Voices in Education: Getting the Classroom Ready Under Threat of Strike

Published on: December 29, 2013

minnery1Editor's Note: Just after midnight on Sunday, with the help of a mediator, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) reached tentative agreement on a new contract. The contract will be voted on at an SEA general meeting Tuesday afternoon, the day before the first day of school. Over the past week, ParentMap has spoken with several teachers who were picketing in support of a fair contract one day, and getting their classrooms ready the next. Here's what one of them had to say.

At Adams Elementary School, in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, first grade teacher Adrienne Minnery is busy setting up her Adams classroom for the ninth year in a row. She has been teaching for 12 years total and holds a Masters in Education.

With bulletin boards to be placed and new alphabet cards to be made, each year Minnery spends more hours than she can count during the last 10 days of summer, preparing for school. Setting up a classroom is a lot more than picking out the right combination of motivational posters and alphabet rugs. When setting up a classroom, Minnery explains, you are really setting up how you want the year to be.

But this year is different. Although Minnery’s face lights up while she talks about school and her plans for the year, making her the sort of enthusiastic teacher any student would be lucky to have, the excitement of setting up the classroom has been dampened slightly by the looming possibility that the first day of school might not happen.

With teachers considering whether they should take tothe picket line, in part over the debate around using test scores to help evaluate teacher performance, and with contractnegotiations still in progress, the situation is tense and uncertain.

minnery3“I love school supplies and new things,” Minnery said. “But [preparing the classroom] is also stressful with this air of uncertainty."

Despite not knowing for sure when school will start, Minnery’s classroom looks organized and welcoming. From the collaborative classroom rules posted near the doorway, to the wooden bookcases her husband built, the room is full of the personal touches of a teacher who puts her heart and soul into her work.

For much of the summer, Minnery and her colleagues were preparing for the new Common Core standards, set to be implemented in Washington state classrooms this year. Minnery is excited to develop curriculum for the new standards, something she says is “a real utilization of my skills.”

Meanwhile, stuck in bargaining limbo, sheadmits to waking up in the middle of the night feeling worried.

“I can only control what I can control, so I have to move on," she says, explaining why, after getting only a few hours of sleep, she still woke up early and came to school.

Amid stacks of poster board to be clipped and colored pencils to be distributed, Minnery and her colleagues continue to prep their classrooms, as if this were any normal year, hoping that a strike will be averted.




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