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It is time teachers stopped being part of the problem (rough draft)

As we head back to school I would like teachers to seriously consider something. It's not reviewing the latest scholarly article or their pedagogy. It’s not putting yourself in your children or their parents’ shoes to see where they are coming from either. Where those things are important what I ask you to do is much more so. What I am asking you to do is just work to the contract, nothing more and nothing less.

For decades now school systems have only been able to function let alone succeed on the backs of the unpaid labors and sacrifices of their teachers. If it wasn’t for millions of teachers working late into the night and on weekends, often at the expense of their own friends and families education would have grinded to a halt and the powers-that-be both know this and have taken advantage of it.
     
Teachers by nature are givers and sacrificers well I am here to let you know that their altruism is a big part of the problem.

Why should state legislatures and for that matter the nation properly invest in education when they know they have millions of suckers who will shore up the cracks with both their free time and own money?

The truth is this may have been an acceptable arrangement when teachers were just required to teach but that’s not the case today, along with being a psychologist, social worker, nurse, and tutor, we are expected to collect and analyze data, be experts on technology, differentiate our curriculum to meet every child’s individual needs and, make materials. Teachers are now disciplinarians and truant officers because administrations won’t get involved into you try multiple interventions or attempts, and we paper push, boy do we push paper. When I started teaching just sixteen years ago my lesson plan was a little box on a calendar, now it’s a two paged, 8 font monstrosity. Teachers today often have fewer and fewer resources and more and more demands. These demands also often take away from the number one thing we are supposed to do, teach.

In short teachers are given way too much to do and not nearly enough time and resources to do it all while their actual pay because of the rising costs of benefits and inflation is decreasing.

Then somewhere along the way things changed. Teachers went from revered members of the community to the face, often presented as the lazy and selfish face of America’s problems. If only Mrs. Mcgillicutty could have gotten little Billy up to speed instead of spending so much time in the teacher’s lounge complaining is a sentiment heard from Chris Christie, John Kasich, Jeb Bush the Trump Klan Clan and so many others. They blame teachers at the same time they cut budgets or raise them at a rate that doesn’t keep up with inflation. They invest in high stakes testing, blame the teacher evaluations and charter schools rather than the people actually doing the teaching and teachers, you, we, me have let them. It’s not just republicans either who are guilty of this though at least democrats have the sense to remain silent as they take advantage of teachers.  

Does anybody see the irony in the fact that in a job that is routinely ridiculed and mocked, that many imply is easy has seen defections and shortages like never before?  

This has to stop and step one is working to the contract. Teachers need to start just showing up and giving an honest effort for a day’s pay but when the dismissal bell rings leave and don’t take home any work with them. If it doesn’t get done that day then it goes on the pile for the next and if it gets to the point where there is too much to get done, then so be it. This is not a system created by teachers but it is a system that teachers have allowed to fester and it is a system that will never change unless we say enough is enough.

I'm not saying we should throw up our hands and quit. Instead I am saying that if we stopped being afraid then we can make things better. The crazy thing is right now teachers have the power. Florida recently declared a critical shortage in just about every teaching position. States all across the nation are facing exoduses and shortages.

We need to stop working for free. If enough teachers did that then this alone would send a big enough signal that things need to change.

I will be honest there may be consequences for doing and saying the right things but if enough of us do it then there will be rewards as well and not just for teachers though to be honest the better things are for teachers the better they are for their students but students as well will see benefits of their own. A teacher not worked to death and pulled in dozens of different directions is a better teacher, smaller classes, and experts in areas that aren’t teaching specific to take care of those important needs are some benefits that children could reap as well. 

Teachers have to stop letting the powers-that-be get away with barely funding a system that all too often hurts teachers and students alike by putting them in a position where success is nearly impossible to achieve. The powers-that-be must be held accountable for the system they created or the system will never change.

There is a quote by Gandhi that many teachers like to use and that’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change I would like to see is teachers and students both getting what they need.   

