There used to be a saying, “Those who can–do. Those who can’t–teach.” Whoever came up with that saying obviously never taught. I challenge anyone to spend a week (or even just a day) teaching in a classroom. The job is more challenging than you think. Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, and teachers need to be appreciated.
There have recently been teacher strikes and walk-outs in many states. I understand the frustrations these teachers have, and if that is the only way to get the attention of legislators then so be it. I saw pictures of books falling apart. I saw videos of ill-mannered legislators chiding the teachers, with one saying he wouldn’t support teachers any more if that was how they were going to act. I’ll just comment that if he had really supported teachers the way he needed to support them, then they wouldn’t have had to walk out of their classrooms. The legislature had only thrown them a bone and not a full meal.
I taught for 28 years before the stress of the job drove me to retirement. I had planned to teach for at least 30 years before retirement, but the stress of high-stakes testing and endless meetings to talk about the testing and how to improve was slowly killing me. In addition, the behavior of the students kept getting worse every year. I spent more and more time on the struggling and undisciplined students. There wasn’t enough of me to go around. I couldn’t deal with it any more. I worked most days from 7:15 AM to at least 5:00 PM and then take work home with me. Many days, I ate lunch at my desk so I could get more work done. My planning time was spent in meetings, making phone calls to parents, dealing with ugly emails, talking with team members, and planning and preparing for the next week. My “summers off” were filled with workshops. Most of the workshops were mandated with some thrown in because I thought they would benefit me. I also spent time preparing and planning for the next school year. I was usually back to work on my own time at least two weeks before I was required to report back. It takes time to prepare a classroom for a new group of students. May was the roughest month of the school year. We would get test scores back, recommend students for summer school, fill out endless paperwork, prepare final report cards (I always liked to include a personal positive note to all my students in that final report card), and deal with students who have completely shut down. I, too, would spend quite a bit of money out of my own pocket so I would have materials I wanted to have to teach my students. My husband finally quit asking me how much I was spending.
God bless those few “bright lights” I had in my classroom every year. Those sweet students and their supportive parents. I had many parents complain to me about the amount of time we spent preparing for state testing. I told these parents that the best way to change this would be to gather together and go to the legislature and tell them. The legislators don’t listen to teachers most of the time. I guess they felt that if they had spent time in a classroom when they were kids, then they were experts on education and how it should be done. Imagine the billions and billions of dollars that could be put directly into classrooms if most of the state testing was cut. There isn’t a teacher I know of who wouldn’t support less testing. I kept a calendar my last year of teaching in which I recorded all of the state and local district testing we did that year. We lost a lot of teaching time just to testing. And students aren’t learning anything while they are being tested. A lot of the district testing wasn’t even valid because it didn’t cover the curriculum being taught. We sat in meetings anyway to discuss it.
Most teachers don’t enter teaching because of the salary. They teach because they care deeply about kids and want to make a difference. It would just be easier to make that difference if they got more support. They need parents to support them and raise disciplined and respectful children. They need the state to support them and fund them. I saw many mandates come down from the state that were not funded. The funding had to come from the local district.
Both of my daughters are teachers. They didn’t start out that way. Neither one got a teaching degree in college. Teaching came later after getting alternative certifications. One teaches 3 and 4 year olds in the Head Start program in a very poor school district. The other taught high school math in an alternative high school (a high school for credit recovery and disciplinary issues) and is now a social/emotional learning teacher at that same school. She’s working on her master’s in counseling.
May God bless those brave souls who teach. We need to appreciate them, applaud them, and support them.