A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another brick in the wall, and a leak in the ceiling...

Over at NCLBlog they issue a challenge regarding the state of facilities for our schoolchildren. And I am willing to do my small bit.

Here is the Land Between the Coasts, we often see the many problems with facilities. In my suburban school district, we see the following:
1. They put flat roofs on buildings in areas that get a goodly amount of snow and rain, then wonder why the roof leaks. Idiocy. It may have been cheaper in the beginning, but I guarantee it has cost more in upkeep over the years to repair the leaks. I once had a room that leaked so badly I had to cover my computer with a tarp when I went home at night. It leaked so badly that we had an actual waterfall flowing down the wall. It leaked so badly that one of the ceiling tiles completely disintegrated overnight, and walked in in the morning to find a sodden pile of pulp and rivulets of water extending all the way to the wall. It took 8 years to get it fixed. I have only had to teach without buckets dotting the floor for two years now.

2. During asbestos abatement, they kept us in the building, which could have been fine. But when the ceiling tile mentioned above disintegrated, it exposed a sign in the ceiling warning of the presence of asbestos. The assistant principal told me that I would only be exposed to a small amount of asbestos and should ignore the sign. Instead, I buttonholed the superintendent the next day at district HQ. It still took a week to get the holw covered.

3. The mold and mildew problem in this building was so bad that one staff member had to have polyps removed from her sinuses. I was placed on three different inhalers after never needing an inhaler before in my life.

4. Mice travel along the dedicated cables for the electrical infrastrure connecting the rooms-- the holes for the cables were too big, and they never re-spackled to seal the holes shut. Now that it is wintertime, I know I will be called on by numerous screaming staff members to catch the mice that invade their rooms, since I believe sticky traps are horrifyingly cruel and am pretty good at catching them.

5. It took me two years to get a maintenance person to fix the window I had with the broken latch. I have previously regaled you with that little tale.

What does it say to our students to spend the day in crumbling facilities? It says that this is is not a serious place for learning. It says that kids are expected to put up with substandard facilities and that they don't matter. Not to mention the fact that this type of environemnt is extremely unhealthy for them. And what does it do to us, the staff? Allergies, asthma attacks, sinus polyps, headaches-- and even worse, time off from work!

Our schools should be clean and safe, inside and out. The AFT has announced a new campaign, entitled "Building Minds, Minding Buildings," and you can find the report and an outline of the program here. If this country can help a major metropolitan area recover from a devastating hurricane-- no wait, scratch that-- if we can help Western Europe recover from the devastation of World War II, we need to be willing to direct just as much effort toward showing that children and education are really part of those vaunted family value everyone likes to talk about so much.


At 12/4/06, 8:52 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

And I do not have asthma, nor have I ever had it. However, I have an eye condition, so I cannot take any medications that elevate the interocular pressure.

Yes, it makes me pretty mad. It's also quite expensive, what with all the copays.

At 12/4/06, 10:56 PM, Blogger La Maestra said...

I started to type out a long response to this, but it made me want to scream in frustration, so I gave up and erased everything I had. I just wanted to say that I really feel your pain--I just had a forced classroom move due to campus renovations, and the whole thing was one huge charlie foxtrot from start to finish. I've also had similar maintenence issues (broken windows, desks, etc.)

Such bullshit, it really is. They expect us to do our jobs, they need to give us a suitable working environment in which to do our work.

At 12/4/06, 11:00 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Ahhh, go ahead-- give us the long version! It will help!

At 12/5/06, 8:55 AM, Blogger MommyProf said...

Our suburb is really blessed with most facilites being less than 10 years old. This is because we are really blessed with voters who see the value in education, even if they are senior citizens and their kids are long gone from public schools. We're a smaller community and the high school kids do a ton of public service, which I think helps give the schools visibility.

But the building I teach in at PrettyGood has a lot of the issues you bring up. I remember when a computer lab flooded (AGAIN), going and putting up signs telling students to not enter because it was an electrocution hazard, what with the power cords sitting partially submerged, etc...

At 12/5/06, 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My classroom, My school:

I have four different styles of student desks.

For my teachers desk, I have a salvaged desk that I retrieved from our on campus location for junk heading for the wherehouse and obscurity/junk auction.

I cannot control the temperature in my classroom. To ask for the temperature to be changed, I have to call our school secretaries, who then call someone at the district office, who then calls or e-mails someone far awag at Johnson Controls to play with their computer that controls my classroom temperatures

My room has carpet, stained, hard, industrial-type, strange colored carpet. Chunks are missing, there are stains from where a student threw up on it, from the summer school classes spilling/getting God/Jehovah/Allah/Buddha/the Great Spirit knows what on it.

We have one, tiny large closet for a teachers lounge/staff lunch room. Some staff eat in the work room, which has no restroom facility or running water.

In said lounge, there are coffee mugs in the cabinet left there by teachers who retired over ten years ago.....

However, On a positive note, my room is vacumned at least three to four times per week, the waste paper baskets emptied, and in almost 20 years at this school, (in the desert), my air conditioner has always functioned. I may not be able to set the temperature as I'd prefer it, but the thing has yet to die on me.

Just a few of the things about my school.

At 12/6/06, 9:26 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

My school is 101 years old. I was lucky not to have been there during the construction year- I guess it was pure hell, but it's great now. We have an "energy Nazi" who is head of Operations, however, and he has forbade us to open windows once the heat is turned on- even when it's nursing home hot in some of the classrooms. Other classrooms have frost on the windows and it's like 56 degrees in there.
The flat roof thing? Idiotic. Your district should have to pay for those inhalers.

At 12/9/06, 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More grist:

A colleague of mine had a leak in his classroom roof. His ceiling tiles were turning a most excremental shade of brown. My colleague called the principal, who called the custodian, who said he'd fix it. The roof stopped leaking for about two years, but during the third year sudden, torrential rains came. The same exact space began leaking, but this time it came pouring down.

The custodian's "fix" had been to place a coffee can under the leak.

I wish this were an isolated incident!


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