22 Apr The Multi-Dimensional Job of Teaching
She wrote this insightful piece about a day/life of a public school teacher in response to FL Senator John Thrasher’s comments following Crist’s veto of his bill, SB6. However, this piece speaks to all teachers, be they Floridians, Texans, Iowans, or humans.
Response to Thrasher
Please, please, to all of you who have the answers…become a teacher. We would welcome you.
On any given day you will have 2-3 tardy students, 2-3 absent students, 2-3 sleepy students, 2-3 sick students, 2-3 dirty students, 2-3 hungry students, 3-4 rude students, 5-6 VERY low level students academically, 5-6 very high level academically, 10-15 students with no pencil or paper, 10 – 15 students who did not do their homework. You will give out lunch money, pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, dividers, glue, and folders on a daily basis. You will decide early on that a supply list is just a suggestion and that YOU will have to buy what you want the students to use. You will supply the tissues and hand soap. You will wipe tears and clean up vomit. You will counsel parents and students alike. You will try to convince a parent that beating her child won’t change their violent tendencies in school. You will try to gently teach a child that adults don’t always use appropriate language. You will try to keep a child awake to take a test whose parents had a party the night before. You will make sure all of your students have breakfast on test days, even if it means YOU buy it. You will keep a supply of band aids, even sending a few home for those who don’t have someone to clean their wounds at home. You will buy some of your children books, to keep, because no one else will. You will learn to say something kind to each child every day, because it may be the only kind thing that child ever hears. You will learn to tell the dirtiest child, who has worn the same clothes the previous three days, how nice they look…because they know that they don’t. You will wash faces and even feet at times. You will provide basic hygiene items and some times have to teach how to use them. You will lay awake many nights in tears. You will worry most all of the time. You will hate yourself because the higher level students don’t get the attention they deserve because of the disruptive students in your class. You will hate yourself because the very high students rarely get time to extend. You will find yourself developing projects for them to do outside of school to extend their educations.
Even worse, you will hate yourself because you don’t have enough one on one time to give to the growing number of very low students. At the end of the day you worry that what time you did give them isn’t enough to make a difference.
You will sit at the end of the school day and cry because you spent hours on Sunday afternoon writing lesson plans for the week that you only got to half of because the tardy student interrupted instruction, then there was a fire drill, an announcement over the intercom, a parent came to pick up a child for an appointment, someone got sick, someone blew their nose and snot went everywhere, someone else farted and everyone had to stop and laugh, 5 students all broke the lead on their pencil at one time so you had to stop and sharpen them on the third electric pencil sharpener you have tried this year (on this one only you sharpen the pencils), then all instruction has to stop for a required Progress Monitoring Assessment, then it is time for an assembly and or a resource, and then after all that it is lunch time.
You will stay that afternoon, and every one for that matter hours after your paid work time ends to rework lessons. Then, you will take work home to grade and comment on, and put in grade books and document in data notebooks.
Your lunch each day is about 15-20 minutes, depending on who stops you in the hallway, after you take your students to lunch, make sure they get through the line and are seated. You will hurry back to your room and prepare for the next group of students to come to class before time to pick up the first.
After lunch your classroom becomes a whole new world. The most seasoned teacher will tell you that afternoons are a much more difficult time to keep a student actively engaged. Disruptions increase and focus decreases. You will have to work hard to keep your stress level limited. You will have to increase your pace to keep students engaged. Ideally this would be an excellent time for integrating technology in the classroom. But, you will find that technology is very limited in most schools. And not, as you will be surprised to find out as lacking in inner city schools as in the other schools who do not qualify for the assistance that inner city schools do. You will soon also learn that the inner city, is not always in the “inner city.” You will find that behaviors, family situations, academic levels are much more consistent across big counties like Duval than you would think.
I am taking a break from this to go shopping with my grandchild. But please note that you, new teacher, have had precious little time in your day to actually teach. And, I can hear it now, “all that doesn’t happen in one day.” You would be so surprised. Schools in the past five years have changed dramatically. Disruptive behaviors have increased exponentially while administrative support has decreased exponentially. Honestly, administrators hands are as tied as a teacher’s are. Parents do not want to deal with their own children nor, do they want to have any responsibility in their educations. Not all parents of course, but you will find out very soon that the scales have tipped and now more than 50% of your student’s parents have no interest in the schooling of their child EXCEPT when it comes to someone picking on them. You will enjoy asking repeatedly for a conference about academics, show up early or stay late, only to have the parent be a no-show. That same parent is in the principal’s office the minute they feel someone has done their child wrong, say for instance the teacher for not giving their child a good grade.
Then you find out that a new bill could pass that will dramatically reduce your current salary, as much as 15%, for the next three to five years before any increase goes in to effect. Maybe if your students perform well enough on a test or two, in 10 years you will be making what you are today. It won’t matter if that 5th grader who was reading on a first grade level can now begin to read some 3rd grade books. You will look like a failure on that state assessment because that child, despite working her butt off, still does not meet standards.
I had just made plans to get my reading endorsement over the summer then begin the process of national board certification in September. I was very excited. Most of the teachers I know love learning and are always attempting to further their education. Now I wonder if the time and expense is worth the 500+ hours and the expense.
I LOVE teaching and I LOVE all of my students, but you, new teacher, will soon join the rest of us with high blood pressure and permanently on depression medication. Some of you can’t stand to be home with your own children on weekends. Imagine being responsible for your own child and 21 others for a solid 7 hours. I would enjoy the chance to interview them just once and have them answer random questions about what you have done to educate them. Pass or fail.
New teachers will be in high demand in Florida! Please begin the application process now.