Individual Attention

By Tom Gevurtz, Third Grade Teacher from Portland, OR

My name is Tom and I am a third-grade teacher in East Portland. I have been teaching for 23 years and have spent the last eight years at a K-8 school. When I started here, around 50 percent of the students qualified for free and reduced lunch. Now we are up to approximately 90 percent! This means the academic and social needs have shifted dramatically as some students aren’t eating enough at home and others are just stressed in general.

“At the end of the day there is only one of me in a classroom, and the amount of individual attention that I can give never feels like enough.”

It has become particularly difficult to support them as class sizes have swelled in the years following the recession, and at the same time we have lost vital services such as counselors. The result is that students develop behavioral or academic problems, and it becomes very hard for teachers to maintain control without extra support. This hurts all students in the classroom by causing interruptions in learning, but it also hurts students at the top of the class that are sometimes stuck waiting to move on to their next lesson. At the end of the day there is only one of me in a classroom, and the amount of individual attention that I can give never feels like enough. This causes a lot of stress, and I believe to be a major factor in the high turnover in the profession right now.

A few years ago we were in rough shape, so our principal worked with the district to get some extra resources for our school. We were able to add an additional counselor, develop a technology program, bring back PE and art, and hire more teachers. It was incredible! Some students were excited by the new curriculum, others finally received the emotional and social support that they desperately needed, and everyone bene ted from smaller class sizes. The results were undeniable, and it began to take some of the stress off the educators — things felt like they were improving.

However, we recently received word of what we will lose next year, and it doesn’t look good. We are again losing one of our counselors and that alone will be devastating, but we’re also scaling back our art program, and one of our special education teachers is getting bumped to half time. I am fearful for what will happen if these cuts go through and desperately hope we can find a solution. Please don’t cut our school budget.

Tom Gevurtz is a Third Grade Teacher in Portland, OR. #OReducatorvoices

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