Friday, October 26, 2012

The Current State of Teachers

I am not one to espouse politics or be "rah rah teachers" in public, but I have to say that I am getting sick of being put through the ringer. As I have been reading blogs and taking stock of my own situation at the moment, it seems pretty clear to me that most teachers I know seem to be more strapped for time and stressed than ever. I have taught over 20 years now and I am barely a day ahead in my planning. Even when I was a first year teacher, I don't think I was this close in my planning. I have noticed that many teachers who have been blogging a while have a lack of blog posts, or a lack of posts of stuff that is going on in their classroom. I'm guessing that this isn't due to the lack of great things going on in their classes, but rather from a lack of time to blog about it.

Teachers have been under fire in the media and by politicians for some time. Granted, there are some who have been fighting it publicly. but for the most part, you don't see teachers fighting it. I don't think it's because we are willing to accept the additional work and stresses and criticisms we have been placed under. I think it's because we are conscientious workers who honestly try to do the best we can for our students and because of that, we are busy trying to make sure we are doing the best possible job in our classrooms. And with the remaining time, we are busy trying to keep things afloat at home and in our own lives. It's not that we don't care and that we like being criticized - we don't. But we are just too busy trying to do the best we can to stop and comment.

I can't quite put my finger on why everyone is so busy/stressed/strapped. Is it because of Common Core? Well, not everyone is transitioning yet. Is it because we are all trying to be really awesome teachers and incorporating all of the great stuff we have found in blogs and on Twitter? Well, even my colleagues who are not reading blogs or tweeting are busy and stressed. Is it because we have had more stuff added to our plates? Possibly - I can say that is true at my school since we are doing more with less staff, but I'm not totally convinced that we have had that much added to our plates (but we have had stuff added). Is it because of increased family responsibilities? Maybe. Is it a combination of all of these things? Well, for me it is, but I'm not sure for everyone else. But something has changed this year.

I wish there was some way to promote, convince, make our case public or something. I think a lot of people still think that we have an 8 - 3 job and have summers off plus other vacations during the year and we have it easy. The reality is, we don't. I spend from 6:45 am until 3:15 pm in my school most days, plus usually at least an hour or two each night in planning or grading or researching for lessons as well as an additional 2-3 hours (minimum) on Sunday getting ready for the week ahead. I'm sure that many of you do the same. Don't even get me started about summer. Although we're not at school and working, I am still thinking about and reading and researching for my classes next year. Yes, I do get time off, but it's not as much as people may think. I think the worst thing for me this year is that I am stealing time when my kids are playing together (and not arguing or tearing the house apart) trying to get stuff ready for the next day or two. All of this adds up. It wears on your mind and eventually your body. It's a minor miracle that I haven't gotten sick yet this year - I'm just waiting for it to happen given the pace I have been keeping.

So, what am I going to do about it? Well, I guess I'm continuing to try to get more than 2 days ahead in my class planning. I keep telling that once I reach that point that I'll feel a bit more comfortable. Haven't gotten there yet, unfortunately. I'm going to try to do nice things for my fellow teachers, even if it's something as small as sharing a kind word or a small gesture. But beyond that, I can't really say what I'll do. I feel so helpless to get off this darn hamster wheel I am on. Try as I may, I just can't seem to get into the planning groove I have had in years past. I am striving to get there, but failing. So, I'll do what I know I can do: try to get ahead and try to be as positive as possible. Maybe at some point, I'll feel like I have the energy and the time to defend my choice of profession as we continue to be attacked. But for now, I am going to do what I know best: affect change where I can make a difference.


Tina Cardone said...

This is so well timed. Sam and I have been planning a call for all teachers to blog about a day in the life, specifically November 16. I think what you're saying is really important, and now I want to push to have our blog posts publicized. We need to stand up for ourselves and demand respect as professionals. Sam and I are going to announce late next week and I'm going to link back to this post and get ideas on how to share to a wider audience.

Kim Hughey said...

Wow, I had not read this post when I wrote mine this morning about the stress I have been under. Amazing. Personally, I think the stress many teachers are feeling has something to do with trying to force kids into math classes they have no business being in and then trying to make it the teacher's fault when they aren't successful. We are told if we just work harder, call more parents, design better curriculum, analyze data more effectively, offer more tutorial times, incorporate 21st century digital learning, spoon feed them and then wipe their ass, that our students will finally enter educational nirvana. Sixteen years ago when I started teaching, students were allowed to take algebra over 2 years and an informaal geometry class and then graduate. In Texas students are forced to complete four years of college prep math. If they can't hack it, they are eventually put into credit recovery, but not before their teacher's have been put through hell trying to convince them to work and make some effort to learn the material.