Did I ever like teaching?

I cried tonight.  The phrase above unleashed a stream from my own eyes.  There was sorrow in my heart not only for my wife, but the kids she may never teach.  A sadness gripped me when I realized this is part of the damage of a failing school. I have never seen the passion dip so low, defeat advance so far.  I had
never thought that my wife might give up.  Today, that changed.

Mondays are already hard.  A weekend free from tensions of school makes returning that much harder.  Perhaps the expectations were different today.  My wife had gone in Saturday, for six hours, to prep for the week ahead.  She figured that the extra planning would help her get off to good start.  It made no difference that she had already put in 50+ hours that week and Saturday would push her over 60.  She wanted to be more productive this week, so that her kids would benefit.

Sadly, the day started off bad, and got worse from there.  She started with a meeting to discuss a child.  This meant someone would have to cover her classroom, never a good thing first thing Monday morning.  Naturally, no one arrived and there was a scramble to find a fill in.  Not able to show that person what she had planned, she had to hope they would figure it out, or that her meeting would be short.  Sadly neither came true.

After starting 15 minutes late, the meeting lasted 75 minutes.  At 10, she walked into her classroom to find none of what she had planned was done.  She then proceeded to have a child melt down in her classroom for 15 minutes.  Note, this is the same child who always melts down and refuses to let the class proceed.  Luckily, this is deemed a teacher issue, and no one from the office will even answer the phone.

Next, she has another meeting during her plan time.  Followed by a meeting during lunch.  Luckily, her husband packs lunches she can eat on the go or in a meeting.  Many times she would eat her lunch after school if it required heating or utensils, going without food during the day.

As the day came to a close, the announcement went out that all the teachers in 2-5th grade must attend a meeting at 3:30 after dropping off their kids.  At this meeting, the principal lectures for 45 minutes about how the teachers don’t know how to write lesson plans.  How does she know?  Well, 10 staff members from the central office came in, copied, and wrote notes on each teacher’s lesson plan.  Then, they had a meeting with the principal and documented how poorly the teachers were doing.  Then, the principal went on to call a meeting to yell at her staff.  Note, she hadn’t had a problem with the lessons plans up to this point.  I mean it is March, so they must not have been that bad.

The result of the meeting:  Everyone had to go and update their lesson plans and turn them in at 8:15am tomorrow, fixing all the things that got noted.  The penalty for not doing it right: turning lesson plans in every week.  Luckily, my wife had another meeting after that.  That lasted until 5:40.  She ran out the door to her workout class.

When she got home, the day finally hit her.  The emotions poured out.  She was tired, frustrated and hurt.  It would be one thing if the thing she was doing would help her kids learn.  They don’t.

Writing the materials you are going to use in your lesson plan book doesn’t help kids learn it.  Defining the “essential question” in your notes doesn’t improve the kids’ understanding.  Making a list of students who are getting pulled out for extra instruction doesn’t help her or her class.  She knows who is getting pulled out.  Yet, for each day, each subject, each lesson, she needs to document who is being pulled out, what materials are going to be used, and what is the essential question. Why?

For the people who come into her room.  So they know what is going on.  So they can understand.  So they can evaluate.  So they can determine your ability by what you wrote down.  So they don’t have to watch.  So they can have meetings to discuss this with you.  So they can lecture you.  So they can make demands about how things are done.  So they can say when things are done.  So they have complete control. So they can take all the credit if it works.  So they can have someone to blame when it doesn’t.

Want to know why the school is failing?  It is easy to see. In the 10 hours that she spent at school today, my wife spent 0 hours on things that would help her teach in her classroom.  ZERO hours.  Now, she is at home, working on writing lesson plan details that will only help the people who evaluate her.  Too bad she doesn’t have time to think about the kids in her class, and how she could help them.  No, she’s too busy writing down all the material she’ll need for yesterday’s lesson.

No wonder she wants to quit.  No wonder she asks if she ever liked teaching?  No wonder she is thinking about what else she could be doing with her life. This no way to live and I agree.  Maybe it is time to get out of education.  Let them find someone else to stomp on.  Perhaps they’ve finally killed Clark Kent.

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2 Responses to Did I ever like teaching?

  1. Bob says:

    Hang in there, beleaguered Justice Leaguers.

  2. Kari says:

    Reading this makes me angry and brings back a lot of emotions from when I was teaching. A lot of this is the reason I am no longer a teacher. A system that operates on evaluating written lesson plans, lecturing teachers, and forcing teachers to read from a script (from your last post) only results in weeding out the best and brightest teachers. The teachers who rely on constant oversight and scripts (the bad/average ones) don’t leave. It is the teachers who are creative, independent, and engaging that leave. Not because they don’t care, but because they care so much that it is gut-wrenching to be in a system that is broken, knowing they can do better but not being allowed to. For the sake of her future students, I hope your wife continues to teach, but I can certainly understand, for the sake of her own sanity, if she doesn’t. Until teachers are given the respect they deserve, school systems are going to lose many of their most valuable teachers.

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