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It’s All About Survival

Lisa Moberg Current Affairs, Education, National Board Certification, Professional Development

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I’m so excited for our Teach-In at the Capitol this Wednesday, March 28th!!  I was asked by a friend why educators are needing to protest at the Capitol. Such a simple question; shouldn’t it deserve a simple answer?  If I were a speaker at this rally, this is what my speech would be…

“Arizona teachers need to survive.  We need to survive financially, mentally, and emotionally.  We need to survive to establish and expand our healthy relationships.  We are a community, but we’ve become a community of passive aggressive defeatists.  Don’t stop and shake your head at these bold words! Think back of the water-cooler, Happy Hour conversations with your educator peers in the past decade.  How often were these discussions focused on activism? Therefore, we need to leverage the apathy to action, the aggression to passion, and the defeat to victory!  We can only successfully create this transition by standing together, becoming united through our stories of survival.

I’m sure many of you can relate to my story of survival, or rather my NEED for survival.  I was a married mom of a preschooler and toddler when we moved to Arizona in 2004, enticed by the affordable housing market and growing economy.  I had taught in Washington state, and was excited to be part of a state that was exploding. My West Valley school district was rapidly expanding, and I was lucky to be placed in a Title 1 school with a supportive principal, experienced teachers, and newly acquired  curriculum.

We were on FIRE!!  Reading First taught us about the tiers of literacy and small group instruction, the Six Traits of Writing encouraged us to apply writing rubrics to develop strong writers, and the Marzano book study about student engagement created highly performing classrooms.  I was mentored by well-trained, experienced coaches at every level: literacy, math, gifted program, and pedagogical. Although we were inundated with trainings, I look back and remind myself that I grew through them. Additionally, our school district participated in a Career Ladder program, and my rather sad-looking paycheck was bumped up by my evidence of student achievement/ growth and my extra-curricular hours.

When the recession hit, our school district took away almost everything that made it wonderful.  Teachers started bailing ship, and I wondered if I should as well. But I figured I would ride out the storm and see it to the other side.  We lost all of our coaches, along with book studies, and purposeful professional development sessions. Career Ladder was eliminated through politics.  We didn’t receive a pay increase for years, but our insurance rates increased. Classroom numbers were expanded to reflect the shrinking number of teachers.  Our substitute coverage of hours was decreased, and the professional expectations of guest teachers decreased as well. I remember coming into my classroom once to find a non-English speaking guest teacher sitting in my classroom, making the students do my weekly packet in one day.  I tried not to take time off after that day. It was not best for my students.

Despite the bleak status of our state’s education system during the recession, the Golden Years of Education made me hungry for more quality professional development.  I wanted to become a better teacher, to become someone who inspires lifelong learning in their students.  I started the journey of National Board Certification. It was the most challenging yet awarding experience of my life.  I learned the value of reflection, creating deeper relationships with students, and stretching my mindset when it came to curriculum planning.  I received my National Board Certification in Literacy and Language Arts in only one year, thanks to the support of the Arizona K-12 Center and my district’s cohort of National Board teachers.

After the dark days of the recession lifted, its remnants hurt me the most by taking away my marriage.  The fractures began with my long hours at school but not enough money to pay the bills. They grew deeper when I worked other jobs to support my teaching but still didn’t pay all the bills.  As the cracks deepened into the Grand Canyon of my failing marriage, I would put my kids to bed and quietly leave the house to spend the night in my classroom, feeling safe amongst the bulletin paper and textbooks.  We filed for our divorce the week before I received my National Board email.

The recession has been over for years, yet my monthly net pay is around $3,000.  I still have student numbers in the 30’s.  I still have a limited amount of days for substitute teaching coverage. I lost most of my National Board stipend. I lost Career Ladder. I lost quality professional coaching. I lost my marriage.

So today, on March 28th, 2018, on what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary, I need to survive.  I’m a single mom who can’t pay all the bills on my 20-year veteran teaching paycheck.

And today, on March 28th, 2018, I am proud to say I am a survivor.  I survived the recession by staying in the teaching trenches and fought for quality education.  I didn’t give up.

It’s all about survival.”

 

 

Lisa Moberg

El Mirage, AZ

Adventure is my middle name. Although I have never sought it out, it somehow finds me, especially in teaching!! These past 16 years of my teaching career have been an exciting voyage in education, stretched between two different states, three school districts, and six grade levels (Kindergarten - 5th grade). After teaching in Washington State for six years, I moved to Arizona and have taught at a Title 1 school in the West Valley for ten years.

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  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Thank you for this incredibly honest and personal statement. I am absolutely sure that it will resonate with many teachers out there. I, too, think of all that we have lost, and all that we and our students have to gain through action. It really is not a sustainable situation right now.

  • Donnie Lee

    This blog took me to a place I did not expect. My first reaction was how disappointed I was in that we have to fight for survival. Our profession should be honored and revered. We should be thriving, not worried about surviving. Then, when I read about your sacrifices, my heart broke. I am horrified that we have to choose between a career that we love and our own personal families. I think to my own failed relationships. How many times I heard, “You’re too busy and you don’t have time in your life for me.” “I am not a priority in your life.” I used to think that I could’ve been a good dad but I have resigned myself to the idea that it may never happen. I would have to work multiple jobs to support a family and never have time for them. Or I would have to struggle financially at every point. I am not sure that either option is fair to a child. Thank you for sharing this incredibly transparent blog.

  • Angelia

    Thank you so much for telling your story Lisa! This hits incredibly close to home for me! I love how you said “Therefore, we need to leverage the apathy to action, the aggression to passion, and the defeat to victory!” This is so powerful and is so timely with all that is taking place right now. Thank you for all you do and for not just surviving, but thriving!

  • Beth Maloney

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your story. We need more teachers to share our current reality. For what it’s worth, selfishly, I am so glad you’ve stuck with teaching for the influence you’ve had on my daughter and the students at our school. Your impact is felt everywhere.