I got my back to school letter today. You know, the one where the superintendent tells us how excited he is to start the new school year and just how spectacular this year is going to be. I, meanwhile, am skimming the contents of the letter with exactly two questions on my mind:
- What time do I have to show up to the first meeting?
- Will there be coffee?
(By the way, the two answers are “slightly before the asscrack of dawn” and “yes,” the latter by reason of the former.)
Then I continued reading to find that our district’s student scholarship fund was growing. Awesome. And that faculty and staff were being asked to contribute via voluntary payroll deduction. Less awesome.
First, it’s not that I don’t want to contribute to a scholarship fund. I mean, scholarships! Because college! For a manageable amount of money! Exclamation point! Having spent the summer helping a student navigate the college admissions, financial aid, and placement process and seeing just how daunting it can be for a first-in-family college student, I get it.
But I also get it in the context of just how much I will be asked to contribute — monetarily — to other athletic teams, “safe neighborhood” after school programs, college visitation field trips, language and reading enrichment tutoring, and other worthy causes. There will be dozens of people asking me for hundreds of dollars (if not more) throughout the school year, most of them students.
It breaks my heart every time I say no to a student.
Though the scholarship cause is worthy — perhaps one I’d choose to prioritize among others — the way it was presented sort of has me rankled. Because I wasn’t asked by a student. I was asked by someone who makes approximately 5 times what I do in a year, someone who had a hand in reducing my new salary by several hundred dollars, to be more, to do more, to give more. And I’m being asked when I’m very close to having no more to give.
Earlier this summer, I was at a professional conference, and a similar event happened. The head of the educational consulting company organizing the training was setting up a scholarship fund. And yes, scholarship funds are good, noble, necessary things. If for some reason I die with no descendants (likely) and a surplus of money (unlikely), an educational scholarship fund is one of my first choices for my bequeathed income. But having someone who — in this case — makes nearly 10 times what I do ask me to pledge additional monies that I do not have? It isn’t right.
Let’s talk about giving by example, if you please.
I love my job. All the things — the chaotic things, the recalcitrant things, the “my hormones are eating brain cells” things, the “I thought it would look cool, but I was wrong” things, the “I hate you and you’re the meanest teacher ever because you make me think” things — that happen throughout my school day, I love them and I can work with them into infinity (or at least until retirement age). But the outside political pressures, where I’m constantly being asked — and sometimes demanded — to do more, be more, give more with less?
If you want good teachers, give generously to help meet those needs.