In seventh grade, Mrs. Sigmon could never say my name correctly so I slid down in my seat, trying to be invisible, so she wouldn't call on me. In eighth grade I had an algebra teacher who was married to a member of a local motorcycle gang. Mrs. Lawson came to school bruised and bleeding on many days; there were rumors about her husband's abusive behavior. And although she was sweet and really tried to help me, I could only concentrate on the bruises on her hands when she'd point to my paper.
Before long sporting events and boys received more of my attention than math, and I found myself slipping in that subject area. Luckily, I was an avid reader and writer so I didn't give up on school altogether. I just gave up on anything related to numbers. As an adult, I struggle still. I can't remember a phone number from the phone book to the phone unless I repeat it...555-1234, 555-1234, 555-1234...
That's why I'm having a hard time wrapping myself around the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law by President Obama last month. Every article I read sounds like this to me: "a gazillion million dollars will go to this, but of that gazillion million, a trillion billion must be set aside for that, and two dollars will be charged to every homeowner who has a dog with a spotted tongue, but homeowners with cats that have more than eight whiskers will be paid a stipend of one dollar per whisker over the allotted eight."
Already $2 billion in the red, the state faces a $3 billion shortfall next fiscal year.
And this afternoon:
The Governor may finally be thinking about raising new revenue to address next year's $4 billion shortfall.
Here's what I'm not confused about: we are in the middle of a critical economic crisis, and of course it's affecting our schools. I'm saddened to hear stories about after-school programs ending and teacher assistants losing their jobs. But I do know this: teachers will rise above any budget shortfalls, economic downturns, or billion dollar deficits thrown at them and continue to educate our nation's children every single day until the "recovery" is here.
I sincerely believe that I can take my students outside and teach them using a blade of grass if I have to...and that's free. I've heard it over and over the past few months - "with crisis comes opportunity." I believe teachers will grasp the opportunity to educate children with the same sense of urgency we've always had. Teachers are innovative and creative, and it's going to take more than a shortfall of a gazillion million dollars to knock us down.
Most likely our students are going to need a great deal of instruction on numbers.