Public Comment

Commentary: Trying Times for Teachers

By Beth Trevor
Tuesday March 25, 2008

This is a challenging time for teachers, and we already have a challenging job. These possible government cuts to education would be devastating to us. 

What’s happening here for me, as a teacher with a lay-off notice, is that “teachers on special assignment” (TSAs) may be re-assigned to the classroom. 

And that isn’t good for my position, because I might be cut, but more importantly, it is bad for Berkeley’s education in general. These TSA positions that might be cut are the life blood of our teaching. They are our coaches, our counselors and our leaders. 

At my site we have a Reading Recovery teacher. Reading Recovery teachers are like the Green Beret’s of Reading Instruction. They swoop down and rescue, they pull these kids up for air and give them a chance to survive academically. 

She is a TSA, and doesn’t directly service any of my third-grade students under the Reading Recovery title. But this fall, as our literacy coach, she and I worked together to implement the (Lucy Calkins) Writer’s Workshop program. We worked together each day, we planned, and team taught. We followed that best practice, really to a T. And the outcome was not only a huge success for the students, but also for me as a teacher. Many of my students that were actually reluctant to write at the beginning of the year, scored high on the mid year writing prompt. One student, who really hated writing, even wants to take a summer camp focusing on the writing craft. That is an enormous amount of change for this student! Our lit coach’s knowledge of literacy instruction is deep and intuitive, and she handed some of that knowledge on to me. How often do we get that opportunity? Well, this year I could access her skills as much as she and I had the time for. Next year, she will may not be there for the teachers because her position might be re-designated, eliminated. 

Why would we take that extremely special talent, that resource, away form our teachers? It’s something that could make us great teachers of literacy. It baffles me. It’s ridiculous. As teachers we care so much, we go above and beyond. Our students are “our kids.” 

“What you wouldn’t do for your kids.” You hear this a lot as a parent. I am a parent. But we feel it, and hear it a lot as teachers, too. What we do for our students is amazing, and they are amazing and they deserve the best. 

As one of my literacy instructors in my masters program, Dr. Lance Gentile, used to say to us, “If not with me, then with whom?” He would say this, pounding his fist on the table. Then with whom? He was intense. But I’m kind of wondering that myself right now. 


Beth Trevor is a Berkeley teacher.