What do you say when sixty-two teachers lose their jobs? How do you process the idea that sixty-two families must reevaluate their livelihoods? What do you do when you get emails to give course evaluations when all but one of the five teachers you had this semester has been let go? How can you celebrate the milestone of finishing a degree when the school that gave you your diploma has decided to get rid of the degree you just earned? When are you able to walk through the halls of your alma mater without experiencing a tremendous amount of pain for what has been lost? There’s no easy answer to any of these questions. For some of them, there never may be one.
The photo above represents sixty-two faculty members at my school who were recently let go due to drastic budget cuts. Whole departments have been wiped out, one of them being the theatre department, and still more people will continue to lose their jobs on top of these sixty-two. It’s easy to see human beings as a tally mark; just another number. But oh, there is so much that goes into that tally mark.
You sometimes think your teachers aren’t real people; they just live at the school, right? However, teachers have hopes, dreams, fears, families and responsibilities that don’t involve their classroom. As I drew out each tally for this blog banner picture, I wept. The weight of seeing how many lives have to be restarted makes every little issue I’ve had in the past month seem petty. In the end though, these lives boiled down to numbers. When you simply don’t have the means to make ends meet, something has to be let go.
I understand that my school isn’t the only school dealing with this. Many schools across the country are having to make impossible decisions about funding that isn’t there. It doesn’t lessen the tragedy though. There have been times where I’ve scrolled through Facebook and saw posts about schools that were trying desperately to save certain programs. I just never thought it would be my school dealing with it.
There’s nothing I can write that could help this situation. For the past two weeks, I’ve tried to come up with something, anything…but there are no words that haven’t already been said. It’s sad. It’s infuriating. It’s unfair. It’s Teacher Appreciation week and all I want is to be able to help fix this mess…but there is nothing I can do but tell them thank you.
There aren’t enough words to express how much my teachers have done for me. It takes a special kind of soul to be willing to dedicate their life to teaching the next generation. To the educators at my university and every other teacher who is in this same crappy boat: thank you. Thank you for showing up for your students. Thank you for pouring your lives out for us. Thank you for the lessons in and outside the classroom. Thank you for being there. And to every student whose favorite teacher has lost their job: reach out. Remind them of the good they did in your life. Your teachers deserve the encouragement.
I am ready for this next chapter of life because of every teacher I have ever had, but especially those that I had in undergrad. Thank you all: without you, I wouldn’t be standing where I am today. As you begin your new chapters, I pray that your former students pour out as much love to you as you did for us.
Until Next Time,