I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

23 November 2012

All This and More

This article covers many of the issues that are frustrating me this year.  I am not one of those shiny new young teachers they're profiling, but teacher satisfaction surveys indicate that even veterans like me are dissatisfied in increasing numbers.

Notably, we're not unhappy about our students (although the teachers I know in districts with increased class sizes are not enjoying having quite so many).
A 2007 study by California State University's Center for Teacher Quality found that teachers driven from the state's classroom most often cited bureaucratic frustrations like excessive paperwork, too many meetings, and frequent classroom interruptions. Satisfied teachers most often pointed to having a meaningful role in school decision-making, collaborative relationships with colleagues, adequate planning time, sufficient classroom materials, and supportive principals.
Yes.  This year alone:

  • I had to fill out a series of scantron sheets using test information recorded in student booklets (I record the information from students' oral answers.  My students will never bubble test sheets on my watch).  Then I had to put the same information into the online data system in a slightly different format.  In short: three different formats for the same information.  And since the district data program crashes a lot and I find its spreadsheets irritating, I had to record all that information into my own, cleaner format.
  • I receive at least one non-emergency call a day during instructional time.  These are not personal calls; they're either about school stuff or calls from social workers, field trip locations, lawyers, district administrators, etc.
  • I have exactly twenty minutes of prep time during the school day weekly.  I use this to plan with my Resident.
  • My contract day includes sixty minutes of non-instructional time daily.  I have mandatory meetings which may or may not be useful on two of these days.  I meet with my Resident on a third and do informal mentoring/tutoring on a fourth.  Generally, the fifth is another meeting, an SST, or an IEP.
  • I've spent over twelve hundred dollars this year on classroom materials.  I have received another four thousand dollars of materials through donations and grants.   I write the applications for those donations and grants on my own time.
  • My job does not provide the technological tools I need to do my report cards and complete online data requirements.  I must provide my own tools and do these on my own time.
So my frustrations are not coming from unexpected sources.  The thing is: I AM one of those teachers that we are supposed to want in the classroom.  My students do well and they are happy.  I get my paperwork done.  I scrounge up those grants.  Heck, I'm even training new teachers who have gone on to run their own successful classrooms.  And I do this at a high-poverty, high-needs school by choice.  Shouldn't SOMEONE SOMEWHERE be doing SOMETHING to help ameliorate these predictable frustrations?

(Confidential to SFUSD: Nodding supportively and then explaining how the budget crisis keeps you from action doesn't count.  Remember, when the budget crisis means schools don't receive vital resources, I don't get to decide that I simply won't teach that content.  You shouldn't get to do that, either.)

The article doesn't cover the general media bias against teachers (we unionized layabouts), but I also think that's unhelpful.  I have always been mildly irritated by the widespread assumption that I am not too bright, seeing as how I teach Kindergarten and all.  But this idea that teachers are slimy slime because we would prefer not to be evaluated using biased, unscientific criteria, that we're protected no matter what our crimes by our due-process rights and cushy pensions, that we're too soft because we'd like our classrooms to have no mice, rats, and working climate control systems - all of that gets old, too.

It is very hard to believe that the powers that be want the best for you and your students when they systematically strip you of what you need to do your job and then  complain that expecting necessities means you are lazy and don't care enough.  

The thing is, we care enough to expect more for our students.  We refuse to teach them that they're worthless, that their value can be compressed into their performance on two thirty-eight question annual exams, that they do not deserve the best we can offer.  We demand the right to teach our students how to advocate for themselves.  We insist that they question, analyze, and think creatively.  And we are angry that so many barriers are put in their way.

What the powers that be really don't like is that teachers are not going to roll over and let them destroy our students' futures.   Ultimately, I have to wonder if the piles of useless paperwork, the endless meetings, the lack of supplies, and the disrespect aren't part of a plan to get teachers to opt-out.

I still say the best way to fight back is to fight back, and to make sure that one's own classroom is not a monument to test prep and boredom.  MASKS FOR EVERYONE.


Anonymous said...

I find that this year has been quite challenging, between all the initiatives that we are trying to implement. Restorative Practices, RTI, plus the new resource curriculum known as Treasures...

I for one appreciate you. I do have to ask about the following, though.

"It is important to remind out of classroom specialists that the TWENTY instructional days between now and Winter Break are not "the holidays" and therefore not a time for them to followup on services, SST and IEP plans, etc."

Can you say more about this, please?

E. Rat said...

I edited that, thanks. I did a couple of SSTs at conferences and when scheduling followups and deadlines, I heard a lot of "Well, Winter Break's coming...should we check in at the end of January?" Winter Break is coming, but it's four weeks away! We should be checking in sooner than January! I think this is a holdover from last year, when there were only two weeks between Thanksgiving and Winter Break.

E. Rat said...

And yes, there are a lot of new initiatives this year, and a lot of pressure to do them all now and all well, huh?