We started back to school in Maine this week.
My students will begin today, but the adults in my district spent almost all of yesterday in state-mandated trainings: suicide prevention in the morning, and child abuse reporting in the afternoon.
I should be careful what I wish for because, with the addition of a long mid-day staff meeting, I was out of time and had to work long after the contract day just to be ready for tomorrow. (Yes, I worked this summer, too, some of it compensated by a school improvement grant, much of it not.)
When I say I wished for those trainings, it's true. For 20+ years now I've been aware that, despite being trained to teach by an excellent post-graduate program at the University of Southern Maine, I was unprepared for the social work aspect of my job.
Yesterday afternoon we practiced looking at photographs of real homes where children were removed in order to practice providing accurate descriptions of what we witness.
Glancing at a bedroom with a shelf of children's books, a bureau with the drawers missing, and a mattress you wouldn't let your dog sleep on you might be likely to comment: drug addicts live here.
I teach in Somerset County, the largest, poorest county in Maine and the source of more child abuse referrals than any of the other 15 counties.
In 2018 Child Protective Services received nearly 50,000 calls which resulted in around 25,000 documented reports of neglect or abuse in our state.
Drug addiction, depression and other mental health conditions, obesity, suicide: these are the diseases of despair that characterize the poorest parts of our state. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are both the cause and the effect.
Our next round of professional development will be on creating trauma-sensitive classrooms and schools that support students with high ACEs. Not on how to best teach reading, writing, mathematics or geography. Not on how to engage and motivate students in learning activities.
Rather, how to make school bearable, maybe even productive, for a child suffering from PTSD.
|Lots of teachers are found on crowdsourced funding sites pleading for money to do their jobs.|
Progressive news site Maine Beacon reported yesterday that teachers in Maine spend millions of dollars out of pocket each year to provide basic supplies to students. That sometimes means paper and books, but it also can mean shoes, snow pants and snacks.
"That teachers subsidize schools should come as no surprise. In some districts, teachers are increasingly called on to serve as first responders when it comes to children's basis needs," wrote Emma García, an economist for EPI. “That generosity extends to filling the gap when schools, districts, and states don’t provide all the needed educational goods. And for teachers in high-poverty schools, filling the gap is costlier.”
Meanwhile, News Center Maine reported that General Dynamics is staffing up to build six more carbon-belching war ships at their Bath Iron Works plant. Maine needs good paying, full-benefit jobs, and BIW is the biggest employer in our state.
Tragically, the money wasted building weapons of mass destruction will hasten climate emergency and produce far fewer jobs than building, say, public transportation would produce.
Congress is still voting for the biggest Pentagon budgets ever, well over 50% of the discretionary budget each and every year.
If embedded video does not work for you, use this link: Back to School 2019 - Thank You from Maine Department of Education.
All of Maine's congressional delegation appeared in this "have a wonderful school year" video produced by our new Commissioner of Education.
Pender Makin and her communications staff no doubt thought that after eight years of teacher bashing by our former governor, an infusion of optimism and support was warranted.
Too bad those in Congress don't put their money where their smile is.
They continue to lavishly fund the Pentagon at the expense of education, Medicare for All, or conversion of the military-industrial problem. This is true whether they have R, D or I after their name.
The children in my school don't have much of a voice in government. General Dynamics with its campaign contributions and super PACs does. What's wrong with this picture?