Susan Weigand, 2nd grade teacher at Hugh Cole Elementary School in Bristol-Warren, punctuates nearly every sentence with “I could go-on about my students all day.” Her dedication to her young students was evident throughout her sit down with RI Future.
“Where is the safety net for the children that come to kindergarten ill prepared for what they have to do,” she said. (Read the first part of this three-part series here on Jen Saarinen)
But there was a stark contrast between her excitement for her students recent policy changes. She said that changes in policy and budget have affected her teaching style and her students.
“Work I’m asking students to do is significantly more challenging,” she said. “In that comes the question of whether or not it’s developmentally appropriate. There are several situations where it’s not, I’m being told to ask my students things beyond what they’re capable of doing.”
Weigand said that budgets for teachers aren’t what they once were either. There was a time where teachers could buy supplies that weren’t provided for them by the district. Those times are long gone.
“We don’t really get a budget,” Weigand said. “The district provides us with certain supplies but there’s no discretionary fund for teachers to buy things for their classroom. When I was first hired in this district 16 or 17 years ago, we had a budget to go purchasing for our classroom.”
Budget cuts affect those on the elementary school level differently than others. Weigand explained the uniqueness of the situation. “The difference is we teach everything and we teach multiple levels, so if I’m doing science activity about states of matter I have to have different levels of books because each of my kids are at different levels –well my district doesn’t provide that.”
During her time as a teacher, Weigand has noticed major changes within her field. The greatest change she has seen is the shift away from viewing students as young adults.
“We have somehow forgotten that these are small children sitting in our rooms,” she said. “I think we have forgotten these are little people – 6, 7, 8 – we very much have forgotten these are little kids and we treat them like tiny adults. Where does that creative thinking of being able to come up with the answers themselves come into play?”