Shit. Two weeks until the first day.
I've been in the classroom every day this week so far. Only a few other teachers have been in - mostly the primary grade teachers. We have more stuff to organize, I guess, what with all the center materials and manipulatives and toys. The rest of the teachers will be in next week. I'm kinda glad I'm getting the bulk of my work done this week. Next week I'll be tempted to socialize with everyone that I haven't seen since June, and then nothing will get accomplished!
I chatted briefly with Mrs. S. (Pre-K) today, and we were contemplating the fate of our school. She only has 9 kids registered for her class so far. There are 16 registered for K, and still only 14 on my list. By way of comparison, my classroom totals since I've been teaching here are as follows: 31, 27, 34, 24, 19... and this year, I might not have more than 16 or 17. So you can see the downward trend in the numbers. Every day I hear about another family that has transferred to another school or moved. Usually they transfer to public schools because they can't afford our ever-rising tuition... which needs to be raised every year to compensate for all the students we lose. It's a Catch-22. We also lose a few kids each year to the charter schools that keep springing up on every corner. For some reason, parents are drawn to these schools. I'm not sure what the allure is. It's likely the tuition-free education, and the fact that parents view it as the "better" alternative to our public schools. (Having only spent one year teaching in a charter school, I can't personally comment on the educational quality of all charter schools.) Often, there are such long waiting lists for the charter schools that kids who hoped to transfer there wind up back in our school for another year or two. And just as often, we get kids who transfer back into our school after spending a few years in a charter school and discovering that they don't necessarily offer a better education.
The whole situation is a little bit scary. People keep asking if our school is in danger of closing. If it is, I haven't heard about it yet. But honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if in another few years, we'll be merged with another school, or closed altogether. I'm not particularly worried about losing a job. I plan to leave eventually anyway, so it wouldn't be the end of the world. One of the reasons I'm getting my masters is so I can someday move to a better paying job, either as a classroom teacher or as a reading specialist. Once I finish school and get my reading specialist certificate, it shouldn't be hard to find a position. My friends keep asking if I'm leaving after this year, since I'll be done grad school in December. I haven't decided yet. I know I'm not getting paid nearly enough for the amount of work that I do. I'll never be able to move out of my parents' house on a Catholic school salary. But the thought of leaving my little Catholic school makes me very sad. It's become a second home to me, and the staff and students have become my extended family.
And thinking even more long-term, I worry about what will happen to Catholic schools in the future. I went to Catholic school my whole life (from grade school to college, including grad school), and I had hoped that my own children would be able to receive a Catholic school education as well. However, the way things have been going in Philadelphia, more and more Catholic schools are being closed due to low enrollment and low funds. Don't get me wrong. I'm not entirely opposed to working in a public school, nor do I believe that there's anything wrong with a public school education. It just makes me sad to think that in 20 years, Catholic schools could be a thing of the past.
One things I do know is that schools that are in danger of being closed or merged go under review for two years first. So we'd have at least that much notice before anything happened. Right now we're not in that situation. I can breathe easy for this year, at least... and then after that, I'll decide what career path I want to take.