Sunday, November 16, 2008

I can't breathe

Teaching is too hard.

Recently, Christine and I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with our jobs. Both of us have been playing with the idea that maybe we should be doing something else. We have been playing at "what if?" and have been looking at job opportunities and graduate programs. A new job is very appealing, especially now, at the end of the six weeks when the demands of our students, the parents, the administrators, and paperwork completely kick us in the gut with steel-toed boots.

This year I have been completely ineffective, as seen in my students' grades, in their attitudes, and even in the condition of my poor, abused and littered classroom. As Christine puts it, it's like we are water boarding beaten horses. We are dragging them to the water, shoving their heads under, and screaming at them, "Drink! Drink! Drink!" Afterwards, they blankly stare at us blinking and then make some ridiculous comment like, "Why do we have to be here? School sucks," and "This is boring,"and "Do we have to do anything today? I hate reading." I try to reply with a little bit of humor, saying things like, "Sorry I have to make you work IN SCHOOL." But the retorts are fairly consistent: "Well, if you were more _____(fill in the blank with your own word)___________ then maybe we would want to do something."

Yes. It is my fault.

And I say that with some sincerity. It is my fault if my kids are not learning. But at the same time, they have to at least care.. a little. And this year I am seeing an overwhelming majority of kids who would like to sleep through class, do no homework, and then expect to pass. They don't want to read, write, or even think. And you know what? They don't have to. This is where education is going in this country. We have completely lost the notion that getting a diploma is an important privilege. Instead it has become a required chore for all involved.

I hate that I sound so negative about my job and my students. I don't want to become one of those teachers and have vowed that if I were becoming that cantankerous soul, I would go and do something else. I do actually love and care about them.

But, this is me looking for something else to do.

The really sad thing is, most of my students would agree that I am a good teacher. I spend tons of time talking to them, working with them, making precise comments on and about their assignments. I meticulously mark their papers (Essays take 8 or so minutes to grade each. Multiply that times 150 students and you'll see how much extra time - outside of school- I spend working and that doesn't include daily assignments or planning). I work hard, and I really don't have to. I get paid the same amount as the person who shows "Dead Poets Society" everyday in class. I beat myself trying to be effective for my kids - to cater to their learning styles and their personalities. Their learning is my responsibility, and I take that very seriously.

A lot of people believe that to an extent teachers have it easy - they at least get the summers off. But as my good friend Jamie puts it (and sorry if I butcher this, Jamie), jobs are like cars. Some cars are year round cars; they steadily accumulate mileage and are fairly well maintained. And then you have race cars; they work for a season each year, but are driven into the ground, accumulating the same number of miles but with a lot more wear and tear. Teaching is like the race car, and the off season doesn't make the car any less worn and it doesn't change the mileage.

The summers no longer makeup for the wear and tear during the year. On top of the extreme workload and duties, our particular district would like to increase our class load by one class (30 more kids) by taking away a conference period. Because we are on a 4x4 block schedule, we would only have a conference period every other day. I will have more to do and less time to do it in, with NO extra pay. No other professional job would dare increase workload, decrease work time, and not compensate the employee for it.

I've already said I am having trouble working with apathy. It might be different if my kids were eager to learn or if they gave a shit about school. It might be different if I received some kind of respect from my kids, from the parents or from the district, or if what I do was valued in any way (other than being tossed the occasional societal platitude). But I'm not a miracle worker. I neither have the time or the energy to fight the good fight.

I think it may be time to move on.

6 comments:

Jen said...

I agree teaching is hard! This is the first year that I've been looking at other jobs too! Well they all are still with in education though. I am really struggling with new job this year. It's not the kids though, I love them, it's the adults and the system that is driving me crazy!! Special education teachers are not valued and don't get the respect they deserve!!

I am sad a little to think you want to move on and not teach anymore! I think teaching is the best profession, and I love Jaime's analogy of it being like a race car. So true! But I admire you for knowing that it maybe time to move on. I think often teachers get knocked down over and over again. Then they become bitter and angry and as you said, less effective! Which by the way, I am not saying you are! I see you as an amazing teacher! One that really connects with kids!

