Raquel Vega

Issue No. 18 • Spring 2017

The story I most want to tell right now is about Betsy DeVos. I think all of us here at Coral Reef [Senior High] are a little bit on edge right now, and I think the atmosphere of the whole school has changed. Before this, I doubt all of the teachers in this building even knew who the current secretary of education was. I don't think it even really mattered back then. But now you're seeing teachers who are completely invested in politics like they weren't before- which I think is mostly a good thing, but I hate that it took a crisis to get that to happen.

On a literal level, nothing has significantly changed, but we're all on high alert, waiting for her to make a dangerous or drastic decision. And especially being a teacher in Miami, so many of my students are scared about Trump's immigration policies, and I can't blame them for not being focused in school when they have much more pressing things to be worried about. That's the collective atmosphere, just one of worry. And when I was going to school, and when you were going to school, it didn't seem so precarious. Back then, it seemed like regardless of who was at the very top, nothing much changed on the individual school's level. Under Clinton it was all the same, under Bush it was slightly worse with No Child Left Behind and all of this testing, but I at least like to think that it was well intentioned, and for the most part, we were able to deal with it. If you want to measure us by stats and scores, I was opposed to it, but I wasn't too worried about it. But other than that, the figurehead at the top didn't really matter. And all of a sudden it does. Now the core principles of our entire school infrastructure are being questioned and its terrifying. I went to public school, you went to public school, and I teach at a public school. To that end, I don't really care what people do so long as they do it with the intention of helping students in our public schools. How they help is a personal and political choice, but as long as they want to help, I feel like the best decision is usually the one that gets made. 

But now with DeVos, she's introducing all of this legislature to roll back protections on transgender students and undocumented students. I see it time and time again with my high school students who are emotionally vulnerable and at a volatile time in their lives: they'll go to colleges and apply for federal aid, only to find out that they can't because their only support is DACA. They'll be discovering themselves and simultaneously discovering that the person they are is a person that our society generally doesn't approve of. It's honestly horrible. 

I used to come to work because I loved being a teacher. I loved giving back to the community, I loved teaching, and I thought my community valued the work that I did. It turns out that now I'm having to cope with the idea of only coming to work because of the students, they're the only thing keeping me going. Without them, I would quit tomorrow.