So teachers when you return in the next few weeks do you and your students a favor, work to the contract and not one minute before. 

8 comments:

  1. Although I retired after 34 years of teaching, it saddens me to know that so many great teachers are leaving the profession because of the conditions stated in this document. We will be left with mediocre teachers and our children will suffer the consequences. Wake up, America!

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    1. It is s sad that Educators are an endangered species. :-(

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  2. A few years ago I was in a faculty meeting where they were introducing some new testing. We were to transition from one testing to another - continue with the old as they add the new. There were many questions that the admin could not answer. I asked when we were going to stop with this nonsense and let the doe know our teaching time was being whittled away. I was hushed up immediately. Not one teacher said a word. Later in the day some teachers told me, in private, they agreed with me. I told them that their support during the meeting would have been helpful. Most teachers are sheep and fear for their jobs. I agree with your idea - teach to the contract. Thank you, Linda

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  3. Dissenters are silenced, and the silence of the lambs makes it possible to bully those who don't fall in line. I was bullied while working as an instructional assistant fro the fact that I reached out to the superintendent on my own time to tell him about a program I had found that was helpful to children. It enraged the principal. I was bullied for 4 years. Now I privately tutor using the very same program I was bullied for, and the school system could have been using it all along. That bully is now in charge of the ESE department in the county.

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  4. I don't think I can be this kind of teacher. This kind of teacher does not read about her profession, does not study her lessons, and does question the kids and the environments from which they come. This kind of teacher sits at her desk while all of her students sit at their desks. If grading papers take too much time, then you are giving too much work that needs to be graded and not having meaningful conversations with your children about math or literature. Will we always be behind? Yes. I come from a family of teachers that made their work their life. Lots of rehearsals, mom made majorette uniforms for kids who could not get them made. Lots of teenagers at my house when I was little. You see - it is about the relationships - not always the curriculum. And the testing?? Yes - probably too much. My philosophy is to do what I can with the time they give me and then spend some introspective time thinking about what I DID ALL DAY AND WHETHER IT WAS MEANINGFUL. There is no profession where individuals do not continue to train (mechanics, doctors, chefs to mention just a few) and learn about their work. I love my work and I usually have a good balance of home life and work life to make me very happy. As Harry Wong said "You are not there to do all the work - the students are - teach them to be accountable for their work, train them to critique each other's work. Go home and run for an hour and you'll be much happier.

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    1. I am not sure what grade you teach; however, if it is middle or high school and ELA, then you have at least 132 students. All of the assignments are written, either short responses or essays; no multiple choice. When written on the computer, using Achieve 3000, our grading and written feedback are monitored by admin! If you check the grading time grid Chris posted, even allocating only five minutes an assignment takes 10 hours of grading time for only 125 students. Two of our five planning periods per week are consumed with “mandatory” department level planning-all grade levels of similar core courses (1 day/week), grade level planning- single grade level of core courses (1 day/week), grade level team meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. This leaves very little time for grading, perhaps three hours of planning a week. Grading during class is a gross no-no. During class, we are juggling discipline, proximity control, small group instruction, differentiation, and building relationships. I spend more than five minutes an assignment because if I expect my students to put forth their best efforts, I do the same-making suggestions, asking questions, and inserting edits. In addition, I accept revisions and regrade those. My intent is to create analytical thinkers who can reduce that analysis to clear, concise, and relevant writing. Verbal interaction alone cannot do this. It takes writing, rewriting, and more writing. I do not know how you are able to tackle this, but would love to know your secret, as I am dreading the late evenings and lost weekends.

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  5. I agree. Teachers should just work to the contract, nothing more and nothing less. People who work for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office are paid overtime pay and have a nice pension system. Teachers need to stop doing "extra" work at home for free. If a teacher can't get their work done under the contract terms, then it is not the fault of the teacher. It is the fault of the system. You will not be able to change the system, if you are doing extra work for free. Do not be afraid. If someone speaks up during a meeting and you agree with that person, please say, "I agree."

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