Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why teachers are mad....

The Chicago teachers have gone back to work, suspending their strike. I just want to present two ideas as to why teachers feel the way they do. As an aside, I was recently speaking to a new teacher who's kids have adhd. They have been moved through a couple of schools and he had some problems with them at home. After teaching for 2 weeks, here's essentially what he said to me: My kids have no problems at all! They are fine. In comparison to what I see here?! Whew...

Teaching is hard. It's tough to be evaluated based off of your students achievements. You aren't raising these students. You're not in their family. You are there to teach information as best you can. Here's an argument why linking student achievement to teachers jobs can be problematic:

What if your corporate job handed you a team of people you had no say in choosing? You are charged with teaching this team the fundamentals of XYZ in your industry. You have about six hours a day of instruction and you are the sole person teaching. You have few resources for materials. Your group is comprised of people who live with persistent hunger, people who have limited proficiency in English, people who have been sleeping in a shelter or in their car, people who are in pain but have no access to medical attention, people who have no money for books and basic materials, people who require special services, people who are singled out for being different, people who have attention deficit disorders, people who have come from illiterate families, people who cannot see but cannot afford eye glasses, people who come from an abusive relationship, people who want the answers but don’t want to work. This is what a teacher is dealt. And sure, some of these problems are non-issues at private schools. But let me tell you, private school classrooms have their own challenges. That’s where you can have the entitled brats telling their teachers that daddy, who’s on the school’s board, can have the teacher fired. That’s where the students drive nicer cars than teachers can afford, and the socioeconomic totem pole is front and center of all school dynamics. 
Imagine being productive in an environment where you have little control and cannot impact the very basic needs that drive success under your watch. Now imagine you have to fight for every ounce of respect society doles out and every cent on your paycheck. Imagine you are judged solely on what your group can accomplish, with no regard to how hard you tried and how dedicated you were. Imagine the battle teachers face just to be valued, socially, professionally, and financially.

Also, people say that teachers have an easy day. Just 8:30-3:30. That's not that long and they get a lunch and a prep period. Though I am a believer that the school day should be longer, here's why teachers are not so happy about the idea.

I’ll use the example of the elementary school at which I worked: Students were at school from 8:45 am to 3:00 pm every day (Wednesdays until 2:00). Teachers are required to be in their classrooms or working at school at 8:00 am and are allowed, by union contract, to leave after 3:30 pm every day of the work week. During the school day, teachers are scheduled for 22 minutes for lunch, and have a 50 minute planning period. 
Now, just imagine the amount of papers to grade, detailed lessons to plan, papers to copy, bulletin boards to decorate, learning centers to prepare, documents to complete, books to read, spreadsheets to enter, department and school-wide meetings in which to participate, statistical information to compile, parent-teacher meetings to hold, and in-service classes to attend. 
These cannot physically be done in that one 50-minute per day planning period, and 30-minute** span before and after school that’s provided for the teachers. (**I’m being generous with the 30-minute spans before and after children are in the classroom, because in my case, our principal required us to keep our classrooms open and available for students to enter, thus making teachers responsible for the students.) 
I’ve not ever met one teacher, good, bad, or ugly, who can complete all of their required work in that 50-minute planning period and 30-minute span before and after school. 
Teachers want to do the best job for our children. But people need to really understand what is going on in this country's schools. They are on the front lines and it seems that people don't really understand what is involved in actually teaching our nation's children. We can do it, but when you want to fix a problem, it's good to know what the actual problem is...

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