I found out today that, in addition to the creative writing magnet classes at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, I will also be teaching 12th grade English (British and World Literature) next year. With widespread staffing cuts across all of Montgomery’s public school, our school lost a teacher in each academic department, and being a certified English teacher has earned me some new duties. Luckily, the 12th graders have a choice among Dual Enrollment (a joint college/high school class that can earn them college credit), AP Literature, and regular English. I am teaching the regular English course, which means that I won’t have all of the 12th graders.
I started teaching in 2003, am about to start my eighth year, and have seen a lot of changes in a short time. The recent economic downturn has caused major problems for Alabama’s schools, since our state constitution caps property taxes and causes schools to be funded largely by sales tax revenue, which fluctuates with consumer spending. This year, the state’s high unemployment rate and reduced tax base meant personnel cuts all over the state.
Of course, in a perfect world, I could just teach my creatve writing classes, but I am going to look on this as a new opportunity. I haven’t even thought about British literature in quite some time, and teching this class is going to allow me to review a lot of formal concerns and historical features of Western literature. I am going to have re-read and discuss “Beowulf,” The Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare. I think I am also going to have read Jane Eyre, which I have never read. It’ll give me a refresher in the classics that I probably need, and even introduce me to some new books . . . well, new to me at least. And it is going to give me that chance to teach and get to know a lot of students I probably wouldn’t know otherwise.
The main thing that I regret about this situation is that so many teachers, administrators, custodians, and more have lost their jobs. And they are people like me who need those paychecks and benefits for their families. I only wish that I could explain to people what they are doing when they vote for low-taxes candidates, because those ideals are putting teachers out of work and harming the quality of education our children are getting.