Why I will be 'walking-in' to school Monday

Nov. 01, 2013 @ 11:13 AM

“It is difficult to understand how administrators can name their very best teacher, but cannot identify the top 25 percent.”

--  Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, in the Associated Press.


Let me show you all the ways education happened in a recent week at Riverside High School:

-- 250 students gathered behind the school, in the patio and on the practice field, for an afternoon soccer tournament sponsored by the Destino Success club which provides tutoring and mentoring for Latino students

'-- The Little Prince' played in the theater for three consecutive nights.

-- A Zumba Party was sponsored by the student business clubs in the gym Friday evening.

-- Engineering students collected 572 cans of food that they then spent Saturday afternoon turning into. an Oceanside Cityscape to win the Creative Food Design competition at the American Tobacco complex.

-- Students donated dozens of pints of blood during a Red Cross Blood Drive Friday morning during school.

-- Band students drove two hours to a competition.

-- Women's volleyball played three play-off games in a packed gym, making it to the state quarter-finals.

Each of these activities brought students together to learn the lessons of service, cooperation and sacrifice for a greater good. These are precisely the lessons we want children to learn, taught by teachers, coaches and parent volunteers over countless hours beyond the school day.

Meanwhile, of course, teachers also taught classes in school, planned those classes, graded tests, read essays, tutored over lunch, before school and after school, and sat through workshops on teaching higher-level literacy skills throughout the curriculum.

That was all last week. Just another school week for Riverside High. Just another school week for every school in North Carolina.

I invite you. Go ahead, rank the activities listed above by their importance. Would you rank the math teacher tutoring at lunch over the engineering teacher sponsoring the Creative Food Design team? Would the Spanish teacher who sponsors Destino Success come out in front of the English teacher who spent the weekend reading 90 student essays (10 minutes per essay equals 15 hours of grading)?

To be sure, some teachers are more effective than others. The simple truth, however, is that the overwhelming majority of teachers are good at their jobs. Every teacher deserves a fair salary – the salary that was promised in the state salary schedule.

This is especially true for the young teachers who represent our future. They have put in years gaining experience and training to become good teachers. Meanwhile, they carry college loans and pay increasing rents and health costs while their salaries remain stuck at entry level.

Yet the legislature says that only one teacher in four is eligible for a modest salary increase ($500) as a top teacher.

I and teachers across the state have been wearing red every Wednesday to protest the state of education in North Carolina. Many of us are taking an additional stand this week.

Teacher 'Walk-In' Monday morning, before school. Students and parents are invited to join teachers in protest in front of Riverside and other schools

We will be wearing red. We will be standing for public education.

A state that can fund a private school voucher program and a tax cut for its wealthiest citizens can find a way to pay its teachers, to make class size smaller rather than larger, to restore basic books and supplies to our schools and to provide the time and resources teachers need to do their jobs.

Steven Unruhe is a teacher at Riverside High School in Durham.