On March 2nd, “CBS This Morning” took their national audience inside the Arizona classroom. The banner underneath had a very powerful statement, “Sacrificing for Students.” This was an interesting Twitter post for me, as I was reading it while sitting at a table in an armed compound in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti.
As an Arizona educator, I feel the consequences of a lower-than-average income. I work at another job at a church to supplement my measly teacher salary that doesn’t cover all the bills. This trip to Haiti had two purposes for me: provide Biblical training for teachers and pastors, but to also experience a school outside of the United States. I was able to receive donations for materials to give to the school: electronic keyboards, lacing for bracelets, pencils, and crayons.
When I visualized the school during my preparations in the United States, I figured it would be in a building without air conditioning and few perks. After unpacking at our compound, which is guarded by walls lined with razor wire and armed private military personnel, we left for the school. Getting there involved sitting in the back of a pickup and holding on for dear life. There were six-feet deep ditches *full* of trash alongside the roads for miles. When we passed fields, they were growing weeds, goats, and… trash. After navigating through muddy ponds and head-on construction traffic along the windy roads, we arrived at the school.
The school was constructed out of crumbling cinder blocks, with the rubble from the earthquake and hurricanes piled in the corners. The tin roof was angled from the walls to promote air flow and protect the children from the consistent rain. Students were grouped by age, starting at preschool through 5th grade. These happy little ones sat on wooden benches, singing, laughing, and conversing. You could hear their productive chatter down the road! They sat in rooms that are the size of an American school bathroom, with no windows or electricity. Some of the classrooms were missing the southern wall, and the temperature was already in the 90’s when we arrived. It was common to see sweat trickling down the children’s faces as they solved math equations on their chalkboard (made out of plywood) and learned about botany from a workbook.
Drinking water? No.
Sports Equipment? No.
Let’s talk about the Haitian teachers. Their pay consists of the bare minimum provided by a pastor’s fund-raising. These quiet, observant young men and women have a somber look of determination and dedication as they work with the children. They stay with these children all day in a very tiny, uncomfortable classroom with no materials, no resources, and no accommodations. Because of the limited size of the classroom, the teacher sits on a metal folding chair for most of the day. There are chalkboards and workbooks to provide visual aids, but that’s it. I did observe them working in small groups to support the students who didn’t understand the lesson. There were no complaints about the heat and lack of water and electricity. They feel it’s their calling to educate this generation of Haitians, who were just babies when the island fell apart. The teachers are passionate that these children will have opportunities to succeed in life after they leave school, and provide training in different trades in case education won’t be a viable option after elementary school.
Why am I sharing about Haiti and how does this relate to the “CBS This Morning” story? Just to remind us that we do have it really, really good. Our buildings have structurally- sound walls. We have electricity, especially air conditioning in Arizona!! Our students have technology, free meals, and drinking water. There’s flexible seating, manipulatives, white boards. Bathrooms are available to all! All children have an opportunity to receive a free education with flexible transportation.
So… “Sacrificing for Students?” Yes, we (Arizona educators) sacrifice our American comforts and extra time for our Arizona students. Yes, that’s a sacrifice, and YES, we should fight for teacher equality in all aspects. But as we raise our voices and shout for equality, let’s also compare our perspective with the global education system. They know the true meaning of sacrificing for students. We need to be grateful for our democracy, our comforts, and our freedom.
It could be a lot worse.