As we face the opening of a barely functioning school district in September, it is becoming clearer that if we plan to raise our children in the city and eventually send them to public schools, there will be certain realities that we will have to prepare for.
For myself and other teachers in the Philadelphia School District, the dog days of August are one of the busiest times of year. We find ourselves constantly planning: coming up with new lessons to teach, better ways to motivate our students, and resourceful means of procuring basic supplies such as paper and textbooks.
We plan during the summer because, given the demands of our job, it is the only time during the year where we can catch our breath.
In recent years, I’ve been doing a lot more planning of a different sort. My wife and I are the proud parents of a 3-year-old and a 1-month-old, and we have spent a lot of time thinking about how and where we want to raise them. As we face the opening of a barely functioning school district in September, it is becoming clearer that if we plan to raise our children in the city and eventually send them to public schools, there will be certain realities that we will have to prepare for:
• If my daughters want to go to college, how will they be able to do so in an overcrowded high school with no counselors?
• If one of my daughters gets injured at school, who will take care of her when there is no nurse?
• If I have to work in an environment where, among other things, I’m stretched to the limit teaching classes overstuffed with students, facing drastic cuts to my salary and benefits without job security, and lacking basic necessities like a desk, what impact will it have on my ability to be there for my daughters when they need me — let alone the students in my class who need me.
In short, if I decide to stay in the city, how successful will I be as both a parent and teacher?
I’ve worked as a teacher and lived as a citizen in Philadelphia for over 17 years. I believe in this city and am committed to making it a better place for my children and the children in my classroom. If there is one thing I want all of them to learn, it is that a good-quality public education is the key toward making their community a better place.
As I work through the dog days of summer, I don’t want to make contingency plans.
Kenneth Hung teaches high school social studies in Philadelphia.