Idaho teachers speak out
“I’d be selling aluminum siding if we hadn’t have had damn good English teachers,” William Anderson, author, screenwriter and Boise High School graduate
This oral history project gallery illustrates many of the problems and struggles teachers have dealt with in the execution of their jobs. Each clip resonates with issues Idaho teachers still face. These narratives add perspective as Idaho continues to debate the role of schools in the state and the responsibilities of the Legislature in determining what educational services are offered in Idaho.
Teachers serve an important role in the development of their students, and their influence often reaches beyond the conveyance of information in a single subject. Teachers inspire, encourage and help students to grow in all aspects of their lives. The teaching profession holds many rewards, most associated with the positive impact teachers have on their students. However, fewer people in Idaho are choosing teaching as a career. The challenges of teaching in many Idaho schools and the low wages offered to Idaho teachers act as disincentives for those making career decisions. As Idaho examines the question of how to best fund and support our school system, it must also consider the many difficulties teachers navigate each year in order to educate their students. Interviews archived at the Idaho Oral History Center reveal past problems that in many ways carry over to the challenges teachers face today.
Often school facilities and equipment present varied problems educators must tackle. Faulty building design hinders easy operation. As communities grow, so too do issues such as overcrowding of school buildings and increased traffic in school zones. Idaho’s environment causes difficulties for teachers to overcome as well. School buildings are often constructed without the necessary flexibility to withstand various weather conditions. Teachers have to work through dramatic seasonal shifts, often without proper resources to deal with the problems that arise. These oral history clips highlight the difficulties presented in such circumstances.
sAcel Chatburn discusses some of the problems growth in the valley and building design created for him as a school administrator.
Buck Fitzpatrick shares his experiences dealing with overcrowding in the Coeur d’Alene school district.
Buck Fitzpatrick, overcrowding part 2.
Mary Roth describes environmental conditions that presented challenges to her as a teacher at the Hunt Internment Camp for Japanese Americans.
Teachers also struggle to keep up with changing job demands. In a primarily rural environment like Idaho, teachers in small schools often assume classes and responsibility for extracurricular activities outside of their training and experience. Some take on choir classes despite not being able to sing. Others coach a sport by reading up on the rules just before the first practice. Teachers even encounter special situations where they must help students deal with their emotional, physical and hygienic needs. Those in the teaching profession learn to adapt to the evolving needs of the job, relying on an attitude of flexibility to supplement their diverse experience base. The following selections illustrate the various demands placed on Idaho’s teachers.
Blanche Currie discusses some of the additional jobs she took on, including teaching English, leading glee club and directing a play.
Aayrelle Anderson explains how she ended up coaching volleyball at Star High School.
J. Vard Chatburn describes the unique classes he had to teach in order to help his students learn to be well groomed and to take care of their possessions.
One of the most challenging aspects of a job in education comes as teachers wend their way through ever-changing social and cultural demands. Teachers have to consider their role in the community in which they are working, keeping in mind the desires of parents, the requirements of the school board and the needs of the students. The faculty at each school also functions as a community, and maintaining good relationships with fellow staff members can at times be problematic. These oral history snippets look at some of the social considerations teachers must take into account as they try to focus on educating their students.
Mary Roth shares her observances of the parents’ desires at Hunt Internment Camp.
William and Dortha Anderson explain the sit-down strike staged by Boise High School’s class of 1938.
Blanche Currie describes an intimidating incident with a parent who served on the school board.
Blanche Currie also talks about a problem she had with fellow faculty at Albion Normal School over a dress she wore to a welcome dinner.
In some cases, regional and national politics seep into the classroom and impact employees' relationships with their students. Decisions made by the school board or school principal can create conflicts with pupils. Also, national policies can create resentments that teachers necessarily deal with as they teach their subjects. The following oral history clips describe situations where the political actions handed down to the schools from higher authorities influenced the interactions between students and faculty.
Mary Roth describes resentments that arose among her Japanese American students at Hunt Internment Camp during World War II.