I am going to enjoy life after 50 if it kills me!

Posts tagged ‘Education’

Why? Why? Why?

I have finished my second day of school.  I think I’m going to have a great class, and things are humming along well in my room.

And yet…

I have some questions, so I’m going to throw them out to the cosmos just to see if any answers come back.

Why don’t children know how they are going home on the first day of school?  Why don’t parents TELL THEM what to do if it rains and they walk home?

Why do we walk students to the intersection of a five lane highway and let them walk to the other side where their parents are standing?  Why aren’t the parents crossing the busy highway to get their kids?  We have a crossing guard, but parents wait safely on their side of the highway for their kindergarteners to cross.

Why are there three day care centers who charge parents to pick up their babies from school in the afternoon, but don’t arrive to get them until an HOUR after dismissal.  This is further complicated by the fact that our duty day ends a HALF HOUR after dismissal.  If any of us on bus duty wanted to file a grievance with the union, we could and would win.  Fortunately for the kids, none of us would do that.

As you might guess, I have afternoon duty this week.  It has also been in the 90s and either raining or threatening rain each day at dismissal.  It is so humid, many of us had wet clothes by the time we finished and most of us had sweat pouring off us.  Which means those babies waiting to be picked up were just as miserable.  I know I’ve been really cranky by 4:00 over the past two days – I wonder how the little ones feel.

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And We’re Off!

After one of the most relaxing, slow-paced summers I can remember, this week is hitting me full force.  Tomorrow is my first official day back to school, although I attended a meeting this afternoon and until I got sick, had been working in my room a few hours each day to get ready for the new school year.  This week will be jam-packed with meetings and inservices with a couple of days to get our rooms ready and our lessons planned.  A week from today, I will have finished the first day of classes with kids.

My oldest child has been doing the same in her classroom.  And my youngest leaves this Friday for college again.  She has been busy packing boxes, shopping, and spending time with friends she won’t see again for awhile.

Suddenly, everything feels rushed.  I don’t like that feeling.  People who work normal jobs may not appreciate what I’m saying.  After all, they don’t have the summer to relax and stay home.  Fair enough.  Teaching is such an unusual profession in some ways.  It’s not the continuum of a regular career.  It’s more of an endurance race, begun each August with the finish line far, far off in the distance of June.  Then we spend summers training and rejuvenating for the next race.

Tomorrow begins the next race for me.

Identity Crisis in the Classroom

The teaching profession has such an identity crisis.

Having been a teacher now for the better part of thirty years, I speak from experience and up close and personal observation.  And I read stuff, too.

We are this unique group of unionized, salaried, degreed public servants who have been called heroes and lazy, who are told “I wouldn’t do your job for all the money in the world” and “It must be nice to have your summers off”, and are told they make too much money, but can qualify for reduced lunch for their kids if they are the sole breadwinners (I worked with someone in that position, and after my divorce, my kids could have qualified at one point).

For the record, in those almost 30 years, I have NEVER met a teacher who said they did it for the pay or did it to get their summers and holidays off.  And most teachers I know come back to work after swearing they weren’t going to do schoolwork at home, and proceed to talk about the unit they planned over the holiday, or the papers they graded over the weekend, or the ideas they came up while lying awake at night to help little Johnny read better.

We teachers love what we do.  Why else would we put up with a kid calling us a bitch, having more students in our class than books and desks for them, being cursed at over the phone by an angry parent, and having an eight year old throw up on our shoes (all of which  have happened to me personally… good times, good times…).

Have I ever met or worked with bad teachers?  One or two over the course of three decades.  Have I worked with teachers who could improve?  Yep.  You mean you’ve never worked with anyone in your chosen career who wasn’t perfect?  I have improved every year I’ve taught, not by chance, but by choice.  Haven’t you?

Some teachers like to compare our careers to those of doctors, especially when it comes to people respecting our knowledge and time.  I kind of cringe at that.  I have half the higher education of a doctor, and I’m not called at 2am or while at a party to rush to the school to deal with a student in need of my expertise.  On the other hand, sometimes teachers get caught up in “labor” versus “management” so to speak.  I am torn about this.  On the one hand, I am a public employee, so I am told what my salary will be – I can’t negotiate in a job interview.  People in other professions requiring the same education levels can sometimes negotiate benefits such as insurance, pay rate, paid holidays, etc.  We can’t, so we rely on a union to do that for us.  But I don’t feel like “labor”.  And I want to be treated as a professional in the field of elementary education.  I think the result of trying to have it both ways is that in some ways we end up being viewed as neither a professional nor as underpaid, overworked working-class folks.

If we can’t clearly identify ourselves as professionals, how can we expect the public and the local, state, and federal governments to treat us as such?  I don’t have an answer to that, or in fact, how to be regarded by the public as experts and professionals in a public service field.  Am I on the right track?  Have I missed the big picture?  I’d love to hear your opinions.

Just don’t be mean.  I’m an elementary school teacher.  We’re sensitive little souls.

How the Other Half Lives

For the first time in my teaching career, I am working at a low income school.  All but one of my students gets a hot lunch each day at either reduced price or for free.  The school is predominantly comprised of African American and Hispanic students.  I have two or three white students in each of my three classes.  One of my students just arrived from Africa.

People (that includes me) make certain assumptions about this “type” of school.  The kids’ behavior must be horrible.  Their parents are in jail or drug addicts or absent.  The kids can’t learn and their attitudes are bad.  The kids just want to cause trouble.

So this is what I’ve found so far.  Over half my students showed up at Open House this evening with their families.  The majority of my students are smart, but perhaps haven’t been exposed to as many cultural experiences as my students on the other side of town.  They get excited about good grades.  I am expecting them to do just as well as any students I’ve ever taught, and they like that.  They respond to praise (when it’s earned) just like the rest of the world.  And if I am honest with them and they know I’m having fun teaching, they have fun learning.  When they realize I care about them, they care about themselves and want to work for me.

So basically, the kids I’m teaching this year aren’t much different than any others I’ve taught.  They start off with fewer advantages, but they work harder than most to get ahead.

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