Back To Schools #2: Got an Issue?

Where’s the tissue?

This personal series of blogs is about what should be the next steps in funding for Arizona schools. But first, a brief side note. I just learned it is going to be especially hard to find new sources of revenue to designate as funding for education, since there has to be a ⅔ approval in our legislature to create new sources of revenue, and votes for these things go straight down party lines without much variation. So, although Proposition 123 only begins to make up the back pay for not fully funding inflation, not to mention the other cuts to education in Arizona since 2009, it will take a strong public will to find the money for the things we need to put back into schools.

My personal list is long, and there are quite large filets to sautee, but here is one basic need: tissue. Schools have lost facial tissue. When I was a kid, I do not remember ever being asked to bring a box of tissue to school. Ever. And I grew up in a very modest rural Arizona community. Our school couldn’t have had a huge budget, but there was a never-ending supply of those plain-colored, undersized boxes of fairly uncomfortable tissues. These came in handy for when you had a booger in your nose that was coming out, or perhaps a blemish you had messed with one too many times. Gross, right? A little TMI? Well, the rest of us don’t want to see it, either. Boogers and zits are extremely distracting from the educational process. Hence, tissue.

If you are thinking, “Those last few sentences were certainly unnecessary,” then you clearly understand that tissues are an essential supply.

For about fifteen years there, a teacher could sort of swallow her ideals and throw in some extra credit for tissue boxes brought from home. But these days, as we strive for fidelity to the standards, and to have grades represent student achievements or academic growth rather than task-completion, and considering that at least ¼ of our students are living in poverty, extra credit for tissue boxes feels particularly wrong. Some teachers still manage to lure in the tissue boxes with those assignments where students cover the boxes with information about themselves and then turn it in as a “get to know you” assignment. Do we really need to plan our curriculum around our need for tissue? Apparently.

Seriously, even in districts which purchase tissues for the classroom (most, I’d say), by the end of the year when the money runs thin, the shelves go bare. So don’t break into tears in class in May, or you may be left with mascara streaks until you can make it to the bathroom.

35641-O0IUC3But tissues are just one thing. One essential thing. Other similar essentials need to come back to schools.

Because of initiatives and designated funding over the past 20 years, our classrooms are becoming full of bells and whistles: laptops, digital projectors, wireless internet. I am beyond grateful for all of these developments. In AVID schools, the PTA or some other source of funding also provides binders, dividers and agendas for students to learn organization skills. These types of things are special programs, research based and often funded through grants or other fundraising. It is inexplicable to me why we are lacking essentials such as tissue, copy paper, band-aids, custodians and others, until I look at what has been cut. Then, I realize that not only have classroom dollars been cut, but that saving dollars on essential supplies has most likely compensated for cuts to technology, building maintenance and even utility bills.

Let’s bring back the essentials, so we can wipe our noses and go on with the day.


Amethyst Hinton Sainz

I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years.

My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM.

In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me.

I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

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