I know that teachers are generally a favorite group for lots of people to hate on. We are either teaching students too much or too little. We are either teaching them to hate America or teaching them far right nationalism. We are either lazy, or too involved. When the pandemic hit, some leading publications posted op-eds that told us to suck it up and get back to work (which I’m still mad about). The list goes on.
I won’t deny that, on paper, a teaching schedule looks amazing. It’s one of the reasons why I chose to get into teaching after grad school. However, like many things, in reality we have almost no time. This has been more apparent than ever in the last two years, with a pandemic nipping at our heels and sapping much needed emotional energy from us.
This year, though, this year is different.
I’ve heard from a number of teachers that the expectations for this year have been piled so high on our shoulders, that they are insurmountable. Additionally, the time we are given to achieve these obstacles is simply, not enough.
Let me explain.
Some of our 7th and 8th graders have not been to school since the pandemic shut us down in March of 2020. That means, the last time some of my 7th graders were in a physical classroom was in the fifth grade. The emotional change that takes place between that time is enormous. Also, some online students essentially disappeared from school for a whole year. So, not only have they not been in the building, they are still reading, writing, and doing math at a 5th grade level.
Except, we are in 7th grade now.
With all the kids back at school, my class periods have been cut. So, now not only am I teaching, I’m trying to “catch them up”, re-socialize them into a school environment, and I have 25 fewer minutes than I had previously. On top of this, my prep has also been cut, and my school requires that I’m present for after school as well.
So, between 8AM and 430PM I have one 40 minute prep to get ready for two separate curriculums (7th and 8th grade) with classes that need a lot of extra help in a lot of different spaces.
Some of these problems are internal. However, I think that the load which has been placed on our shoulders ties into the toxic “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that comes with being an American. Because, you see, these students do need help. They are behind. It’s a fact.
The problem is, America is not allowing them to be behind.
Like with the Covid-19 Pandemic, we are acting as though a very obvious problem does not exist. As is a trend in America, we are not given the time or resources to achieve an extreme goal that is expected of us. And, not only are we not given support by the public, we’re also trolled by politicians. On top of that, we are now actively putting children at deeper risks in states that have banned mask mandates. So it’s a hell of a time.
The bottom line is, it’s time to stop trolling teachers and treat us like professionals. I have six years of education under my belt in history alone. I have another two years worth of teaching classes. That’s eight years. Teachers are professionals, we are experts in what we do – but we are treated as though our time is not valuable, and we are expected to do the impossible, all while our curriculum is fought about in state legislatures.
We also have contracts. Those contracts state specific things, like our working hours and expectations. We are paid based on those contracts, so it is not feasible for an employer, or in this case a country, to ask that we work outside the contract hours because “that’s what good teachers do.”
There’s already a lack of boundaries in teaching. We’ve seen that in the past two years where everyone has an opinion about what teachers should do, what they should teach, how they should teach, and why they aren’t more effective. We’ve seen that at school board meetings, in mask mandates, and in the political climate in the past year.
The bottom line? The pandemic is still here, kids have been affected by it, but not in the ways conservative politicians want you to believe. Students are behind, but it’s not a gap. It’s because of something so far outside of their control that it’s ridiculous to try and control it now.
How do we fix it? Well, hire more teachers or aides so that everyone has time to do what they need. Oh wait..we can’t do that because of funding and a teacher shortage. Second, re-set expectations to account for the pandemic. Oh wait, we can’t do that either because most of our politicians are pretending like the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore. Third, pay us more and account for new expectations in our contract…nope, can’t do that either because that again goes to funding and … well … you catch my drift.
So what does it come down to? Once again, you have to vote at your local level. Get involved, and for God’s sake buy your local teacher some liquor when teacher appreciation day rolls around. They’ll need it.