Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We're Not Gonna Take It

So it's another school year again.  My 21st in the classroom.  Anyone out there in my shoes?  Let me ask you a question:  Do you think it gets harder every year?

I am so frustrated right now.  I'm frustrated by the administration.  I don't understand why I am given a daily schedule that tells me when to do everything.  I am a professional, correct?  Can I not schedule my day in a way that is effective and efficient for the students without the dictates of the office?  Apparently not.

For example, why do we have to schedule a block in our day called "Intervention/Enrichment?"  Isn't that what we are supposed to do in every subject area at all times of the day?  What is the purpose of guided reading groups if we aren't intervening and bringing children up to grade level with their reading?  What is the purpose of individual writing conferences?  Isn't that when we are supposed to be enriching the skills of the gifted writers in our care? 
I just don't get it.  I work my ass off day in and day out year after year, and every year more is demanded.  When I student taught, my cooperating teachers told me "The first year is the hardest.  It gets easier after that."   But that isn't what has happened.  More freedom is taken away from the professional teacher every year.  And what is the result? 

Here is the result:  angry teachers.  However, we are professionals.  So like the professionals we are, we will do our jobs, love the children, and put on smiling faces.  And maybe that is why it gets harder every year.  Because we never stand up and say "We're not gonna take it."  We love teaching children, and because of that one little fact, we put up with a hell of a lot of crap.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teachers in August

Can you hear it?  Listen closely . . . all around the United States parents are cheering.  It is August and back to school time!  Simultaneously, teachers are sighing and children are crying.  It's enough noise to sink a battleship, I tell you. 

Here is what is like to be a teacher in August:  you savor the last remaining days of your vacation, but at the same time mentally begin preparing yourself for the upcoming year.  You go in to school before you are required to because you know the school system has not allotted you enough time to set up a classroom and get ready for a new year and a new class of kids.  You start the year off with lots of energy and excitement.  Then, it happens--the energy and excitement begin to leak out of you like the slow drip of the faucet. 

The drip starts at the beginning of the year faculty meeting when you are confronted with the uncertainty of the budget and you are told how you are going to have to teach more kids with less resources.  It continues when you are told that the state legislature decided to add more days to your school calendar without increasing your pay.  It drips even more when you try to get the instructional supplies you need from the supply closet, but there aren't enough and there won't be enough so you are going to have to buy them yourself.  And it quickens a little bit and drips a little faster when you see that again this year, you are going to make less money than last year because your supplement has been cut again.  Drip, drip, drip.

But somehow, despite this drip, teachers keep going.  Teachers are like the little engine that could.  We have a purpose.  We have the ability to shut out the bad and focus on the good.  We cherish the small victories.  We are hopeful.  This year, when the drip in my faucet starts running too quickly and filling my sink with negative thoughts, I am going to reread the letter I just got from one of my former students.  Among other things, he wrote "Thank you for being my best teacher ever.  You taught me how to be a good sport.  You helped me to understand the things in math that I didn't get."

It's the things like this that help us keep going year after year, leaky faucets and all.