I know maybe you need to try 2nd grade, I am telling you they are the BEST!!

Amy said...

Sorry to hear about how teaching has gotten to you. I have heard stories from one of my friends. She went back to school to be a school counselor. She is done with the schooling part now on to intern and get hours in a school.

Maybe you could teach college freshmen a English classes.

I do think you are a wonderful teacher but you need to be happy with yourself and your job.

I did not like my job I had before Alyce and I would cry every day. When I became PG with Alyce and I became so happy I was able to move on.

When I did first get out of college I was teaching and things went pretty sour for me. I did stay and beat myself up inside and out each day wondering why I was doing this. I finally found another job and told myself I would never do that again. So when I got PG I was happy to know I just had to hang on long enough and I could leave soon. I needed the insurance and leave time. I know that is so sad and bad. But it all turned out just fine.

Patty said...

I'm so sorry your year is not going well. I know the feeling. When I taught in San Antonio I often felt drained, overworked, and unmotivated. Teaching in an underprivileged area can lead to burn out especially if you have little support from the top. I have been much happier now that I teach in a different place. It's not that I now teach in a well-off area but that I feel so much more valued by my co-workers, parents, and students.

And as I have saying for a while...this year has been absolutely perfect.

A move to another school or a different grade can sometimes make a difference. We need great teachers out there taking care of our kids. So hang in there.

happyfunpants said...

Alright - so I've never been a teacher...but I have switched complete occupations twice. I've worked for several different sections of GMAC and my current company. And I can tell you without a doubt that every company I have been with do give you more and more workload. It may not be a huge heap all at once - but at the end of the year, you're looking at a huge increase in your work load. And no, they don't give raises. Just want you to know what it's like on the other side - or maybe just with the shitty companies I've worked for.

I think that teachers have such an important job - and yes, you guys get time off for the summer. But you're right, you guys are spending a lot of your own money and your own time to make sure that your job is done right.

That's because you care so very much.

And that means that no matter what profession you switch to (if you do switch) you will ALWAYS be that person giving 100% while the person in the next cube is typing blog comments (AHEM!). In all seriousness, you will succeed at anything you choose to do...but you're also probably going to be tired no matter what you do - BECAUSE YOU ARE FREAKING AWESOME.

When I was feeling like this, I read a book titled "Now discover your strengths" so I could learn about me and what would help keep me most satisfied. That was HUGE in me finding a job that I would have a better chance of liking and feeling fulfilled.

I support you no matter what. Whatever I can do to help - please let me know.

((hugs)) :)

Chelle said...

Ugh. Is it any wonder so many great teachers are leaving the profession? It's so sad. My father, who's a retired educator said, "Teaching used to be so fun. Now, with all the crap they have teachers do, it's horrible. They don't let them teach and do their jobs anymore." How true. Plus, there is no other profession in the world where those NOT trained will come tell you how to do your job. I have never told my doctor how to do his work, nor have I told a waiter how he might improve. But teachers? Constantly getting "instructed" by those who aren't even certified. Makes me crazy.

Keep in mind too that you now have a little one. And, he's now top priority. I once heard a guy leading a workshop say, "If you are married, and have kids, you won't be that 'super' teacher because you have more important priorities. I am married, but no kids. So, the things I can do are different, I can invest more time. But if you have your own kids? They deserve more of your time." He made a good point.

When the negatives outweighed the positives, I resigned from teaching. It was the perfect time for me to do that, the perfect time to move on. I knew exactly where I was headed from there, and walked away without any bitterness. Explore your options, weigh the desires of your heart, and if it's time to move on, do so will excitement, and confidence.

the girls' moma said...

I can't even respond here. You're so right. And I haven't even been in the game for 5 years. For me, I think it's this place. But for you... consider your options, and take it one hour at a time, dear friend.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I can't breathe

Teaching is too hard.

