TUSD's money woes cost children in books, appropriate attention
Feb. 8, 2005

 By Carol Bjelland

During this span of time, teaching reading has gone from phonics to whole language and back again. Over the years, the books we got for phonics were discarded and replaced with whole language and so on. Remnants of each of these books can be found in nooks and crannies in the school.
Now I am faced with a new dilemma. I love teaching - I love the kids and seeing their accomplishments.
These accomplishments, however, are not good enough. Each child must learn to read and write at the "correct" level.
It matters not that the child came into kindergarten still wanting to pick small pieces of paper and sand off the floor to play with and look at and that he did not even recognize his own name when you said it.
By the end of the school year, this child must be at the same level as that achieved by the child who came in with more life experience and knowing his letters, sounds and numbers.
(As if that weren't enough, we have no math books for the students - they are too expensive.)
To teach guided reading, each child needs a book. We must share five books among three kindergarten teachers. These are books that we were able to print from the Internet and copy for our students.
We are not able to make a copy for each child so that his or her joy and love of reading will be enhanced. We must share these few books and save them as our "class sets." And each of us must work around the schedule of the other two teachers.
Each year, my colleagues and I go to school many days early to set up our classrooms - all without pay. Many of us take work home throughout the school year.
I am shocked that the district wants us now to work (i.e., reduce our salaries) to help it.
In my mind, it seems as if years of poor planning have finally caught up with the money managers in Tucson Unified School District. Or maybe that is the problem: There were no money managers. I might add that my school principal is wonderful and that she is an advocate for students as well as teachers. None of this is a reflection on her.
I still love teaching, but I also feel good teachers, active parents, time and money are crucial for a classroom to run at top speed, and right now I feel our classrooms are lacking the last two of these criteria.
I have been teaching for 33 years. You would think that would count for something. But I sometimes feel like a first-year teacher.
● Carol Bjelland is a teacher at Ford Elementary School.