Friday, August 11, 2017

Back To School

It is that time of the year again, which means teachers and kids will be heading back to school. Depending on where you live will determine the dates that they all return. Many schools in the deep South begin the first week of August when it is the hottest time of the season; whereas up North schools wait for Labor Day. Everyone goes the minimum standard 180 days. My question is why not start later in the South and get out of school in June, when the heat is starting to build, instead of getting out the third week in May? Who really has control over this and is it possible to change it? Certainly not the teachers.

Since I have been in the field of education, I feel that I have some inside knowledge that may help the general public think about the real life of a teacher. I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me about how wonderful it must be to have the whole summer off. HA! The public, as a whole, has no clue about how much of a teacher's time is spent in workshops and conferences over the summer. Sometimes a stipend is paid out, usually not. The teachers have the right to not attend, yet if they don't, they start the school year off with a big disadvantage because the information given at the workshops/conferences usually involve new skills that they are expected to teach and therefore will be evaluated on the job that they are doing.

When Joe E. Public thinks of a teacher's job, it usually involves the thought process of how nice it must be to have such a cushy job. Let me take you through just some of what a teacher deals with on a daily basis. First of all, they must work with administrators, some of which excelled in the class of Micromanagement 101. Then, on the other hand you have the ones that you never see. Even though you may believe this is good - it means that you have no one to support you with the parents. Sometimes, teachers get lucky and have a very understanding principal, which does help somewhat, even though the district mandates are out of his/her control.

Yes, let's talk about the parents! Most of them are just fine and can be a teacher's greatest ally, especially as long as the teacher has good communication skills and sends home newsletters. The problem here is that when you have students who do not get the newsletters or homework assignments home, a parent will come up to the school in a heartbeat and tell the teacher, the principal and anyone else who will listen that the problem is not their child, it is that teacher. I am not sure if they expect the teacher to pack each newsletter/assignment in every child's backpack personally, or to hand deliver them in person to the parent. When does the child take responsibility? Are there consequences for the child if they come home without their assignment folder? 

The answer is a great big, "NO!" Why? The reason is because the parent never established ground rules from the first day of kindergarten. Speaking from experience as a parent, the first thing that I did was get my children to show me their folder each day. There may be notes from the teacher, graded papers that may need signed and returned, newsletters that told me about important events going on in the classroom and the school and the log of homework assignments.

Next in a teacher's job comes the endless task of grading papers. This can't be done while teaching. It will be completed once the students have gone home. The teacher may have an after-school club that she is in charge of so stop thinking that she gets to go home when most of the kids go home. In fact, many also stay to tutor those kids who need extra help. Grading papers usually means during the time that other professionals are relaxing and watching TV with their families.

Something else that must be done late at night or through the weekend...that is to write lesson plans. Principals always have specific formats for writing lesson plans, usually based on the school district's objectives. Just as teachers get used to one way, it swings another way, sometimes even mid-year. These are not a page for each day. These can turn into a folder of 15 - 20 pages for one week of lesson plans by the time each requested component has been addressed.

Probably wherever you work there are acronyms for everything. Although, I am not sure why the field of education has so many. My guess is that the school has their own, the district adds to the school, then the state education department throws some in for good measure and let's not forget the nationwide program of NCLB and the IEP with the 504. Be sure that you as the teacher have completed the SLO so that the student who is having difficulty will do better on his CRCT and MAP in order to hold a SST meeting. I am not even going to decipher that for you. 

This is when the teacher takes a moment (when her students are finally at a special class) to head for the Teacher's Lounge for the sugar and caffeine that is almost always in there. Along with everything else, this is where you will find the copier machines, which probably are out of toner or broken down. If the teacher really needs copies, the best option is to arrive at school at 6:00 a.m. when the building engineer opens the doors and possibly she beats the crowd to the copier that may start the day working but conks out later through overuse. And, you must know the word "lounge" is used loosely. Usually there is a refrigerator in there that most people would not want to put a thing in along with the horrific science experiments on every shelf and growing on the walls. At one time, long ago, the cleaning crews cleaned the fridge, wiped the tables and mopped the floors. That was once upon a time. Today is today.

Everyone needs to applaud teachers for what they do. It is certainly not for the salary. It is for the love of children. Now, I will say, yes there are a few teachers who need weeded out. I have been in three states and nine different schools. The majority of teachers are there because it was their calling. They love what they do and they get excited when they see the light bulb (literally) pop up over their students' heads. 

This is what it is all about. So go out and THANK a teacher. Words of gratitude mean the world to them.

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