Recently, Christine and I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with our jobs. Both of us have been playing with the idea that maybe we should be doing something else. We have been playing at "what if?" and have been looking at job opportunities and graduate programs. A new job is very appealing, especially now, at the end of the six weeks when the demands of our students, the parents, the administrators, and paperwork completely kick us in the gut with steel-toed boots.

This year I have been completely ineffective, as seen in my students' grades, in their attitudes, and even in the condition of my poor, abused and littered classroom. As Christine puts it, it's like we are water boarding beaten horses. We are dragging them to the water, shoving their heads under, and screaming at them, "Drink! Drink! Drink!" Afterwards, they blankly stare at us blinking and then make some ridiculous comment like, "Why do we have to be here? School sucks," and "This is boring,"and "Do we have to do anything today? I hate reading." I try to reply with a little bit of humor, saying things like, "Sorry I have to make you work IN SCHOOL." But the retorts are fairly consistent: "Well, if you were more _____(fill in the blank with your own word)___________ then maybe we would want to do something."

Yes. It is my fault.

And I say that with some sincerity. It is my fault if my kids are not learning. But at the same time, they have to at least care.. a little. And this year I am seeing an overwhelming majority of kids who would like to sleep through class, do no homework, and then expect to pass. They don't want to read, write, or even think. And you know what? They don't have to. This is where education is going in this country. We have completely lost the notion that getting a diploma is an important privilege. Instead it has become a required chore for all involved.

I hate that I sound so negative about my job and my students. I don't want to become one of those teachers and have vowed that if I were becoming that cantankerous soul, I would go and do something else. I do actually love and care about them.

But, this is me looking for something else to do.

The really sad thing is, most of my students would agree that I am a good teacher. I spend tons of time talking to them, working with them, making precise comments on and about their assignments. I meticulously mark their papers (Essays take 8 or so minutes to grade each. Multiply that times 150 students and you'll see how much extra time - outside of school- I spend working and that doesn't include daily assignments or planning). I work hard, and I really don't have to. I get paid the same amount as the person who shows "Dead Poets Society" everyday in class. I beat myself trying to be effective for my kids - to cater to their learning styles and their personalities. Their learning is my responsibility, and I take that very seriously.

A lot of people believe that to an extent teachers have it easy - they at least get the summers off. But as my good friend Jamie puts it (and sorry if I butcher this, Jamie), jobs are like cars. Some cars are year round cars; they steadily accumulate mileage and are fairly well maintained. And then you have race cars; they work for a season each year, but are driven into the ground, accumulating the same number of miles but with a lot more wear and tear. Teaching is like the race car, and the off season doesn't make the car any less worn and it doesn't change the mileage.

The summers no longer makeup for the wear and tear during the year. On top of the extreme workload and duties, our particular district would like to increase our class load by one class (30 more kids) by taking away a conference period. Because we are on a 4x4 block schedule, we would only have a conference period every other day. I will have more to do and less time to do it in, with NO extra pay. No other professional job would dare increase workload, decrease work time, and not compensate the employee for it.

I've already said I am having trouble working with apathy. It might be different if my kids were eager to learn or if they gave a shit about school. It might be different if I received some kind of respect from my kids, from the parents or from the district, or if what I do was valued in any way (other than being tossed the occasional societal platitude). But I'm not a miracle worker. I neither have the time or the energy to fight the good fight.

I think it may be time to move on.

6 comments:

Jen said...

I agree teaching is hard! This is the first year that I've been looking at other jobs too! Well they all are still with in education though. I am really struggling with new job this year. It's not the kids though, I love them, it's the adults and the system that is driving me crazy!! Special education teachers are not valued and don't get the respect they deserve!!

I am sad a little to think you want to move on and not teach anymore! I think teaching is the best profession, and I love Jaime's analogy of it being like a race car. So true! But I admire you for knowing that it maybe time to move on. I think often teachers get knocked down over and over again. Then they become bitter and angry and as you said, less effective! Which by the way, I am not saying you are! I see you as an amazing teacher! One that really connects with kids!

