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A Back to School Guide for Broke SF Educators (and How Parents Can Help!)

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Guest Post by Katie Hunter, Special Education Teacher in SFUSD

Struggling to hold on to that last bit of summer as hard as you’re struggling to pay rent in the Bay? Wondering whether you’ll buy extra wine or classroom supplies to prepare for a new school year, because you can only afford one or the other? Welcome to the life of a San Francisco teacher!

We love our jobs, but it’s tough being a teacher. This is especially true during these turbulent times, and in a city where rent gobbles up our incomes. That’s why I’m here with a guide to help fellow educators transition into the school year, with some tips on how parents can support us.

Take care of you

If you can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of your students? Plan ahead and make sure you eat well and get enough sleep, especially as you wean your body back into the school schedule. And don’t forget to treat yourself. (This year, for instance, I booked a massage- thanks to Groupon-  to end my first week back in the classroom).

image from UNL

Setting limits between home and school is also key. Keeping schoolwork at school, or at least limiting yourself to how many nights you’ll bring work home per week, is one way to do that. And get a Google Voice number. It’’ll help you communicate with parents and colleagues without having to give away your personal digits.

Parents, you can support us in this quest by respecting our non-work hours and by donating non-classroom-specific items (or dollars, if you have ‘em) to your child’s school. Mini-fridges, coffeemakers, water heaters, extra bottles of wine you’ve got lying around…

Make time with your students to process what’s happening in our country

As SF teachers, grappling with hate-fueled, racist events like those in Charlottesville is extra tough because we know they impact our students, many of whom are young people of color. But that’s also why it’s important to make time in our classrooms to process these events as a community–and figure out how to fight back.

There are some excellent resources to help teachers do just that, from sources like Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, and a compilation of crowd-sourced curricula collected via the #CharlottesvilleCurriculum hashtag.

As a white educator, I also have the responsibility to show my white students how to be allies in the fight for social and racial justice. Helpful resources from Teaching Tolerance include lesson plans on becoming an ally and white anti-racism.

Parents, you can help extend these conversations at home with books from the Teaching For Change booklist and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year’s Social Justice Book list.

Get informed about your wages and rights- and get fired up

Pissed about the price of SF rent? Not sure why tech bros make bank here while you’re making less than a babysitter per hour? Channel that fury into the fight for better pay and working conditions this year with the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF). UESF, which represents San Francisco’s public school teachers and paraprofessionals, is in the midst of negotiations for a new three-year contract with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Currently UESF is advocating for a 16% increase in pay and improved working conditions- including much needed teacher prep times and better parental leave policies. Yet the district is holding the line at just a 10% bump in pay. WTF? Visit UESF’s website for more information on upcoming events, including a training on September 13 for educators who want to be involved in the fight.

Parents, you can reach out to your child’s teacher(s) about how to get involved, or reach out directly to UESF via the Contacts page to find out how to advocate for better pay and working conditions for your child’s teacher. Better yet, join up with fellow citizens who care about SF kids at the San Francisco Organizing Network for Education (SFONE) meeting on Wednesday, August 23rd at Everett Middle School to find out how you can help keep SF teachers here doing the work we love.

Stop paying full price

Since you can’t afford to pay rent here, why pretend like you can afford to buy those gorgeous-but-not-on-sale boots you’ve been drooling over or an overpriced-but-oh so-delicious brisket sandwich from that fancy new deli? It’s always worth asking for an educator discount when making a purchase, whether the goods are for your classroom or your poor, tired feet.

Check out the California Teacher Association’s My Deals app for local business discounts for teachers on things like auto repair, movie tickets, and restaurants. Ann Taylor Loft, J Crew, Madewell, Easy Spirit and Banana Republic all offer clothing discounts for teachers ranging from 10-15% off full purchase price. Bose, Lenovo and Apple will cut you a deal on their tech, and even Verizon, AT&T and Sprint offer up to a 20% discount on cell plans for teachers from participating schools. Locally speaking, SF’s own Academy of Sciences offers a discounted teacher membership, and the SF MOMA is piloting a new educator pass granting free admission for teachers.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you roll as smoothly as possible into the new school year. If you’ve got other suggestions, leave ‘em in the comments and share the love.

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