Charli Vark: Being a Teacher in an Arizona Charter School Was Destroying My Husband’s Health
At the website Public Voices for Public Schools, Charli Vark talks about the huge toll that charter school teaching took on her husband.
Being a teacher in an Arizona charter school was destroying his health. He had migraines, threw up every morning before work, and even had a seizure during his first year. We were fortunate to have health insurance through his job, but they kept him so busy and poor he never had the time nor the money to use it. I watched this man that I love following his passion and inspiring kids in their love of math, but I also saw how the charter school took advantage of him and he never felt well.
I watched my husband deal with immense pressure from a dysfunctional system. He would work 10 and 12-hour days, and thanks to the combination of a lack of time and a lack of pay, he couldn’t eat lunch. Early on, he was under a lot of pressure, pressure to fudge different things and to write an entire school-wide program, all so the school could get STEM certified.
Even though we were young, and still are, I was already losing my husband. His school demanded same-day grades, so I helped him enter his grades at night. Once he finished marking the papers, 120 each night, I would read the grades for him to input into the system, just so we could get a little time together. Sadly our weekends weren’t much of a reprieve. On Friday nights he was so worn out from the week he was often asleep by 7 pm, and his Sundays were spent almost entirely, 12 pm to 9 pm, on work for his school.
Even with all of that hard, dedicated work, we didn’t have any security, certainly no financial security. We never knew until the last minute if he was going to have a job again the next year, and a lot of his pay was structured in bonuses that were tied to so many variables it was difficult to calculate or plan ahead. Each year it was a mystery what our finances were going to look like. Even though he often earned the highest raises because of his talents and commitment to the job, everyone knew that raises came out of one big pool, so anything he earned took something from someone else who was also struggling. That never felt good, either.
To this day it makes me angry when people talk about how lucky a teacher is to have summers off every year.