The Death of Innovation

Y’all. Being a teacher is hard work.

In one day you have to manage 30-200 (depending on grade) little humans and each one of them has a different need. Not only do you have to manage content for each of their needs (some kids are lower than others, and some kids way higher – so content can’t be one size fits all, there has to be allowance on either spectrum), you have to manage their space.

What I mean by that is you can’t sit Jessica next to Tiffany because they are mortal enemies/best friends forever and they will make your life a living hell if they are next to one another. Except you don’t necessarily know that so your first month is hell until you figure it out.

And, in the midst of this…you get one 45 minute prep period, to make all your content, collaborate with other teachers, look at seating charts, contact parents, put your grades in, create copies, create power points etc.

Some of you may be lucky. Maybe you get more than one prep (I don’t). Maybe you get before and after school too (I don’t). Maybe you get Fridays (I don’t).

Maybe, like me…you don’t.

OK…So What?

Recently, when fellow teachers and I attempted to solve our problem of literally no time to breathe we were told that we could just be handed a bad curriculum and go off of that. The fact that we were choosing to innovate was really the problem.

I want to be clear, it was not meant as an unkind thing. It was meant as an “you are all so awesome though, of course you want your stuff to be great, which is why you spend personal time on it.”

Still, it rankled me the wrong way. You see, teachers should be innovators. In fact, it’s not just a *should* it’s a required aspect of our job. We must have a certain number of continuing education hours, all of which are supposed to help us become better teachers.

Or, for a better phrase, become better at innovating within the classroom.

Now, I understand that administrators must balance the needs of the school in its entirety, and the needs of the individual teachers. But…we are being asked to do too much, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Some of you haters may say “bUt wHaT aBoUt SuMmEr?!” And to you, I say fuck you John, in the summer we’re attending the education classes required for our jobs, or working a second job to pay the bills.

So…what the point? Well, if you’re admin, consider asking yourself if you actually want innovation at your school. I feel positive the answer is yes. Now, ask if you have provided teachers enough time to be innovative.

You probably think you do. However, I challenge that you ask yourself if there’s a culture within the school of pressuring teachers to work outside of their contract hours. Do you say things like “this is just what we do”, “this is the job”, or “this is why we pay you”?

If the answer is yes then a radical shift must be made in the culture of your school. Teachers can’t innovate without time to do so. Teachers can’t be good employees without having the time to actually do their fucking job. And in the midst of the pandemic, everyone is realizing how incredibly important their own time is to them.

So don’t be dumb, give teachers time and allow them to innovate.