I know maybe you need to try 2nd grade, I am telling you they are the BEST!!

Amy said...

Sorry to hear about how teaching has gotten to you. I have heard stories from one of my friends. She went back to school to be a school counselor. She is done with the schooling part now on to intern and get hours in a school.

Maybe you could teach college freshmen a English classes.

I do think you are a wonderful teacher but you need to be happy with yourself and your job.

I did not like my job I had before Alyce and I would cry every day. When I became PG with Alyce and I became so happy I was able to move on.

When I did first get out of college I was teaching and things went pretty sour for me. I did stay and beat myself up inside and out each day wondering why I was doing this. I finally found another job and told myself I would never do that again. So when I got PG I was happy to know I just had to hang on long enough and I could leave soon. I needed the insurance and leave time. I know that is so sad and bad. But it all turned out just fine.

Patty said...

I'm so sorry your year is not going well. I know the feeling. When I taught in San Antonio I often felt drained, overworked, and unmotivated. Teaching in an underprivileged area can lead to burn out especially if you have little support from the top. I have been much happier now that I teach in a different place. It's not that I now teach in a well-off area but that I feel so much more valued by my co-workers, parents, and students.

And as I have saying for a while...this year has been absolutely perfect.

A move to another school or a different grade can sometimes make a difference. We need great teachers out there taking care of our kids. So hang in there.

happyfunpants said...

Alright - so I've never been a teacher...but I have switched complete occupations twice. I've worked for several different sections of GMAC and my current company. And I can tell you without a doubt that every company I have been with do give you more and more workload. It may not be a huge heap all at once - but at the end of the year, you're looking at a huge increase in your work load. And no, they don't give raises. Just want you to know what it's like on the other side - or maybe just with the shitty companies I've worked for.

I think that teachers have such an important job - and yes, you guys get time off for the summer. But you're right, you guys are spending a lot of your own money and your own time to make sure that your job is done right.

That's because you care so very much.

And that means that no matter what profession you switch to (if you do switch) you will ALWAYS be that person giving 100% while the person in the next cube is typing blog comments (AHEM!). In all seriousness, you will succeed at anything you choose to do...but you're also probably going to be tired no matter what you do - BECAUSE YOU ARE FREAKING AWESOME.

When I was feeling like this, I read a book titled "Now discover your strengths" so I could learn about me and what would help keep me most satisfied. That was HUGE in me finding a job that I would have a better chance of liking and feeling fulfilled.

I support you no matter what. Whatever I can do to help - please let me know.

((hugs)) :)

Chelle said...

Ugh. Is it any wonder so many great teachers are leaving the profession? It's so sad. My father, who's a retired educator said, "Teaching used to be so fun. Now, with all the crap they have teachers do, it's horrible. They don't let them teach and do their jobs anymore." How true. Plus, there is no other profession in the world where those NOT trained will come tell you how to do your job. I have never told my doctor how to do his work, nor have I told a waiter how he might improve. But teachers? Constantly getting "instructed" by those who aren't even certified. Makes me crazy.

Keep in mind too that you now have a little one. And, he's now top priority. I once heard a guy leading a workshop say, "If you are married, and have kids, you won't be that 'super' teacher because you have more important priorities. I am married, but no kids. So, the things I can do are different, I can invest more time. But if you have your own kids? They deserve more of your time." He made a good point.

When the negatives outweighed the positives, I resigned from teaching. It was the perfect time for me to do that, the perfect time to move on. I knew exactly where I was headed from there, and walked away without any bitterness. Explore your options, weigh the desires of your heart, and if it's time to move on, do so will excitement, and confidence.

the girls' moma said...

I can't even respond here. You're so right. And I haven't even been in the game for 5 years. For me, I think it's this place. But for you... consider your options, and take it one hour at a time, dear friend.