It’s For The Kids

It’s for the kids

By Joanna Krop

“Teaching is becoming expensive for teachers when there’s no budget” read my Facebook friend’s wall post. He was buying an adaptor cable to show YouTube clips from his I-pod on a TV. I thought that’s great—it’s cheaper than DVDs and you have it for your own use too. But then someone posted that they were contemplating buying a video projector because the school couldn’t afford one.

Since I like to have money to do things, such as pay my bills, I flung myself into this debate. I posted: “I’d never spend so much for school unless I was being directly compensated. It’s time districts/ ministries started valuing the work we do rather than assume we are going to make up for the inadequacies of a system that undervalues its teachers not to mention students.”

People online didn’t like that.

To paraphrase the next five posts: We shouldn’t need to pay out-of-pocket but we do it because it’s good for the kids. If you don’t get what you think is needed, students suffer because you can’t do the best possible job. Unfortunately, it’s part of the job, but teachers who spend on their classroom take pride in having quality materials for students.

I doubt you’d find a doctor bringing in her own personal supply of gauze, disinfectant, and syringes for a shift in the emergency ward, in addition to the defibrillator she bought yesterday because the hospital didn’t have enough. How is it any less ridiculous when teachers do it?

It’s for the kids. I’ve said it before. I’m sure you have too. We’re not heartless—we’re teachers! But before we wax sentimental about why we went into teaching, let’s ask a critical question. When we say—it’s for the kids—which kids are we talking about?

Is it the kids of the teacher who has the economic and social positioning to be able to essentially donate money for the students? What about the kids of the teacher who can’t? Are we saying that such a teacher doesn’t take pride in having quality materials for their students? That the students should settle for an inadequately funded classroom? Even if teachers can afford it—should they?

While we are fortunate to have autonomy in our classrooms they are not “our” classrooms. The classroom and teacher are embedded within a larger system tied to social, political, and economic realities. That system has a mandate—to educate the future of the province. It is not like donating your time or money to a non-profit that does good works with kids. The ministry is not a charity. When we take it upon ourselves to make up for the inadequacies of the system, we enable it to get away with not fulfilling its mandate.

Back in the Facebook debate I posted again: “I’m all for what’s good for the kids so long as it’s not to the detriment of the teacher. Principled political action through your union, your vote, or letters to your MLA is, to me, preferable to taking this on with your wallet.”

The refrain, “It’s for the kids,” needs to expand beyond the limited scope of the 30 kids in our class to the thousands of kids in our districts and the collection of districts across the province. The responsibility of funding education rests with the province, not with the teacher. If anything should be “for the kids,” it’s a strong, well-funded education. They deserve it.

Joanna Krop, Queensborough Middle School, New Westminster. Joanna also has a blog on wellness for teachers: