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Why I’m Leaving Teaching: A Florida teacher’s painful decision

Education leaders across the country are troubled by the high number of teachers leaving the profession early, and Palm Beach County is no exception. A recent study found that 16 percent of the county’s teachers quit within the first two years, and 11 percent leave between the third and seventh year.

>> Read more trending stories 

Here, Megan Webb, who spent a decade as an elementary teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida’s public schools, talks about the role that slow wage growth played in her recent decision to leave.

Read her column below:

Why I’m Leaving Teaching: A Wellington teacher explains a painful decision  More than 11,000 Palm Beach County public school teachers return to the classroom this week to prepare for Monday’s start of school. Here’s why I won’t be there.

Heartbreaking – it’s the only word that can describe how it feels to walk away from something that was once your dream. The one job you always wanted to do, the person you wanted to become.

For the first time in 10 years, I am not anxiously preparing my classroom, anticipating the arrival of twenty energetic children and a new year full of learning, laughter and excitement.

Instead, I am preparing myself for a new career in the business world. And not because I wanted to. I absolutely loved my teaching job at Equestrian Trails Elementary. But sadly, love just isn’t enough.

Why am I leaving? I am being forced to make a decision between the absolute love of teaching and living up to my potential to support myself. Since graduating from college, I have been fortunate enough to focus on my work, and ignore my stagnant income by living with my parents.

Former Equestrian Trails Elementary teacher Megan Webb

It has been a very comfortable living arrangement that’s worked well for my family and me, and I just assumed I would move out when I “met the right guy.”  But, that hasn’t happened yet, and at the age of 32, I decided it is time for me to move out on my own and become a fully independent adult.

There is just one giant obstacle standing in my way: I simply cannot support myself comfortably with my current income.

A year’s experience worth just $274

I’ve always known that education would be far from lucrative, and I have always been accepting of that. However, I never anticipated that my salary would not grow along with my years of experience.

When I started teaching in the Palm Beach County School District a decade ago, I made $33,830. Today, I make $43,239.

While that’s a lot more than I made in my first year of teaching, it’s just $2,464 more per year than an incoming first-year teacher today, or an additional $274 for each year of experience.

When I began my career, the hope for a more comfortable future seemed attainable. The pay scale in 2007 reflected a more sizeable difference of $6,600 between a first and tenth year teacher.

Unfortunately, since I began teaching in 2006, we have seen serious changes to our pay structure, and a lack of substantial raises.

Compound that with an inflation rate of 19.6% over the past ten years, rising healthcare costs, and a change to our state-funded retirement pension (requiring a 3% deduction from our paycheck), and we as a teaching class have gained very little ground in a decade.

Discouragingly, the prospect of meaningful increases in the future seems dim.

Pay doesn’t go far in Palm Beach County

I have never been one to talk money, and while I’m sure most people would prefer not to discuss what they actually make, in this case it is crucial. To be completely straightforward, I calculated my take-home pay after taxes, insurance, union dues, and retirement deductions at roughly $27,800 a year.

Some may argue that this is a livable wage, and that many get by with far less. I don’t disagree that I am fortunate to have this, but I also recognize that I don’t have to settle for the kind of life that accompanies this level of income.

To fully illustrate the situation, allow me to do the math.

I bring home a little over $2,000 each month. In Palm Beach County, where the average apartment rental is $1,338, and after the cost of basic utilities (approx. $190), a car payment (with a modest lease, approx. $250), and car insurance (approx. $100), that would leave around $200 a month for food, gas, cell phone, and any other expenses.

Could I count my pennies, and scrape by? Barely. But what kind of life is that? And should I have to, with a college degree, after ten years of service, in a career that impacts the lives of our future leaders? It is completely unacceptable.

I’m not wanting of more money for social status, or material possessions. I just don’t believe, that at this point in my career, I should have to worry about whether or not I can pay rent and feed myself.

Pay dissatisfaction affects the classroom

My life experiences outside of the classroom very much impact the education I can provide for my students inside of the classroom. Correspondingly, it would be foolish to think that teachers can adequately meet the needs of their students if their own basic needs aren’t being met.

The alternative would be to stay where I am, becoming a little more bitter with each passing year, feeling “stuck,” handcuffed to a system that doesn’t value its educators or the students we teach.

In turn, my happiness and self-worth would undoubtedly diminish over time, to a point that I become a disservice to the very students that I sacrificed myself for.  I am not willing to give up my “life,” only to become a lesser version of myself, and a second-rate teacher.

I love my job. I adore the children I am so fortunate to work with each day. I have incredible administrators and support staff.

I truly enjoy what I do, and quite frankly, I am good at it. With consistent praise, an overwhelming number of teacher requests from parents each year, and most importantly the love that I see in my students’ eyes each day, I know I must be doing something right.

I haven’t lost my passion. I’ve just lost my ability to turn a blind eye to the impact that my salary has on my life outside the confines of my classroom.

Teacher attrition hurts children

This is why I want the world to hear my story. I need people to know that I didn’t walk away because I fell out of love with teaching, or that it just became too hard. I am still as passionate about it as I was when I started ten years ago, perhaps even more so.

And I can’t, in good conscience, walk away silently and pretend that I’m the only one facing this issue. I know several other teachers in our district, and across the country, who are in the same predicament. We need to be talking about it in a way that might actually effect change.

We can’t educate our children without teachers, and our children, OUR FUTURE, are losing more and more talented teachers each year because our leadership can’t figure out how to adequately compensate them for the blood, sweat and tears that they put in every day.

Something has to change before our education system crumbles. Our kids deserve better.

Editor’s note: Megan Webb is taking a yearlong leave of absence to pursue a new career.

Community responds after boy offers to mow lawns to pay for school supplies

A 10-year-old turned to Facebook friends to help raise money, not for a charity, new toys or to go on a trip, but to pay for the most basic supplies to head back to school.

His community has responded overwhelmingly.

Tyran Bell used his mother's Facebook account to ask her friends if he could mow lawns to earn money to buy his school supplies, WECT reported.

>> Read more trending stories  

Tyran got what he needed and then some.

He has enough supplies for himself and is giving the surplus to the community.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.7";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script>Ashlea Kosikowski WECT News  here - with a pretty awesome update to a story we've been following.Tyran Bell posted on...Posted by WECT News on Sunday, August 7, 2016

"I'm going to put them in bags and go around the community and pass them out to whoever needs school supplies," Tyran told WECT.

The drive for Tyran has turned into a project to help other schools in the area.

A1 Security Services, the business that started the supply drive for Tyran, is looking at donating the surplus of supplies that came in, contacting to social workers to see what area schools need them.

"You've got these kids going to school and they are going with other kids who have all their nice new school supplies to school and they show up with nothing," A1 president Theresa Babb said. "They are starting the year badly there, plus you don't want them to feel bad. Plus it's like sending a carpenter out to work without a hammer."

Freshmen: So what do you really need to start college?

So you got into college! Congrats! Now the real work begins. There are classes, parties and dorms, oh my. It’s a regular jungle out there. So how do you survive your first year of college? Especially when you’re so young, bright-eyed and eager?

You prepare. You talk (and listen!) to those older than you, those who have been there before. They can teach you a thing or two about things you think you already know.

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First, supplies. Whether or not you actually ever liked school, you probably enjoyed shopping for supplies. Notebooks, sharpies, folders with puppies on them and neon-colored locker shelves, you name it, you bought it. For college, the list only grows longer (and more expensive). And the space to put everything? Well, bigger than your locker but smaller (much smaller) than your parents’ house — one dorm room that you are likely sharing.

Here are some items that should definitely be on your packing list:

Shopping for dorm life:

Shower shoes and shower caddy: Do you know how many other people are using or have been using that shower of yours? Are you the one cleaning it? No, no and no. So stay germ-free : Buy a cheap pair of flip-flops. As for keeping your products from getting used up, don’t leave them in the shower; instead use a caddy.

Earplugs and a sleeping mask: It is very likely that you and your roommate will not have the same schedule. You may have a class that starts at 8 and hers doesn’t start till 2. Whatever the case, an earplugs/sleeping mask combo will make sure you get enough sleep.

Sleeping bag and/or air mattress: You will need something for your friends to crash on when they crash or when your roommate needs private time.

A good backpack: Running back to your dorm after each class can be exhausting, leading to taking naps which lead to missing class. Skip the whole ordeal and just have a really good, comfortable backpack.

Desk Lamp: You can’t always spend your time at the library, so when it comes to dorm studying, be sure to have a desk lamp.

Extra Sheets: Simple hygiene. You want clean sheets, but don’t want to do large loads of laundry all the time.

Good shoes: Yes, those sandals are cute, but will they be as cute trekking across campus in the rain? And those heels? They won’t feel great after walking a mile. Stick to sensible (yet stylish) kicks or flats or sandals for your long days on the yard.

Your own printer: Yes, you can print at the library or the student government office (when they’re not jammed) for free or for a few cents. But having your own printer can save you a lot of time and aggravation.

Netflix account: Well, this isn’t a must, but you do need a break eventually and what better way than to make friends in the common room watching a binge marathon.

Not living in a dorm, here’s your shopping list:

Now for you commuters out there. Just because you don’t have to wear shoes in the shower doesn’t mean there aren’t things you should have at your disposal.

Coffee/tea thermos: Key to survival in college — even in the workplace — is energy, and energy means caffeine. While driving to class especially, have a hot thermos with you. You’ll be good to go all day.

Pillow/Blanket: It may sound crazy, but having a blanket and pillow in your car is handy for a quick nap (whether in the car or library!) or to relax on the grass.

Cordless charger: People will fight you for the wall outlets. Getting a cordless charger for your phone will not only help you out, but will also make you look less greedy for taking the outlet from someone who is actually using it for work.

Umbrella: There is always a chance for rain, and living in Florida, it is almost guaranteed. The umbrella should be small enough to fit in your backpack.

Spare of everything: Shoes, a bag, pens, paper, everything. Your car will become your room, and everything you could possibly need should be there. It’s pointless to drive back home during breaks between classes. It’s best to stay on campus and enjoy your college days . You’ll be forced to study, meet people and even hit the gym.

What freshmen need to know in general

Freshmen year can be scary. Any year can be scary. But there are things you can do, things that generations before you did and things you will tell future generations to do, to make your college years everything they should be.

Know thy route: The weekend before school starts and you have your schedule, go around the campus and find out exactly where all your classes are and how fast it takes to get to them.

Rent your books: Seriously, do not buy new books. They are the price of a down payment on a car, and as much as you think you are going to use them, you probably won’t.

Sites such as Chegg.com, Bookrenter.com and Texbooks.com allow you to choose your book condition and length of borrowing time and then delivers them to your door with free shipping back at the end of the semester. If you still feel like you need to keep your book forever, then buy it used. These are normally in really good condition and sometimes with helpful notes in the margins.

Join clubs: While you’re in college, join all the clubs you can! You will meet people with similar interests and maybe even learn something new. Always wanted to learn Italian? Join the Italian club. Think comics are cool? There’s a club for that. There is a club for any and everything.

Free gym classes: The last thing you want to do after going to class, studying and partying is go to the gym, but this is the perfect time to take advantage of free gym classes. Not only will you get in shape (hey, the freshmen 15 is real!), but you will also meet lots of cool people who are interested in being active as well. Besides, technically you’re paying for use of the gym in your tuition, so you might as get something out of it.

Take classes that interest you: Yes, you have to take classes that relate to your major, but not all students know what their major will be their freshmen year. So if you don’t know, balance your schedule out with the basic prerequisites and then a class or two on something you’re interested in. Know your major? That’s great, and you can still take a fun elective here and there.

Go to class: Go. Just go. It’s really easy to forget about class, especially without teachers or parents (or the law) forcing you to go. It doesn’t make things any easier, when professors say, they don’t take attendance or that you can turn your work in electronically. In class, you will learn so much more than you could ever read from just a textbook. You will gain friendships and even get some one-on-one time with your professor.

The best advice: Listen to the people who have been there before. Listen to your parents, your older siblings, your aunts and uncles, whoever. They know what they enjoyed in college and what they regretted doing or not doing. They only want the best for you, so take their advice.

Does checklist add too much pressure for first day of kindergarten?

They have picked out the perfect backpacks and matching lunchboxes. The lists of school supplies have been purchased, labeled and stacked, ready to head to class.

But is your new kindergartner really ready to head to school?

That's a question recently posed on Reddit.

A Redditor, identified by "The Today Show" as Lucas Hatcher, posted a photo of a note making sure that new students are ready for the school year. 

But it's not simple kindergarten expectations like using the restroom by oneself and sitting still for a short period of time. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The list contained tasks like writing one's name, knowing 30-plus letters (meaning upper and lower case), counting to 10 or more and cutting correctly with scissors.

I have failed to prepare my son for Kintergarden.

The person who posted the image of the list titled: "I have failed to prepare my son for Kindergarden (sic)."

Hatcher said that he focused on the 30 plus letter requirement, since the alphabet has only 26 letters. But according to "Today," many people reacted to what they thought was the extreme nature of the requirements.

"Today" reported that the school that one person's son attends school expected him to read fluently by the end of the year. 

"Today" contacted the principal of the school that sent out the list. Tom Arnold said Ooltewah Elementary School's email, which also included a list of fees and supplies needed for the year, was guidance so parents could get their children ready for school.

An educational psychologist said Ooltewah's list is comparable to what is expected across the country because of competitive preschools that start teaching academics earlier than in decades past.

Read more here.

Officer buys school supplies, booster seat for family

A Georgia man was standing in line to check out when he saw an act of kindness he needed to share. 

Cortney Ogletree captured Clayton County police Ofc. H. James buying school supplies and a booster seat for a family at the Riverdale Walmart on Friday.

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"I just wanted to share a positive image with all the negative stuff going on around us," Ogletree said. "We just need to love each other."

The Clayton County Police Department saw the picture that Ogletree shared and posted it on their Facebook page.

"We couldn't be more proud," the police department posted on Facebook. 

So I just want to share a positive image with all the negative stuff going on around us. While me and my girl Shanay...Posted by Cortney C. Ogletree on Friday, July 29, 2016

An After School Satan club could be headed for your local elementary school

A new after school program dedicated to Satan could be coming to your child's school. 

The leaders of a nationwide Satanic temple are working to bring "After School Satan" to elementary schools across the country.

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Of course, the group says it doesn't actually support devil worship for children.

They say, just like other clubs, kids will get a healthy snack, literature lesson, a science lesson and an art project.

The after school program is a tongue-in-cheek way of promoting the separation of church and state in public education, according to the group. Their website provides information on their efforts to "counter evangelism in schools."

They are targeting schools that already have an after school religious program.

The Satanic Temple is a group dedicated to bringing Satan worship into public meetings and government-sponsored organizations where religious customs are already present. Its members reject religious beliefs and, instead, promote science and rationalism. 

Law to mandate cursive for public schools

A new law taking effect Monday in Alabama will require all public school students to learn cursive.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the law, called Lexi's Law, will mean there is a standardized way to learn cursive.

>> Read more trending stories

The course will follow a five-day lesson plan that will show teachers how to cover cursive. Student will begin learning cursive from second grade.

"Cursive writing should not be ignored, but of course it's always a possibility some things get laid aside and may get pushed off when other academics may seem more important at that time," Malissa Valdes-Hubert, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Education told WSFA.

Kaelin Blair, 15, said she would have liked to learn cursive earlier rather than teach herself once she entered the seventh grade. "I would have rather put cursive than print with my art," Blair said.

"We have outlined the letter order cursive writing should be taught based on research," Jaclyn Brown, district literacy coach for Montgomery Public Schools, told the Montgomery Advertiser. "We have also provided a chart with daily cursive writing targets, in addition to electronic source documents that teachers can pull from."

Valdes-Hubert said the law will require teachers to prove cursive was taught by the end of each school year.

Starting Monday, Lexi's Law will take effect, meaning all children in Alabama public schools must learn how to do...Posted by FOX10 News on Thursday, July 28, 2016

School bans clapping at assemblies in favor of 'silent cheers'

One school has banned its pupils from clapping at assemblies, but it's all for a good cause.

Education officials in New South Wales, Australia, said the rule was put in place out of respect to a teacher at Elanora Heights Public School who has a hearing condition that makes her sensitive to noise, according to BBC News.

>> Read more trending stories

Instead of clapping, students can pump their fists in the air, make "silent cheers" and show excitement through movement and facial expressions, the BBC reports, citing a newsletter sent home with students.

However, News.com.au called it the "the latest example of a political correctness outbreak in Australian schools," some of which have banned hugging, singing Christmas carols," and other practices. 

Read more at BBC News.

School bus video shows driver vaping while driving

The mother of a 12-year-old middle school student says surveillance video showing an Edmonds School District bus driver vaping with an e-cigarette on board the bus, proves what her son had been complaining about for weeks.  

Lisa Davis requested the bus video from the Edmonds School District under the Freedom of Information Act.  

The video shows bus driver vaping while he's driving to pick up students at 8:30 a.m. At times, the video shows the entire front of the bus filled with vapor.   

About 10 minutes after the driver parks the bus, he is seen spending several minutes standing in the aisle, vaping between the seats, while the windows of the bus are closed.

>> Read more trending stories    

"He takes a drag and he's blowing smoke rings," said Davis.  "I mean he's really enjoying himself. He's clearly watching for people watching him, he knows he's doing something wrong, and it's minutes, sometimes seconds later before he's picking up kids from the school."  

Davis' 12-year-old son Austin had been complaining for weeks about a strong odor that make him feel sick when he boarded the bus, according to Lisa Davis.  

"It was definitely hard to breathe," Austin Davis said, recalling how he even confronted the driver himself.

"I was like dude? What's with the smoke? He's like 'Oh that's from the heater,'" Austin Davis said.  

Lisa Davis said she wanted the proof because she says neither her son's principal, nor the transportation director took her complaint seriously.  

"I'm even more upset now than I was before because now I have the proof," she said. "Before, I just had my son's word against the school district."  

A spokesperson for the Edmonds School District told KIRO-7 the driver was suspended with pay, and is still going through due process with the district's human resources, and his union.

The spokesperson acknowledged that the driver appears to be violating the no smoking or vaping policy on school grounds -- which includes the interior of district school buses.  

"They owe me an apology," Davis said.

Girl threatens to sue for not making cheerleading team

A high school student is prepared to take her school district to court over cheerleading.

The girl, who was not named, is threatening to sue because she wasn't picked to join the Leon High School cheerleading team and was not put on the team after the fact, The Tallahassee Democrat reported.

A final decision on whether the official selection process should be overturned could come this week.

>> Read more trending stories  

If the district decides to put the girl on the team, coaches and some cheerleaders said they may quit themselves, The Democrat reported

"They should not put an athlete on the team that doesn't deserve to be on the team," coach Caylen Berry told The Democrat. "A decision like this would question my integrity as a professional. It also questions the entire legitimacy of tryouts and cheerleading as a sport."

The team holds open tryouts at which students audition in front of coaches.

The girl who is threatening to sue will be a senior this year and cannot be on the junior varsity team because of that. When she tried out, she fell twice in one tumbling routine and was ranked low enough to keep her off the team. 

Berry said the girl is not the only senior who didn't make the team.

The Leon High School cheerleaders were the state runner-up last year and will compete in nationals this year.

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