes are hot enough to evaporate the water.
Here is an example of one my outlets I taped to the wall. Otherwise, the whole thing falls to the ground. I have been told by a building engineer that there's nothing we can do because the walls do not hold screws. There are 3 computers plugged into a power strip connected to this outlet.
This photo is a history lesson within itself. You can see the old (who knows how old) PA system, as well as the old phone system. Rather than remove them, the District just put the new ones in and left the disfunctional, outdated equipment still on the wall.
Here is an example of external plumbing. There is tattered insulation covering pipes that reach over 100 degrees. This radiator is on the 1st floor where the Kindergarten through 2nd Grade classes are located.
Ahh...my lovely doorhandle. Why replace it when the building is being torn down anyway?
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Let's take a look at a 21st Century School....
Water damage in the South stairwell, between the 1st and 2nd floors.
Water damage in the South stairwell between the 2nd and 3rd floors.
Water damage in the North stairwell between the 2nd and 3rd floors that was 'fixed' by putting a layer of unpainted plaster over it.
Walls in my classroom.
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So, I decided to start this blog after 4 long years of teaching in a school that is literally crumbling apart every day. From days when it was 60 degrees in my classroom, to days when my outlet falls out of the wall and I have to (no joke) tape it to the wall, to days when the radiator leaves a steaming puddle of water all over the hallway.
I am outraged and saddened by the way my school building has been neglected. Moreover, I am outraged and saddened by the fact that this neglect reflects a larger picture. My students are neglected.
How can a student take pride in his or her school and feel comfortable and proud to come to school everyday when he or she might as well go to school in a broken down factory from 1950? I remember Jonathan Kozol speaking to this effect (though I can't remember if it was Savage Inequalities or Death at an Early Age). My students deserve better.
More on this later....
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Philly Teacher by Mary Beth Hertz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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