Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This is how I feel...

       I don't think anyone worth their salt goes into teaching expecting it to be just an 8 hour day.  But it bothers me that teaching is rapidly becoming a 13 to 14 hour day minimum.   The way I see it, as the basic fabric of our society - the family - breaks down, teachers are being asked to take up the slack and this has been going on for a long time.
      And, honestly, most of the teachers I know, amazingly enough,  really want to do that. They see kids coming to school from broken homes, abusive situations, latch-key kids, kids that are out of control because there is little or no parental supervision, parents who are heartbroken because they see their children  heading for trouble but they honestly  don't know how to prevent it. Most teachers hurt for these kids and for their parents and I think all teachers wish they could come up with some program, plan, magic potion or whatever that would put troubled kids on the right path to a decent life.
     But additional paperwork, deadlines, duties, and did I mention additional paperwork? isn't the solution - it only adds to the problem.  A wise person once told me that one of the most difficult things about teaching is that on any given day you will have 50 or 60 different teen-agers tugging at you at a minimum. By "tugging at you", I mean that kids come to school with their own agendas and personalities.   Some are perfectionists and simply want reassurance that they are doing every  assignment right. Others want to act out to get attention. Some honestly can't figure out how to do the assignment and need simple verbal redirection.  Others may want to try to sleep because they are staying up too late at night. Others may want to spend their time socializing.  Some may be upset because of what happened at breakfast or at lunch or even about something that happened the night before. And you have to deal with each of these needs, behaviors, attitudes while still keeping 25 to 30 kids per period on task in meaningful work that will help them master their subject matter.  You also have to prepare lessons, run off handouts, grade lessons, take roll, record grades,  etc.
     All of that amounts to a full-time job.
     Then you have kids who need extra help  before school or after school.  With the advent of e-mail, you also have parents making regular inquiries about their children and these need to be answered. When e-mail doesn't solve the problem, you need to have one-on-one conferences.  Which may be hard to schedule because you have lunch duty, morning duty, bus duty, whatever.
     Then you have to document for the state department that you've taught various strands among other things.
     Then you have to document that you've modified lessons, tests, etc. But before you do that, you have to actually modify or change lesson plans and/or tests.
     Then you have to gather material for kids who are absent or in in-school suspension and see that those materials get to the right place.
      Then you have to get the requisite in-service hours which may or may not be practical, doable, i.e., worthwhile.
     And meanwhile, you may see a positive pregnancy test lying on the floor of the girl's bathroom or overhear  a group of kids talking about being busted at a party by the police or notice that a kid is sitting in your classroom with suspicious bruises on their arms  or wonder why this normally quiet kid suddenly went ballistic in class and had to be written up for discipline - but....
     you have miles of paperwork and forms to fill out before you sleep soooo.... by the time you get all that done, get home, get supper fixed, help your own kids with their work and are getting ready for bed, the image of that troubled student may suddenly flit through your mind causing you to  fall asleep to the mental refrain of, "I mustn't forget to check on So-and-So tomorrow..."
     We have a lot of bright, energetic young teachers coming into the profession because they love kids and they want to make a difference.   Sometimes I wonder how long that enthusiasm can last under the current onslaught of extra work and the unrelenting demand to  do more and more things that teachers were never meant to do in the first place.
     It's not a cliche that kids are our greatest investment in the future.  To protect and enhance that investment, we need to untie the hands of the young professionals coming into the classroom and do whatever is necessary to free them up so that they can  actually  concentrate on kids!
     I guess what I'm saying is that the state and national governments can't have it both ways.  They can't continue to place more and more bureaucratic red tape on teachers  and at the same time, demand/recommend that teachers do more one-on-one remediation, tutoring, counseling, mentoring, curriculum advising, etc.  without having something break.  And the something that breaks, I'm afraid, will be our up-and-coming young teachers.
    Before that happens, I hope that we, as a nation, will wise-up and give them a break...



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  3. I don't know why I couldn't post to FB last night but now apparently I can...

  4. That is so overwhelming. That's why it was all I could do to teach for the 9 years I did. And why I need to remember to pray for teachers I know every day!