My Livelihood is ‘Political Theater’

I have twenty-eight students with one to two essays due EACH WEEK in my new University of Phoenix class, my second job that pays $225/week on the occasional basis that I am granted a class.

I haven’t taught this particular class in over two years, so of course, they’ve changed the entire syllabus, I have to read two different textbooks, and I need to update all my rubrics. Also, all of the online discussion questions have changed, so I will need to respond to thirty different questions with a new set of thirty 200-300-word responses.

Part of the reason I keep this job is that it’s online, and I can squeeze it into (every possible free moment of) my day.

Another reason I have kept it, at the moment, is to fund the $2000+ I’m paying, in addition to doing hundreds of hours of work, to try to obtain my National Board Certification, which is the only possible way to get a raise at this point in my career without investing thousands of dollars and hours in another degree (I am MA+30).

The disheartening reality of what every teacher I know does to survive, every teacher who isn’t lucky enough to marry rich, or at the very least marry someone with guaranteed job opportunities and a forever-steady income, is that we must jump through every hoop imaginable to make ends meet.

We teach summer school. We do home visits. We spend our own money on advanced degrees and credits with the hope of improving our instruction and earning mediocre raises.

This is on top of the fifty or more hours a week we spend planning lessons, grading papers, counseling students in trauma at lunch and after school, attending meetings, sports events, professional development, and student recruitment events (because we have to sell our schools now).

So when my state, my “blue” but really purple (perhaps leaning red) state, calls us actors on a “political theater” stage, I am at my wit’s end:

“Criticizing the most recent teacher pay bargaining session as ‘political theater,’ the head of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment urged the Denver school district and its teachers union Monday to work harder to find common ground — even as he expressed skepticism that the two sides would reach a deal” (Chalkbeat).

Was it theatrical that we gave up the tenth evening in as many weeknights to wait for our district to come to the table with an actual proposal rather than a cost-of-living increase already in the budget?

Was it theatrical that young children stood behind the fraudulent superintendent with signs begging her not to deport our teachers after the HR department more or less threatened their right to work?

Was it theatrical that we have negotiated for fifteen months, yes over “philosophy disagreements” because the PHILOSOPHY OF OUR DISTRICT IS TO SHUT DOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, TAKE OPPORTUNITIES AWAY FROM STUDENTS OF COLOR, AND GENTRIFY EVERYTHING FROM NEIGHBORHOODS TO CURRICULUM?

And. Just. Like. That.

All the hours. All the years. All the goddamn blood, sweat, and tears have been put on stage for the world to see, chart-paper and all, chants in the background, livelihoods on the line.

For political theater of the worst show you will ever wish you didn’t buy a ticket to see.