Not enough copies
Not enough books
Teachers spending their own thin dime
It’s a crime.
Not enough time
Not enough technology
There is simply not enough me…
to go around
to these 42 students in this one class
Because class size limits…are gone.
Education is a pawn
in their reelection game.
But the more they talk of change,
the more things stay the same.
Instead of the blame, they should find the funding instead.
But their friends get deep tax cuts so it puts our schools in the red.
They vilify those that they should empower.
But those making the choices refuse to hear the experienced voices.
I have always tried to operate under this theory: The harder a child is on you as the teacher, the more s/he needs you to be good at your job.
Like little Julie*? Who you could throw the textbook into the room and leave, and 180 days later, she’d have completed all the work? Yeah. She doesn’t need you. I mean, you love her in spite of this fact. After all, she’s wonderful! And hopefully, she will learn more with your guidance that she would have without it. But, still… You are not a crucial adult in the journey to success in her life.
That one (ten? thirty?) who drives you crazy? Who doesn’t know social cues? Who doesn’t appropriately respond to authority figures? Who won’t pick up a pencil, let alone complete assignments, without your constant prodding?
He needs you. In fact, he has little chance without you.
And there lies an interesting paradox: The harder they make your job, the more important your job is for them. The more crucial you are as the teacher.
The harder a child is to teach, the more he or she needs you.
I sometimes chant this little mantra when I am so frustrated with those most difficult students.
What core beliefs to you remind yourself of as you teach that help you?
*Julie is used here as the name of that sweet little (usually female) student whom teaching is an effortless joy. This is not based on any specific, actual Julie.
However, I surprised myself by reacting in an entirely different, non-serious way. Perhaps it’s due to the current state of education, particularly in my own state of North Carolina, where we have to laugh or we’d cry, but my husband and I just kept riffing (and laughing) on all the ways teachers are soooo not either of these professions.
I thought others may also get a chuckle from what we came up with…and maybe add a few more in the comments.
So, I present to you:
Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo NOT Doctors or Surgeons
You knew it was coming. Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? I made an infographic on easel.ly to see what the difference was in my own city.
I was curious.
Credibility. Even in the face of death of a loved one, “I did everything I could.” actually means something coming from a surgeon.
Concrete data. A heart attack presents like a heart attack and cancer is treated like cancer, regardless of a patient’s ability, motivation, or intelligence. This makes quite a difference if you are expected to act on the information with the certainty and confidence demanded of all three professions.
Help. Doctors and surgeons have nurses. Physician’s assistants. EMTs. Those people that check you in and out. Orderlies…etc. A very small, ever-shrinking percentage of teachers have teachers’ assistants. (And anyone who thinks they don’t desperately need them should come teach a class of 24 kindergarteners solo.)
Teachers can’t excise a tumor of laziness or ignorance…though a girl can dream, can’t she?
Doctors don’t have to write plans for a substitute doctor to try to see all the patients in their care in a day. They can simply reschedule their appointments for the day if they’re out. (Actually, someone else probably does that for them.)
Please show me the surgeon who has 35 people on operating tables…at once.
Rarely is a patient unconscious on the table and still able to hurl obscenities at the surgeon or threaten them with bodily harm. (Of course, I’m just guessing.)
I’m pretty sure there are very few doctors buying their own tongue depressors out-of-pocket.
No one ever criticizes a doctor or surgeon for the appointment not being engaging or entertaining enough.
UPDATE Comments have had me look more closely at the data in the table. For example, I realized I should have divided by 5 instead of 7, since weekends were already removed from both sides. The infographic has been updated several times to reflect the new numbers. Many thanks to commenters and their efforts to keep this an active, living document!
“Thank you for your time and energy to bring the plight of NC Teachers to the forefront of America’s awareness! Your graphic shows the breakdown for pay only for days directly teaching students. I’m a math teacher, so I want to show the numbers just a bit more specifically. We are paid for 210 days. At this point, most people get agitated about how “little” we work. So let’s compare to any other profession. Most careers, with college educated professionals work Monday through Friday. With 52 weeks a year, that is 104 days off for weekends. The US has eleven recognized paid holidays. Taking the 365 days in a year, and subtracting the 104 weekend days and 11 holidays, that leaves 250 work days. Most career professionals get two weeks of vacation, or more, but let’s use two weeks as a beginning point. That is 236 days working in a year. Teachers only work 26 days less than the average beginning career professional. I would venture to say the typical career adds weeks of vacations as a perquisite the longer one holds the job. Teaching days remain constant through the life of our career.”
It was September 2000. My first year teaching. Greenville County, South Carolina.
A math teacher on my hall, whose name escapes me now, left on maternity leave. The woman they got to sub for her was a parent of one of the seventh-graders at the school. She had been a fairly prominent and successful businesswoman, running a major division of IBM up until she’d had her son. After staying home with him for the first 12 years of his life, she thought substitute teaching would be a great slow start back into the workforce.
Exactly. I hear you all laughing right now and I share in your chuckle.
