Evanston-Skokie School is considering reducing the number of fine arts and physical education teachers in order to cut costs, while asking the school’s current teachers to teach more classes so the amount of instructional time remains the same.
I went to several teachers to see, what, exactly, those changes would mean on the ground level. It’s not pretty.
They feel that the administration and Board of Education talk endlessly about teachers meeting student's needs through differentiated education and yet, they claim, the administration refuses to recognize that teachers deserve similar differentiation as well. They say that the Fine Arts demand more planning and preparation time—one art teacher, for example, teaches six different grade levels working in six different media at any given time. Although the Fine Arts and P.E. staff may not "clock" as many hours with students based on their schedules, those teachers say they support students daily in multiple ways that do not show up on their schedules.
As someone who has taught elementary education in the public school system, I can vouch for the fact that it's not a career for the faint of heart (thus, I am now a writer).
An art teacher in the district describes her workday this way:
…I am working in 6 different media activities, one for each grade level with class sizes averaging 25-28 students, in a single day. In order to maintain the depth and variety of art experiences I am now able to, preparation time to prepare materials and set-up logistics for each class is essential.
My concern is that our students will be short-changed by the suggested schedule changes in the Fine Arts. The arts integration of classroom and Visual Art activities that are presently part of our student's experiences learning across the curriculum would, by necessity, be curtailed. In general, the Visual Art learning experiences for our students would be very different without both the preparation time and time for the many special arts activities that enrich our student's daily lives. I would be very sorry to see our school arts and cultural learning be reduced by these schedule changes and I believe our parents would also feel that their children are being denied many wonderful learning opportunities.
Another fine arts teacher explains all they do outside of the classroom:
We are the only consistent support that all of our students have because we are there for them every day and every year as students change from one classroom teacher to another as they move to the next grade level. We counsel students, work with families, meet with classroom teachers and special education staff when we see (in our week in and week out time with students) kids that need extra attention and support. We are part of the community and will no longer be able to function this way if we have 7 classes back-to-back without planning/preparation time (for Visual Art and Music) or if the PE teachers teach 14 classes per day and then each of us has to travel to another building one day a week--- there will be no common planning time for classroom teachers, no time for collaboration between the Fine Arts and classroom teachers, no time for musical presentations (when would music teachers and student rehearse??), no time to create exhibits of student art work, no ART CLUB (teaching 7 art or music classes -- 14 PE classes--in a day is exhausting!).
This is not what we want--we LOVE doing what we do and having the time to give our students the best experiential education opportunities! We are not complaining about the time we spend-- we do it because we LOVE doing it... we want to continue and not be marginalized. ART, MUSIC and PE will not be the same if the proposed schedule changes occur.
A physical education teacher said the cuts would directly impact her ability to do her job. In a letter to parents, she wrote:
Because the district is increasing the workload of PE teachers I will no longer be at [my home school] full time. I will be traveling to another school next year. It will be strange to leave [this school] before the end of the day. The district has decided that to be full time at [one] school, an elementary PE teacher must teach fourteen classes a day instead of twelve. I think that is unreasonable. While teaching twelve classes [daily], I have had the time to also be involved in may other school activities during and outside of school. I do not think I can do as good a job as I want to, if I have to teach fourteen classes a day everyday. I am not sure I can maintain my energy level and patience teaching that many classes back to back, groups of children in an out of the gym every twenty minutes, without time to prepare for six different grade levels. I think the district is making PE teachers take on extra classes so they can save money by hiring less PE teachers. Despite what you may have heard, I assure you this was not initiated by teachers or our union. I believe this will affect the quality of teaching and negatively affect the PE curriculum, which is not in the best interest of the children…