Saturday, October 21, 2006
Coming to a Classroom near You
Part 1—The Craziness
Yesterday was one of those days when I was wavering between suicidal and homicidal tendencies—yes, I’m being overly dramatic. But you know what I mean: it was too much to bear. So my overarching dilemma felt like: would I feel better off if I killed myself, or if I killed someone else? Interruption upon interruption. Paper after paper. Demand after demand. Mini crisis after mini crisis. E-mail “in” folder was full. Stop the madness!
Folks, this is just a brief description of the day of the life of a public school teacher—and every teacher feels this way, at least once a week. A bit crazy? Yes. A bit worrisome? Oh, yes. Completely insane? Absolutely yes.
Ten years ago, when I first entered this profession, it was a great time to teach. Masses of people were retiring; jobs were a plenty; practical instructive techniques were being implemented; and teaching was both challenging and exhilarating. During this time, I made some lifelong friends; some were already in the profession, some, along with me, were just entering; and I was even lucky enough to meet my wife.
At this time, there were so many initiatives. Technology was revolutionizing teaching; we were all learning new strategies; and students, for the most part, were changing along with us, or at least trying.
Being a new teacher, I was certainly overwhelmed but never overburdened. I distinctly remember a much appreciated, seasoned veteran tell me that if I were a “quick study,” I could possibly gain leverage on my teaching in three to four years. Leverage meaning: it would get easier and more manageable. Well, three to four years have quickly come and gone, and while I still love working with students, I have a newsflash that far too many teachers know: the job isn’t getting any easier.
Nowadays, teachers, those who actually do their job, have far too much to do. First and foremost we are supposed to teach, come up with plans, “align” our teaching with standards; correct work, and sometimes assign imaginary numbers to ward off a witch hunt that might ensue; do clerical duties that involve paper management—a Stephen King nightmare in the making; counsel students because we need to be concerned with how they feel and whether or not they like us—who cares if they are learning; communicate with parents to justify the grades we give; be on a committee that addresses the “need” for… more committees; attend professional development conferences that are usually hosted by…people who are no longer in the classroom or well-paid consultants; and bedeck our rooms with mission statements, standards, discipline policies and any other interior design item so that we can “flip” the room should another teacher come along, or more dreadfully yet, a walk-through or NEASC team. Can you imagine if we wallpapered the crib with the entire NCLB document? Now that’s what I call alignment!
I wish I were making this all up, but I’m not. Any good teacher worth his or her job, and many visit this site, knows that it’s just too much. And while there are some, just like in any profession, who make those of us who do our jobs, look bad by doing nothing; by pitching tent near a PC while the students do busy paperwork; and/or by going on a control freak rampage, attempting to micromanage everyone else’s day (that’s dedicated to JD and my conservative brethren SK), we all get the same amount of pay. Of course, this pay lags severely behind the salaries of other professionals, say accountants, insurance industry professionals, and, in some cases, store managers—not that there is anything wrong with these professions. I’m just saying that teachers who teach; who counsel students and do care how they feel on some level, just not with a social worker’s or psychologist’s level of expertise; who abide by what comes down from the Mt. Olympus of Administration and the Titans of Central Office; who care about their kids’ learning; who attempt to contribute to rather than contaminate the work environment; and who have a love for their discipline and actually “work” through assignments just as students should and/or do feel that sometimes, we would much prefer killing something rather than managing this inordinate amount of demands.
So in an effort to make us at least 1% more conscious about the current state of public school teaching, I have initiated a new strand on this blog, which both many teachers and, word has it, students read, called “Coming to a Class Room near You.” This is just part one in a long series to come, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
PREVIEW: Coming to a Classroom near You, part 2: The Jeri D. Hours Log: Sorry Folks: We Really Don’t Get Summers Off.
Posted by sptmck at 9:53 AM