There is only a little over 17 miles between my house and the location where our church is meeting, a school in the community that our pastor was called to serve and plant a church. You wouldn’t think that less than 20 miles would mean such huge differences. But it definitely does.
Where I live, there is a schedule of school repairs, maintenance, and new buildings. There is a rotation of painting the schools, putting in new lockers, making significant building repairs (though currently some would argue about this point…but that’s a different matter), cleaning and/or replacing tile/carpet/flooring, etc. The school that our church is meeting in hadn’t had any interior painting in at least ten years! There are lots of small repairs to be made, in addition to bigger issues of replacing old flooring, etc. There are issues like one of the faucets in a girls bathroom continuously running, or a one-stall bathroom near the front entrance of the school having no light, no lock on the door and holes in the wall behind the toilet.
The school I formerly taught in (in the same district as where I live), while it did not have many windows to the outdoors, save for in the science wing addition that was completed while I was a teacher there, is bright and has wide hallways, inviting spaces and classrooms, a well stocked and used library (we were consistently at the top of the district’s list for number of books checked out and number of students checking out books) with a library/media specialist on staff (this is true of every school…elementary, middle, and high)…Where our church is meeting, the school had no librarian on staff until this year (what?!?), has almost no windows to the outdoors, and is very dark with narrow hallways. I have not seen classrooms other than over the summer when everything was pulled off the walls and packed away so I can’t speak to how the teachers make them inviting spaces for learning during the school year. And this school seems to be one of the better schools for the district (different than where I live).
Think about this school as a learning environment and as a workplace. How does working in an environment such as this help you to do your job well? And this doesn’t take into account the other stresses that come with being a teacher. This district claims that they spend the most per pupil of any district in the state. And on paper, that is true. But where is the actual money going? Based on evidence at this school, it is not going to paying for repairs and facility maintenance, it is not going to the salaries of teachers and other school level staff, it isn’t paying for each and every school to have a school librarian or a usable library where students can actually check out books, it isn’t paying for new textbooks or other resources for teachers and students to use in the classroom. In this kind of workplace with this lack of support from your district level staff and higher ups, what would make you want to spend any additional time there or doing your best and most effective work? While teachers get into teaching to help their students and have the best of intentions when starting out, you can pour out into others, even your students, only so much before you need someone else to pour into you. And it appears that even the administration can’t pour into the teachers because the administrators are just as defeated as the rest of the staff.
Is it all bad at this school where my church is meeting? No. There are definitely positive things happening at this school. Here’s a start:
(1) They have a librarian this year whom we have helped by organizing the fiction books by author’s last name and type of book (picture books for younger students on the bottom of shelves with chapter type books on the higher shelves), so now the children can check out books to read at home or use for school projects.
(2) They have started a PTO this year with several parents getting involved and serving as president, vice president, and secretary.
(3) They have had several events to get the community, parents, and students involved such as an Open House event before school started, Back to School Night, a fall Trunk or Treat event, and events for each day of American Education Week.
(4) Many hard-working teachers that do their best with limited resources and time to teach the children in their classes.
(5) A committed community member that serves every day during the three lunch shifts in the cafeteria as the lunch monitor and runs an after school program.
And I’m sure there are other things that I haven’t included in this list…
But here’s the thing…there is MUCH work to be done here in this community that we are serving. To be sure – there are needs in the community in which I live. BUT, it appears that by addressing the needs at this school less than 20 miles away, we will have a more significant impact on the teachers, students, parents, and community there. And let’s be clear…we are not doing this to receive a pat on the back or a thank you, though those are nice to receive. We are doing this for the kingdom impact it will make…maybe not tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year…but as we help pour into the staff, the staff can pour more into their students…a domino effect so to speak.