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.
A couple weeks ago, Bill Ferriter posted an interesting and heart-felt piece on race and teaching in America. It was poignant due to its rarity as much as its honesty. Considering this particular discussion’s prevalence in our nation’s dialogue on our culture at large, it should logically be occupy space in the landscape of our discussions about classroom culture.
And yet it doesn’t.
The #edchats on Tuesday nights at 7 pm cover many topics, but whenever race in the classroom was a choice in the weekly vote, it was never selected. That was, Tom Whitby says, until all five choices were on the topic and it forced the issue.
As I start week four with my students, I am reminded that traditional calendar schools are beginning to start all over the country. I have posted before about technology tools that simplify a teacher’s life. However, if I were to recommend just two from that video to check out as one starts a school year, they would be:
Class Charts: Digital Seating Charts, manage the behavioral data of my students, has a free Edmodo App
Common Curriculum: Digital Lesson Plan Book, plan lessons, units and share that information with others; link material easily for students and parents
I have found them to be total game-changers.
What tools help you manage the learning in your classroom?
Before I begin this week’s post, my sincerest gratitude to you. Yes, you reading this right now. “Teaching Speaks Volumes” has made Teach.com‘s ranking of education blogs. This is because of you, the reader. (And some other additional factors in their mysterious formula.) Anyway, thanks so much for reading!
So…tomorrow is the first day of school. After twelve years, I am teaching a new grade level (6th grade) at a school across town. I am very eager for the new experiences and perspectives that accompany change.
I left my new classroom today ready to greet my new students at 7 am tomorrow morning. I have been out of school for six weeks now – an almost unheard of rarity in the year-round school schedule created by my switch from track 1 to track 4. I’m not accustomed to being off on break for more than three or maybe four weeks, and for me that’s plenty. I’ve written before about my love of year round schools, and I did not consider a move to a school with a “traditional calendar”.
With all the time off and the impending huge changes, the setting up of my new classroom became a huge focal point. I recently read “What You See in Today’s Public School Classroom Is A Mirage” by Carla Friesen a few weeks ago, and it really resonated with me. In her article, she shows the “before” and “after” of public school classrooms: what is given to the teacher vs. what teachers added to create the final learning spaces.
Using the Time Shutter App, I captured the transformation of my new classroom. I took the first picture of the room as it was – the teacher’s before me moving out before I moved in – but in the second frame you can see my mountain of materials that appear. The rest of the gif is it slowly finding its new homes…
How do you perform and transform your classroom into the “mirage”?
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.
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.