There is no other purpose in this post except to give a short rant, based on a book synopsis I read while browsing Barnes and Noble online. Seriously, that is what this is and I understand if you want to skip.
It is the end of first quarter, and I am exhausted. I'm teaching three different grade levels this year, co-advising National Honor Society, and trying desperately hard to meet the needs of all of my students.
But despite my best efforts, I cannot reach all of them. Of my six classes, my smallest is a class of 27 sophomores. My largest is class of 40 seniors. Take a minute to imagine how long grading essays takes.
This is not to say I hate my job. I like/love my job. I do, most of the time. I feel like I am a good teacher, and each year I improve. I want to be better every year. I may not be able to reach each student, but I feel like it is my obligation to try.
I am however, tired of books and movies (sometimes written about or by teachers) that tell me my obligation is to give up my entire life in order to teach. Apparently, in order to be a good teacher I am supposed to give up on my marriage and my family, spend every waking moment focusing on teaching, and sacrifice any sense of personal self. For less pay than the manager at McDonalds.
Furthermore, these books/movies never seem to tell the whole story. An elementary school teacher at a charter school has all 19 of his students reading on the college level. Fantastic, but how many of those kids were severely special-needs? Or learning English as a second language? Also, ever notice how long these teachers actually teach? Two or three years before they quit to write their teaching memoir.
Even if the teacher has a class-load similar to mine, and just as many students, with just as many disabilities, is it unreasonable to still assume that every situation is different?
I believe in high standards for teachings. I'm angry at bad teachers for the same reasons you are. It denies students a right to a quality education, which they deserve. It puts an added burden on good teachers to catch up students after a year with a lousy one. I get it. Along with higher pay, I'm entirely fine with raising and maintaining standards for educators. Also, as a side note, if you want me to personally tutor each and every student every day, you might not want to give me 27-40 of them per class. Just a thought.
So next time you read a book, watch a documentary on some teacher who has their students over at her house every night doing practice ACT exams, remember that there is a difference between high standards, and committing emotional and physical suicide for your job.
I won't be able to be a good teacher if I burn out after two years because I'm living at my school. I help no one if I'm angry all day at school because I stayed up until midnight in order to grade essays the day I receive them. I'm a better person, and teacher when I wait a day to grade and spend some time outside instead. Outside! Can you believe it?
Last Tuesday I came to school at 6:45 am. I left at 7:20 pm after teaching all day, grading all afternoon, and putting on the NHS Induction Ceremony. Unusual? Yes. But fairly indicative of how much work goes into working at a public school.
Despite all this effort, some of my students still failed this quarter. I truly believe there was nothing I could do. Especially for the student who came to class three times last quarter, and earned 9% in my class,
But if you believe the "inspirational" movies and books, I should have been at that student's house every morning, driving him to school. I should have spent every day after school re-teaching my entire curriculum, so that this student could pass. Then I should have held his hand every day and walked him to each class, and made sure that he stayed and turned in all his assignments. In between classes, I could maybe wipe his nose, and tie his shoes.
And at the end of the quarter he would have passed all his classes, and Ivy League colleges would want to give him scholarships. He would stand dramatically on his desk on the last day of school, and pledge his loyalty to me, "Oh Captain! My Captain!"
And then I'd return home, to my husband who I haven't seen all year, burnt out and exhausted, and deciding to quit teaching after two years to write my inspirational novel, where I lecture other teachers on creating Freedom whatsits, or how to teach with their hair on fire, or wait for superman, blah blah blah.
I admire teachers who make a difference. But not as much as I admire the teachers who make a difference and have a life outside the school. Why? Because those teachers stick around. Thirty years later*, they never have a book deal, they've failed some of their students, but they are still there. They are good teachers, getting better every year, and making a difference a thousand times over.
If no one stands on their desk reciting poetry in my honor, I'll survive.
Rant over. Thanks for playing.
*I know that time teaching isn't an indicator of greatness, I've worked with crappy 30 year teachers. But I do think that a good teacher who makes teaching part of their life, but not their entire life, becomes a better long term teacher.
Now I'm really done.
I hear that one inspirational teacher with the book is kind of a bitch in real life.
Just kidding. I'm done.