We continue to share your emails, which so thoughtfully capture what’s happening in your classrooms, your minds, and your communities these days. Thanks for sharing, and keep on doing what you do.
From Tia in West Virginia:
Though our friends at the Folger assure me I am anything but powerless, it certainly seems that way right now. Our district is in the process of making horribly deep cuts. Our area has been losing jobs at a steady rate, causing families to move, the population to decrease, and the school board to consider state formulas which dictate how many students equal how many teachers, administrators, and other support staff. Now, they tell us that sixty or more positions will be eliminated, putting more people out of a job, causing more families to have to move, and exacerbating what is already a bad problem. If the cuts stopped there, it would be bad enough. Perhaps we don’t have enough fifth grade students in a school to warrant two teachers, only one. Perhaps our high school can get by with two assistant principals instead of three. But the cuts have not stopped with just jobs.
Recently, all library/media specialist positions were cut. My school had only just, this year, finally hired a librarian who was active and involved and excited and motivated. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with her this year. Fortunately, her seniority in the district means that she will still have a job, though not as a librarian. In the meantime, we are facing a large, open space stocked with books, a computer lab, and tables for collaborative work that will remain empty, unused, and, I fear, unmonitored next year. Though our library has never been anything to brag about (the building is only about 10 years old, yet they essentially constructed an extra-large classroom for the library), our students and teachers from all disciplines make use of the space on a regular basis. If our current librarian had been left in her position, I have no doubt that she would have continued to increase the use and usability of the library, making it a central part of the culture of the school.
Now, however, we will be without – without a library, without a librarian, without all the advantages that come with those two things. As chair of the English Department, I feel the loss of such a rich source of literary materials available to all students, but particularly the disadvantaged ones (and we have many) who cannot afford to buy their own books. As a teacher, I feel the loss of a space where I could take my students to collaborate and have access to computers and other materials, a space where we always felt welcome. As a person, I feel the loss of my friend, who will now be in another school and no longer close enough to run to with ideas, laugh with over the silly things our students do, or vent with about the unfairness of the latest injustice done to teachers and students.
I understand that budgets must be balanced. I understand that we must react to changing times or be swept away in future troubles. I understand that the situation in our district is much different than it was when I first started teaching. But I do not understand how eliminating libraries from our public schools will benefit anyone, least of all the students – the stated focus of our school board. I feel powerless. I can do nothing but respond to this email and tell you what I think and how I feel. But that is, after all, what you asked me to do.
From Lea in New York:
Although I am no longer teaching, I want to compliment you on your thoughtful and heartfelt note to Folger teachers and faculty members. All scholars are infected with the same anxiety we see evidenced in students, parents and all those in the arts dependent on government funding. Thank you for bringing the Folger community together during this trying time […]; It is helpful to speak openly to those who are affected and to reassure us that we are a unified group.