Saturday, November 19, 2005

Teaching - Not For The Unorganized or Weak

In looking at the blogs I check daily, I read this article in Daddy's Roses about how teaching in public schools has changed recently. Joan is right! Until last year I was a classroom teacher, too. Each year we were required to do more and more. Test scores became the focus and there was an incredible push to get more and more content into the school day. Planning periods weren't for planning. Instead, they were filled with required grade level meetings, IEP meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. It was necessary to differentiate and individualize, but it required time to plan and gather materials. There was absolutely no way to do an adequate job without putting in many hours outside the school day. And in order to do an excellent job, the after-school hours were staggering. There was constant anxiety and pressure. I was beginning to feel burned out and knew I needed a change.

Rather than change grade levels, I looked at my options. My school system had brought in several reading specialists, and the results were overwhelmingly positive. Since children's literature has always been my passion, that sounded like a good fit for me. I took the required classes to get my certification as a reading specialist, and I got the job I wanted immediately. Now I still work daily with children, and I still have incredible responsibilities. However, those responsibilities don't include the tedious, time-consuming and exhausting non-instructional chores of grading papers, doing report cards and progress reports, handling lunch money, supply money and field trip money, taking care of bus passes and permission slips, putting up bulletin boards and displays, and the minute-by-minute responsibility for every aspect of twenty-five children's school day. I can actually go to the bathroom without having to get the teacher in the adjoining classroom to keep an eye on both classes for a few minutes. I seldom need to bring any work home with me. I can actually plan during my planning periods, and I'm able to spend the full 30 minutes of my lunch period having lunch. (Note: How many business people have only 30 minutes for lunch?)

I loved being a classroom teacher, but it became too stressful trying to handle the increasing work load. I love my job now even more. I love being able to work with all grade levels of children. When I walk down the hall of the school, most of the children know me because I've worked in virtually every classroom either teaching lessons on reading strategies or training the older children to be reading buddies for the younger grades. It's nice to be able to teach a lesson to a class of students, and then go back to my classroom and work with small groups of struggling readers or advanced readers. There's lots of variety. I'm out and about the halls and classrooms of the school all day. I still have tremendous responsibilities and paperwork, but it is manageable and there is time in the day to do it.

What's the answer for classroom teachers? I don't know, but there has got to be a way to stop putting more and more responsibilities on them.

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