After a frustrating, water-logged day in her classroom, middle school science teacher Ms. Frizzle makes a valid point about a perennial frustration at all too many schools.

So, we have two broken radiators, one fixed radiator plus fumes, broken outlets in several classrooms, and disappearing copies. And might I add that no matter what they do, in four years of teaching at this school, I have NEVER ONCE taught in a classroom that was a comfortable temperature during winter months?! Never. I have thermometers posted on the walls - for science - and I have seen classrooms hit 98 degrees and classrooms in the low 60s.
How can anyone expect excellence of teachers and students when we work under conditions like these??? What kind of respect does this show for the kids? For the teachers? Do YOU wade through inches of water just to get to your desk every morning? And if your workplace radiator DID break, do you think they'd ignore the problem for days???
It's not the money: it's the working conditions.


We are living in old dilapidated buildings that do not stimulate learning. Our infrastructure is outdated and it does not support the kind of technology that we need. We failed to anticipate that schools too suffer the ravage of time and that maintenance, restoration, renovation are key to keeping a clean and safe environment within school buildings. We have failed to provide campus areas that allow students to stretch, walk and play. We say we want our children to be well nurished and maintain appropiate weight but we do not have school environments that promote movement and less structured classroom space.
If schools were treated as corporate buildings and sanctions were placed on poorly maintained structures as we do with corrupt landlords, we would probably see more action taken to remediate the problems. However, urban or inner city districts often times let "landlords" and superintendents get away with the corruption because the "landlords' are "state lords" that have no interest in keeping teachers and students stress free and content in their work space. We criticize sweat shops and Ghetto landlord tactics yet we accept the same kind of dishonesty and corruption to take over our schools.
Teachers have it easy as they say. However, many teachers have to clean their own spaces and are actually held accountable for the maintenance of the the classroom. They are expected to report and fill out work orders to get things fixed. Is not their job to teach and maintain student achievement?

One of the problems is that some districts set ridiculous ratios when they distribute their maintenace staff. For example, a small school with an enrollment of 500 students would have assigned to it one day custodian and one niht custodian. A comparable sized building with 450 students may only be assigned one custodian. If both building are 25,000 square feet should they be maintained and cleaned the same way. The same goes for nurses. We expect one nurse to service potentially 700 students during the course of the school day.

Perennial frustration is an understatement. It is no wonder that many students drop-out or would rather be somewhere else and cut classes. I cannot understand why they would not want to be sitting in classrooms where mice race across the classroom with the speed of lightening, where toilet seats are cracked, missing or plain dirty. Why would anyone want to swim across the parking to get to one's gym class?

I have heard many educators complain about these horrors and others. Why are we not making these complaints part of our bargaining agreements. Modern society need modern school buildings that invite children to learn. Build them and children will come and will want to stay.

I want to start a grassroots movement to rebuild schools similarly to what former President Jimmy Carter does through Habitats for Humanity. How about Habitats for Learning, Safe Havens for Kids or Safe Learning Corridors. Every school building in America should exemplify how much we say we value children and education. Schools should be our pedagogical shrines and community members should pride themselves in maintaining "Highly Qualified Spaces" for children to learn. We want the world to know that we are about equality, and democracy. Let us begin by rebuilding our schools and reinforcing the idea that our children are our most valuable resource.

I would guess that meritorious teachers are already spending close to that $5,000 on their classrooms and students yearly. In 25 years, I, and most of my colleagues, have acted as social and financial support systems for kids. We buy supplies for them, feed them, take them home, and then find community resources for them when our own resources are inadequate. We do teach because we love our vocation, including our students, and because we do, we spend out of our own pockets.
However, who in private industry would recommend that bonuses or merit pay be spent on the company? Why must teachers be subjected to a different standard than other workers? Teachers have to pay bills too and they even have biological children whom they want to send to college.

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