Day in the Classroom: An Educated Guess
By Jane Doe | 12/14/2014
Being a Teacher Is All It’s Cracked Up To Be, Well, At Least Every Once In a While.
I knew growing up I wanted to be a teacher, I’m pretty sure my mother still has a paper somewhere from my kindergarten years with the stereotypical “when I grow up I want to be a…” Surely it reads, “a teacher like my mom”. Like my mom, but also nothing like my mom. My mom only taught for a little while, I only briefly remember her teaching. But I do remember her reasons for not teaching. The stress. She didn’t like the person it made her. But I am not her: I can handle it, can’t I?
My mother mostly taught before I remember, making only a slight return after a long break. She lasted from August until November before she remembered why she quit. Stress. The stress of the students not caring. The stress of the parents blaming her for the students not caring. The stress of students failing but not being allowed to fail a student. So she went back to college to get a Master’s Degree so that she could teach college; where the *“real-world” is in effect (theoretically). In college my mom can fail a student for not caring, just like in real life! In college my, mom doesn’t get phone calls and emails from parents/coaches/administrators asking why there is a high failure rate (even if there is a correlated low attendance rate), that’s the real world. Failure=Failure while Effort=Reward, that is the “real-world”*.
I Wanted To Be a Teacher:
I decided on math because math doesn't change, it makes logical sense and follows a specific order. In college, the education curriculum mapped teaching out like a formula. I like formulas. Start with some lessons, add classroom management, multiply by some students, and it equals a perfectly balanced educational classroom (not quite). They failed to mention the ever-changing curriculum requirements/student personalities/varying prerequisite levels/lack of books/lack of technology/requirement of technology usage/lack of space/lack of everything. Education courses forgot that you aren’t allowed to fail Little Johnny, even though Little Johnny is not passing, nor does he come to class, or turn anything in, or take any tests. It’s MY fault if Little Johnny failed, I didn’t do my job; to pass him on to subsequent classes so he can be pushed through the system sans comprehension. Education courses forgot the variables, the constant changing, the politics.
We are falling behind China in test scores and apparently it’s our fault. The teachers who teach every day but don’t know what to teach until the day before the students come to school (not by choice). The teachers who plan all summer only to have the curriculum change, and can no longer teach half of what they planned/no longer teach the same grade level/no longer teach to learn/only teach to test. What test do we tailor teaching to? We’re told “don’t teach to a test”, teach the PARCC* (Common Core) method, but we are no longer using Common Core, and PARCC isn’t at the High School level yet…but teach it anyway. We use the same EOC (End of Course) as last year, but not. (Confusing isn’t it? Don’t worry; you’re not alone). Our year involves more rigor/less time to teach/more testing/more information/less time…less time…less time.
This Month, This Day, This Year:
Today started out like every other day; wake up before the sun to get ready for work before the kids wake up so that I can get them ready for school on time. I feel bad for my children who have to be at school at the crack of dawn so I’ll have time to make sure everything is ready for the day. I am a teacher. I am also a mother of two. I am also a wife.
I make it to school about 30 minutes before class actually starts. Routine kicks in, sign in, get coffee (otherwise I will not make it to 9:00), morning bathroom stop, say hello to my fellow therapists (teachers), get back to my room and make sure I know what I am teaching my hooligans (lovely students) today. Breathe. Bell rings 7:40, stand in the hallway/doorway, answer 50 questions about what we are doing today/can I go to the bathroom/do you have a pencil/Johnny hit me/Maria stole my notebook/what’s that smell, it’s amazing (or terrible), do you have Febreeze? Sam farted/etc (I bet you think I teach elementary school, nope; I teach high school).
7:45, clear my throat, a few students realize: Oh school has started. Clear my throat again. A couple more, “Hey guys, class has started”. Most of the class is now quiet except for that one…wait…wait…her friend hits her Shhhhh! Okay, now I can start my lesson; what was I teaching again? Oh yea, more of the maths- their favorite subject- let’s make math fun, let’s make math understandable, let’s make math passable.
