This evening, I came home from work and discovered that my laptop was a still a school. No comfy writing chair for me this evening just a straight back dining room chair and a cranky not old, but definitely not new desktop. Even my beloved Kindle, carrier of more books than any purse can handle is at school. It was a long day. A very long day for me to forget those things.
A typical day for me begins at 5:45 when I stumble out of bed to walk Luke. We like our morning time routine and if I wake up early then we are out the door for a longer walk. By seven, I am on my way to school and by 7:15 I am walking in the door of my classroom. The longest part of my commute is the walk from the parking lot to to the classroom. Monday’s and Wednesday’s, I teach at night so I usually stay at school and a neighbor takes Luke for his evening constitutional. The time between jobs is spent at my desk either prepping for the next day or lesson planning. Sometimes I read. Most of the time I am working at least an hour after my official “work day” has ended. Then I am off for three hours of teaching English to new immigrants which I love, but to be honest, I won’t be doing if I didn’t need the money. And I do need the money.
I really do.
The landlord expects money each month and won’t house me for free just because I teach. The phone and electric companies have similar non-altruistic attitudes as well, although I am sure all of them would thank me for doing what I do. A few might even add that they couldn’t do what I do.
So I work at night and on weekends. And whenever I can to make ends meat and get far enough ahead on bills so I can spend more money and go back to school so I will be even more qualified to teach than the five certifications I now possess make me.
For the past two weeks, I have been working with another teacher on our common lesson plans. Common lesson plans are suppose to be a collaborative effort among teachers to raise the rigor of lessons and improve student achievement. They are also pretty awesome at cutting down the amount of time that teachers have to spend “volunteering.” (One of my first administrators told me that any time I worked before or after my official hours was strictly volunteer. ) I am all for it in theory. Reality is a different story, because in reality they are rarely created or implemented correctly. A few people namely myself and my colleague will be writing the majority of plans that are supposed to be so detail that any substitute can follow. In turn for our work we will received plans from other teachers. Plans which we felt compelled to correct and revise because we are now responsible for implementing them. Plans for which we have had no say in. Plans made by teachers who have never met our students and don’t understand our needs.
When I questioned this I was told to just be quiet and go along with the flow. Excuse me? Am I a professional or not? Apparently not, since I no longer have the power to make the decisions to improve my own performance or motivate students. I can’t pick a book to motivate students to read just for the enjoyment of it and sneak in some learning along the way. No, I must teach X, Y and Z on day 27 or I am not teaching to my student’s potential. I am not even worth a cost of living raise despite my county having received nearly 17 million dollars to give teachers raises. The school board instead gave themselves a raise. They gave the principals a raise and the classified employees a raise, but teacher we want too much when our union asked for a 4% raise. None of the people who received raises were made to prove their worth by raising test scores. It didn’t matter if their school was considered to be failing or not they got a raise. (The classified employees deserved their raises and I won’t see that money taken away from them for the world, but can’t I get a little love as well. )
After forgetting my laptop and kindle, I was ready just to check mail and be done with it then this article entitled “Why Teachers Are Fed Up and Burned Out” by Walt Gardner found its way on to my screen. Gardner, a retired teacher, gave the myriad of thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain a voice. A voice that says I am that teacher on the edge of being burned out. I love my students and my job, but I no longer feel valued. I am being told what to teach, how to teach it and get those tests up with out anyone looking at my kids beyond what the score report saying. My kids do need rigor. I want to give them that rigor, but bad poetry about war and ditching Shakespeare because the teachers writing those plans doesn’t like the Bard of Avalon isn’t want teaching should or needs to be in this country.
Innovation can not come by making us all the same, by making everything common.
And it will not come by punishing teachers.
I wish I knew the answer, but frankly I am beat.