It is well established that the teaching profession is little appreciated. Generally, teachers are under paid and overworked. Those who choose to teach in our inner city schools especially deserve a badge of honor. Do our citizens realize the sacrifices that they make by stepping into a classroom in a school district where poverty, drug abuse, and crime prevail? The citizens of the Harrisburg School District may hate to admit it, but these are the conditions their teachers face every day of the school year. Perhaps the answers to questions that were asked in a recent interview with a kindergarten teacher in the Harrisburg School District will enlighten the reader. The pre-school setting was selected because this is where it all starts.
Q: Why did you choose to teach in an inner city school?
A: For the challenge – to help the kids who really needed it.
Q: Have you found the parents of these children to be cooperative?
A: Unfortunately, no. They are basically unresponsive. For example, when notes are sent home they are ignored. Sometimes the problem is a language barrier, but even when a message is interpreted, it is usually ignored. Another problem is tardiness and absenteeism. This is being dealt with a little better, but it is still a great problem.
Q: What is a classroom setting like?
A: The kindergarten classroom has a bathroom in the room, which is a help to avoid accidents. But even then, accidents do happen (with a smile).
Q: What kind of behavior problems do you experience, if any?
A: They become physical – hitting, kicking . . .
Q: How is discipline handled?
A: We can call Security. Sometimes a child is taken to the Office.
When asked how that works, it was disclosed that the child is given a “fun activity” to do in the office – or gets to accompany the principal, walking around the halls, etc., which hardly seems appropriate for an act of discipline.
Q: What about school administrators?
A: They are basically uninvolved.
Another disturbing element that was disclosed was on the issue of general physical circumstances. This teacher reported that there was a serious mold problem in the city school where she taught, as well as cockroaches and mice. Furthermore, the Janitor objected to teachers cleaning (where he failed to clean).
Again, the drug problem in the inner city school districts is affecting the children, even at this young age. “The kids know what’s going on. They tell us everything.”
When questioned about personal opinions on policies, this teacher stated that in securing a position, “It’s not what you know, but whom you know. “School boards need to consider the kids. They are making it worse instead of better.”
Q: One last question: How have budget cuts affected the city schools?
A: They have seriously affected us. 150 teachers were laid off and three schools have been closed. That means our pre-school classes are larger; and we no longer have aides in the classrooms.
In closing the interview, this examiner reminded the teacher, “Well, you wanted a challenge.”
“I did, she replied with a smile, but not 30 of them.”
Harrisburg School District – wake up.