Hollowed Out Structures

By Steve Tedrick, Social Studies teacher from Junction City, OR

I’m entering my 16th year of teaching. I teach seventh grade Social Studies in Junction City. In my classes, in addition to history, we focus on economics, politics, geography, and sociology. We also work on problem solving, independent thinking, and civic responsibility.

In Junction City, we used to have programs and staffing levels that helped students engage in learning and be successful, but budget cuts have decimated them. At this point, the programs that our district provides are hollowed out structures compared to what they should be to effectively meet the needs of students. There’s still a structure in place for thinking about curriculum and content areas, for special education, or English language learners, but we have such low staffing and such high class sizes, that the system is overburdened. We see kids in our classrooms but don’t really have the time to connect with them in a meaningful way. We don’t have the resources in our building to really make sure we are spending the quality time we need with each of our students and all of the different groups of learners.

“We want to be able to support our kids to be the best they can be.”

We are a small school district in Junction City, and it has been extremely challenging to hold onto both extracurricular activities and electives. We are missing a lot of activities, and we have seen electives eliminated over the years that contribute to overall student engagement. We do not have a fully resourced art program, and do not have a home economics class or culinary program. Our metal and wood working programs were cut, and we no longer offer language courses to students at the middle school level. We have a band program, but not a choir program. Essentially, we are missing the kind of comprehensive program that grabs all of the students who go to school here. This really affects our ability to be successful as educators.

Our students will be more successful when they are involved in a fully funded and well resourced school system, a system that provides a rich and diverse set of programs, fully staffed with educators who can prepare kids for the economy of tomorrow. This means we need to have a conversation about revenue, and we need our business community and our legislature to collaborate to find solutions. We want to be able to support our kids to be the best they can be.

Steve Tedrick is a Middle School Social Studies teacher in Junction City, OR. #OREducatorVoices

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