Substitute teacher speaks out about class during strike

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, February 12 2014 at 6:45 PM, Updated: Fri, February 14 2014 at 6:52 PM

Medford, Ore. -- A Medford elementary school substitute teacher is speaking out about allegations by teachers and students that there is little-to-no learning going on in Medford classrooms during the strike.

"I really did feel like that hurt my feelings. I feel that the district did a great job preparing the substitutes to work," she said.

Substitutes concerned about crossing the picket line

The substitute teacher said the only way she would talk on camera was is if her identity was concealed.

She said the caution stemmed from fear that since she crossed the picket line, teachers even outside of Medford would not call her to be their sub.

"We all have the fear that we won't work again," said the teacher.

"It's our livelihoods," she added.

Responding to allegations that kids aren't getting a quality education with substitute teachers

The substitute met allegations head-on during the interview. According to students who spoke with NBC 5 News on Tuesday, subs weren't prepared. Some kids even called class a waste of time.

"I can only say that bad stories come out very quickly and the good stories are more abundant and not really told."

The substitute, who said she's been teaching for over a decade, said from what she's seen students are learning.

The teacher defended herself and other substitutes against allegations that quality learning isn't happening in classes.

"We are definitely qualified. Many of us are highly qualified, many of us are retired teachers," she said.

However, she doesn't dispute that at this point, they're teaching a bare bones curriculum.

"I'm doing the best of my ability," she said.

According to the substitute, she's teaching the fundamentals:  reading, writing and math.

Sub says nearly 60% of her class showed up

As far as attendance goes she said, at least for her, class sizes have been reasonable. While not all the kids in her class showed up, almost 60% are there.

"There should be about 40 in my classroom ... I have 22 out of 40 (kids)" she said.

She claimed the students who have come to school are happy and comfortable.

"My job is to make them the most comfortable that I can make them and I have succeeded and I know other teachers in this school have succeeded as well," she said.

One of her concerns, how negative comments about classroom learning might affect student attendance.

"There's no reason for children to be out of school right now," she began.

"The children have to come first and the subs in all the schools are all caring for the children," she continued.

In addition, she said the life of a sub isn't an easy one. Many of them coming to Medford from out of the area.

"We're tired, we're not in our own homes ... we're away from our families," she said.

While crossing the picket line wasn't easy, said she did it for the kids.

"Someone's got to do it," she said.

"Once the children come in, you know why you're there."

Work in the classroom, not without struggles

The substitute teacher said her biggest struggle right now is not having materials like scissors, scotch tape and calendars.

Many teachers have said they buy much of their own classroom materials and were told to take all of their property with them before going on strike.

What the district is saying about substitute teachers

Dr. Phil Long, Superintendent of the Medford School District said on Tuesday that there were between 150-180 substitute teachers in the district replacing roughly 600 teachers who are currently striking. Many of the subs are taking on two classrooms of kids.

According to the district, all subs are licensed, and have passed criminal background checks as well as drug tests.

Long said the district has already started planning to keep substitutes long term if negotiations do not result in an agreement on teacher contracts. There has so far been no compromise for about a year now.

For more information:

Medford School District - http://www.medford.k12.or.us/Index.asp


Medford Education Association - http://www.iteachmedford.org/

 

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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