What I remember so clearly about this woman was her way of explaining how overwhelmingly demanding teaching is as compared to a job in the business world:
When I worked for IBM, my job was to make phone calls, process paperwork, make contacts, and have meetings. Now as a teacher, I still have to do all of these things. I need to plan lessons. I need to call parents. I need to process paperwork. I need to grade stacks of papers. I need to meet with other teachers, with parents, and with administrators. However, very little time during my day is available for me to actually do any of the that large part of my job. Teachers have a 9-to-5 job’s worth of work to do, and they can’t get any of it done from 7:30 to 3:00.
Coming from the business world, this seemed to really shock her. If you’re a teacher reading this, you’re nodding and smiling (or rolling your eyes) as you already know what she was just learning: Teachers are almost always “on” for their audience. They rarely sit at a desk and work. They are constantly meeting students’ needs: moving and teaching and coaching and intervening and quite often forgoing sitting for lunch or taking restroom breaks. Their own tasks and goals must wait.
However, this concept of a teacher’s time during the day seems to elude the public at large, with common comments like: “It must be so nice to be done by 3 o’clock.” and “I emailed you this morning, but I haven’t gotten a response from you yet.”
I can’t help but wonder: Why doesn’t George Clooney have to deal with this crap? Is anyone under theimpression that he spent the exact 116 minutes it takes to view Ocean’s Eleven to actually make it? No. The American public understands that a movie takes months or even years to make those two hours. However, they fail to understand that the teacher – who’s paid dirt compared to Hollywood – is also working under a misleading ratio of time-in and quality product-out.
Teachers are not compensated for most if not all of the time they put in preparing innovative lessons. Sure, a teacher could just “phone it in” and not spend as much extra time on lesson planning. A teacher that just gives textbook work and worksheets? That’s what that looks like. Few educators, however, want to be a C-list or D-list teacher. Many educators strive to be A-list, putting their hearts into a quality product well after the school bell has rung.
And while I am sure teachers put in time outside the scheduled day the world over, the United States compensates its teachers particularly poorly for our time demands compared to other countries:
So our society either needs to:
recognize innovation, collaboration, and all things that make professional education great by valuing how much time and effort outside the classroom is required,
– or –
acknowledge that we have set up a system that is okay with exhausting teachers to the point of mediocrity.
With the current climate, I may be asking too much just with verbs like ‘recognize’ and ‘acknowledge’, but I intend to aim high…
I’ve taken the last few weeks off from blogging to reflect on teaching, the state of education, and my role in it. I wish I’d reflected more “publicly” in the way of more posts, but I doubt it to have made for good reading. I’ve been feeling all muddled up with the departure of colleagues and things feeling so grim.
My reflection came down to this simple question: Why do I teach?
I’ve decided to stop being so lost in my own thoughts and let this reflection be a public one as the subject of today’s post. It’s time.
That, and the band director at my school has vowed to not read any more of my posts until I have something positive to report…but I digress.
Five years ago, our staff completed Six-Word Memoirs on our experience as teachers. They were complied by the incomparable Paul Cancellieri who pens Scripted Spontaneity. I couldn’t think of a more succinct yet powerful way to remember and summarize why we teach. Why we stay dedicated in the face of increasing adversity. Therefore, I revisited it recently and share it here in hopes it also resonates with you:
One of them (a colleague’s, not my own) inspired me to write the following, another window into my five-year-ago teacher-self:
And then I realized something: one of the reasons I am so hurt is that it’s this dedication on which they are counting. Using. These people in power, whether simply clueless as to the damage they are doing or with insidious intentions, who are undermining our profession at every turn. Defunding it. Devaluing it. The ones forever saying “do more with less.” Who are essentially challenging: “What’ya gonna do…leave? Well, then you weren’t a dedicated teacher to start with, were you?”
The dedication is what they counted on to get away with it.
Let me be clear: They are unequivocally wrong. Yes, they will chase some amazingly talented educators out of the classroom. They already have. However, please don’t let them mistake our kindness for weakness, nor our dedication to teaching as acceptance of their poor treatment.
We must be as dedicated to teaching as a profession as we are to teaching as an act.
I was afforded the opportunity to have “blogging training wheels” in the way of writing a few Guest Posts for Scripted Spontaneity throughout the year before I started Teaching Speaks Volumes this past June. One of these posts from about a year-and-a-half ago still remains one of my own personal favorites that I’ve written on education.So, I hope my readers don’t mind a cross-post as I include on my own blog, and will perhaps even provide some fresh perspectives in the comments.
“If our core belief is based on what other people think, then we eventually will allow their opinions to become our reality.” ~Darren L. Johnson
Our school is currently developing Core Belief Statements. First, each of our interdisciplinary teams and elective departments generated their own and submitted them to administration. Now these statements have been compiled and shared with the staff. They’ll be used to create Core Belief Statements for our school.
It’s wonderful that this process has opened dialogue, but it begs the question: Does something so personal coincide with asking for a standardized consensus? Perhaps I am borrowing trouble and these statements will be vague enough where everyone can agree, but some people have very passionate beliefs when it comes to teaching and education.
Scripted Spontaneity followers know there’s been recent discussion here about standardization of teachers’ practices. But what about standardization of Core Beliefs? Even if teachers can all agree on a statement like, “We value what is in the best interest of the students,” . . . what if we don’t agree on what that should be? What happens when caring, brilliant teachers who work daily with purpose and precision … don’t agree on what these practices are?