Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Epistles of an Educator

Excerpts from two letters of one teacher writing to another. Something tells me that my sob story was pretty typical.

"...the summer has finally come to a close. I've had the pleasure of seeing what teachers do before the school year starts (as that lovable urban district decided to wait minutes before the year to hire me). Like a rock on the beach eroding from wave after wave of salty water pounding it, I sustain these blows of boredom from meeting after meeting. First, it was teaching higher thinking skills from a lady who barely had the capacity to utilize those skills herself. Then, it was AP training for a week from a new age troll-like woman who gave us her lesson plan leftovers from her 20 years of teaching and a whole bunch of treacly anecdotes with her exceptional kiddos. Finally, this week had a whole barrage of orientations and meetings explaining everything except the very basic. I know how to look up a student's 4th grade TAKS score, but I'm unsure about how to make copies. I'm well versed on the plethora of levels from Bloom's magic hat of "higher thinking," but I'm unclear about the school schedule and my class rosters. How much time could be saved by doing away with meetings altogether and letting us just talk with one another. These instructors get upset about us talking while they click away at their pointless (pun intended) power point presentations, but we're just trying to get the information we need to literally do our jobs before the kids come....

"I got to get a glance at some of my students' scores. They blew me away. All A's and Bs. I think they were even better than the advanced kids at our old school. I thought to myself, "So this is where the normal kids go." Of course, I'm probably overstating things, but I'm going to try and have fun, making these little ones work themselves into a delirium of words and ideas. Apparently, we're even encouraged to be strict with the kids. Can you believe it?! Principals want to extract undesirable elements from the start. The school has developed a reputation of being strict, so the kids coming in watch themselves and keep their stupid phones at home and their rear ends covered. I'm really curious to see all this for myself. Right now, it's all hearsay. Just let me at them. I'll keep my enthusiasm tempered however. I resolved to be much more organized and systematic about everything this year, and more vigilant than ever about lackluster performance. Excessive optimism tends to impede this..."

"As last week ticked away at these insipid meetings, I felt that weight of upcoming obligations growing heavier and heavier. I don't know if these people that coordinate these meetings understand that teachers, especially ones doing a new subject need extra time to prepare something. I have to create new assignments. I have to read over stories to give my students. I have to have all this typed and copied before the kids come. And I do this all over again for my English 2 class. This takes time! I needed that whole week to get a good solid start. They gave a few hours Friday afternoon. That was it! And then factor in the needless delay to have them copied by some goon at their copy center that oversees and protects the vestal virgin copiers from us teachers, and I'm about to have a heart attack the first morning of school because I'm cutting it so damn close for a mere one day of classwork. I had to plead with the woman there to copy mine ahead of the others with pitiful humility. Just one instance among many where the uneducated drone gets the best of us teachers.

Of course, while worrying about my worksheets and syllabi and dreading the next day when this circus would start up once more, I get this list of complex procedures with attendance. I did the best I could counting those who were there and marking those who were absent. Apparently, this wasn't enough. I needed to have this turned in before noon and accompany the sheets with more forms stating the kids' ID numbers and other information that I thought was registered with our computers. With more than a little abruptness and resentment, the woman there chewed me out for neglecting to read my directions carefully and turning my papers in an hour later than I should have. And again, the uneducated drone got the best of this teacher.

I had to spend a whole hour after school clearing my desk and putting everything in right order. All the garbage teachers dump on me that they think I can use, all the papers about upcoming school events, all the papers about beginning of school procedures, papers about technology and textbook guidelines, and finally, all the kids' work that I planned to grade but finally decided to put in a folder for ungraded "sample work." After that, I checked my e-mails packed with attachments that I "needed" to read. Soon the sun was going down, my feet were killing me, and I needed a break. I didn't take one all day. I had my pathetic little lunch of a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a cookie while toiling away on the computer. It was a pitiful scene to behold.

Don't even get me started on lesson plans. They've adopted that devious format that requires me to copy and paste from one screen to the other and discuss at length every assignment of every day and how well it engages my students. I pleaded ignorance over the program (along with some other teachers) and hopefully bought a little time and lenience. Though I now need to attend another meeting this Thursday.

I'm ashamed to say that I feel overwhelmed, and it's not even the kids. They actually seem like a pretty wholesome bunch. They tried at the work, laughed at my jokes, and refrained from sleeping through my stretched out presentation of the syllabus (a lack of time and resources forced me into eating up time this way). It's just these things that are supposed to "help" us teachers that bind our limbs and brains.

I should be good for tomorrow, and I'll try to catch up and finish up the week's assignments somehow. Pray for me in that regard..."

1 comment:

Melissa B. said...

We went back to school Monday--the kids don't come 'til next Tuesday. Since the 25th I've attended 5 meetings, with a 4-hour Inservice Marathon scheduled for tomorrow. When do the Powers That Be expect us to prepare? At home, perhaps?

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