I had a student one year who gave me grief every day he showed up. He refused to follow procedures, called out, and tried to lead mini rebellions in my classroom. He bragged that the administrators “wouldn’t do nothing” to him. This 13 year-old made no secret of the fact that he already “has a job” and that school is a waste of time. This year, he came to my room and said that he missed me. He thanked me for working so hard to teach him. I had told him regularly that he was too important to ignore, and I kept on teaching my class between his interruptions. He may grow up to be a statistic, but I can rest at night knowing I did my best to educate him and the many students like him that have come through my classroom.
I was given a new assignment this year. Instead of teaching English, which I love, I was assigned to a room “in the back 40” teaching two new subjects–World Geography and Mississippi Studies. I was sent an email in the middle of summer informing me of the room change, and I pretty much had to move myself–in between all the things teachers do to get ready for a new school year. In public school, we take everyone. This means that the parents that decide to wait a week or two to register their children get the same consideration as those who do things on time. So our rosters change daily at the beginning of the year. If children bring school supplies, that’s great. If they don’t, guess who supplies them? Also, administrators forget what it’s like to be in the classroom. They just want to look like innovators and so they are pushing the newest, greatest educational practices (dare I say “fads”) just when we teachers are getting to know our students and becoming familiar with the curriculum. Many of these unreasonable people get promoted instead of fired, yet it is the teachers who are blamed when student scores are low. Even when they have no back up. Without discipline, the students cannot learn. They will do everything they are allowed to do, and some parents simply don’t want to be bothered about a child’s behavior. So when a teacher has no back up in the office or at home, all he or she can do is keep on teaching and hope some of it sinks in. (And speaking of test scores, I’d like to see Congress take those tests. The questions are purposely worded in such an obscure way that some students don’t even know what is being asked for. ) One more point on those “great” new teaching practices–they change every two years whether they work or not.
It always amazes me that the new teachers stick it out when they are given an almost impossible list of tasks. There are tears and long hours, but these women just keep on working. (Most of them. A couple actually do quit after a day or a week.) So when I want to complain about how unreasonable some things are, I remember that there are teachers who make a whole lot less than me, who don’t know the routines, the copier quirks, and the shortcuts–who are showing up early every morning to make sure their students get the very best. And show up they do, no matter what the teacher-bashers out there believe.
And all of those folks who get upset about our “summer off” please remember that many of us take summer classes and district trainings, which we need to renew our licenses, and/or work a second job. In an office job, they don’t expect you to move your own equipment, come up with your own supplies, work late and come in early at the drop of a hat, and get blamed when somebody out of your control has a meltdown. One year I moved classrooms twice in the same year, during the school year. Do you think that helped make things conducive to education? And when test scores reflected all the chaos, guess whose fault it was? Yep, the teachers. So, as I tell my students, don’t believe everything you hear on the news. Research it for yourself. Go volunteer in your child’s classroom for a day or two. I promise you will have a whole new take on those spoiled, do-nothing, overpaid public school teachers.