From a public Facebook post by teacher Brian Gallagher:
On Monday, I resigned from teaching in the School District of Philadelphia.
Last night, I testified to the school board about some of the reasons why. 3 minutes is not enough time to really share my experiences. Extended cut might be coming soon…
“Good evening. My name is Brian Gallagher, and I joined the District as a teacher at McDaniel Elementary 3 years ago.
During my first year, my district coach nominated me to be featured on the District website’s “Inspiration Corner.” I helped facilitate the Writer’s Matter program for my students, even helping one win an award. I ran for, and won, our school’s election for Building Rep. When the district did walkthroughs, my principal consistently told me that I was the quote, “Shining Star.” When deciding if I would come back this year, she joked that she wouldn’t be a good reference for me because she wanted me to stay.
I don’t say any of this to brag but to show that I have been committed, dedicated and respected. I also say this because this week, I handed in my resignation.
During my first two years at McDaniel, I have witnessed some terrible and tragic things – countless staff leaving, violence between students, towards staff, and from outside adults attacking students.
All of this, and I still decided to come back because I wanted to be part of helping to change the culture of the school. The staff who returned this year were strong and incredibly dedicated. Every adult in that building cares immensely for the wellbeing of our students.
But the situation only got worse this year.
During my first two years, I taught 3 very small sections. While still difficult, the smaller classes at least made my room more manageable.
So what did we do entering this year? We tried to save a couple dollars by closing the primary building and condensing all grades K-8 into one building.
For over a month (beyond the leveling deadline), I had upwards of 40 students in my 8th grade class – a class who last year was in three sections, and totally out of control.
Again, I continued to witness more mayhem and violence.
When I consistently brought my concerns to our principal and to plead for more help I was told things like quote “no one is coming to save us” and “no help is coming.” I was told to hold them for lunch or after school detention – essentially the solution was to rely on free labor and to stretch us even thinner.
I was losing my mind. I was having panic attacks daily, perpetually angry, and severely depressed. I was afraid I would hurt myself, or say or do something at the school that I could not come back from. I could not be the person I needed to in order to help our students. I was completely and utterly broken, and trying to avoid a psychotic break.
What is truly tragic about this situation is that McDaniel is not alone, and no one is surprised by my story.
While many of these situations have to do with student behavior, I do not blame them at all. They are traumatized. Nor do I blame the adults in the school trying to make the best of an impossible situation.
This happening because of a failed system – because of decisions made by our political and district leaders.
THEY/YOU are the ones who decided to make huge class sizes, who wasted money on outside contracts for ridiculous programs like JOUNCE, who did little to advocate for our students’ families as the failed war on drugs destroyed communities, who allowed the tax abatement to continue to steal our funds, who refuse to pay our climate and support staff a living wage.
And yet, somehow we wonder why we are unable to attract and retain dedicated professionals?
If our adults are feeling this way, how must our students be feeling? For us it is a job. For them, it is their lives. And we are failing them.
I have to believe we are on the same side, so I am asking you to be leaders. To be proactive instead of reactive – just look at how you have handled our district’s building conditions for a good example of REACTIVE leadership.
I am here today to ask that you offer real and tangible support to McDaniel NOW. They need more qualified adults in the building immediately.
But bigger than that, I am asking the board to be BOLD and AGGRESSIVE in advocating for our most neglected schools and communities – our enemies sure are!
I am asking you to offer a living wage to our paraprofessionals and climate staff in our next contract. I am asking you to implement true restorative justice practices – not just the elimination of consequences – with trained professionals and programs in EVERY school.
In the richest country in the history of the world, don’t tell me there isn’t enough money to fight for and win these things. There’s plenty of money. The will to organize and take it is what is lacking.
Stop begging for scraps. Enough band-aids on bullet wounds.
I love working in the district, it is the reason I got my degree in education. I don’t want to teach anywhere else, and I hope to be back sometime soon.
Thank you for your time.”