And, So It Begins:
The beginning is easy. It’s the basics, the ground-work, most of which they already know. “Okay, Mrs. Doe, where’s the twist? I actually understand this, when does it get hard?” Typical response when I have worked hours and days and years to figure out the best way to present material so the “I hate math” crowd gets it. But throw a fraction into the mix of numbers, groans erupt across the room, you would think I asked them to do something more painful than stretch their brains a little. Interruption comes in the form of a, “Hey, when are we getting our graded tests back that we took Friday?” I ignore it and keep teaching.
Finish teaching then assign homework: The odd problems, of course, because the answers are in the back of the book for them to check their own work (not just copy…riiiiiight). Catch someone copying solutions from the book, call them out, blush/eye roll. Overhear an inappropriate conversation about “what we did this weekend” (dude you totally should have been there). Again with the questions: can I go to the bathroom/do you have a pencil/do you have paper/do I really have to do this? 5 minutes until the bell and there is a sub-sonic call (I’ve never actually heard it) for all students to pack up and start wandering around the room/crowd by the door/walk out of the room for no reason. Write the kids up who walk out. Bell rings. 1st hour is over.
A break. Finally! “Hey Mrs. Doe, can I use your microwave/do you have Tony Chachere’s/a spoon/a fork/food/money? Apparently, these children think I’m their mother/grandmother/aunt/ whoever takes care of them. Eat. Grade some papers. Write a test. Not enough time. The bell rings and my break is over.
6th hour is my favorite/least favorite class of the day. It is my hour of danceline/colorguard because I am also the danceline sponsor/instructor/colorguard sponsor. I have 20 dances floating around in my head: football halftime shows/pep rally routines/ marching show/Winterguard show/basketball routines/Christmas routine/tryout routine. How am I supposed to keep them all straight? How do the girls keep them all straight? Then there is the drama, always drama, that’s what you get with a group of girls. I hear about it all day, see screenshots of text messages/instagram posts/snaps/tweets. Drama. When we dance everything is good. It’s when we stop that hell breaks loose. So just don’t stop…bell rings.
But I get to dance, so I got that going for me, which is nice…
Last Class of the Day:
Repeat of earlier except now all of the kids brains are shutting down. They have learned too much to add more. They are focused on work/game/boyfriend/girlfriend/friends. They think about anything but school; especially not math. Bell rings. The day is over…almost.
A teacher’s day does not stop at 3:00 when the bell rings, it stops when after-school practices are done, everyone’s papers are graded, and tomorrow is planned. In other words the day is never over until you realize it’s already tomorrow and you still weren’t done with yesterday. I am a teacher, a wife, a coach, and a mother of two…plus another one-hundred and two.
I Still Want To Be a Teacher:
I know this seems like a rant, and some of you are waiting for the “I quit” moment. It is not as simple or dramatic as that. As a mother, I can't help but see these students as kids, much like my own. Just because your children annoy you (including my own) doesn't mean you can quit on them. It means you actually care what happens to them, and sometimes, that you have to sacrifice for them. I hear the life story of so many students, I hope and struggle and push them through the last few years of their public schooling and try to make a little bit of a difference in their lives. I cry when they graduate and go out into the world hoping that maybe I helped them figure out how to manage on their own (even though some have been on their own for years already).
What I do on a daily basis can’t be given a salary, at least not a reasonable one. If you ask any decent teacher why they do their job, they will tell you, "It’s for the students, not for the paycheck". I can’t be paid for the heartbreak I feel when a student of mine drops out because they got pregnant; or need to work full time to support themselves; the respect I feel when a parent can’t make it to walk their student for recognition at Senior Night, so I am asked to walk in their place; the joy I feel when a former student comes back to tell me how they are succeeding in life partially because of what I taught them.
The politics and paperwork surrounding the education field are my “job”; the ups and downs, twists and turns that I deal with on a daily basis are my "career". The educational system has implemented a plethora of "good ideas", which have made the daily lives of teachers hectic, but at the end of the day, we still remember why we do this.
In kindergarten, I said I wanted to be a teacher: I never could have known how true that was...
*Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers
* "Real-world" does not apply to all regions of the actual world.
**there has been much controversy over using Common Core, as of now we ARE using common core standards but we don’t know how long it will last
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