Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Love to Feel The Rain in the Summertime

Every year about this time, I start griping about summer. You'd think I'd love it seeing as I am a teacher and this is "my time off." Many have said that having free summers is a great reason to be a teacher.

So, it turns out that this is actually not my "time off." I'm still working, and I'm not getting paid for it. Because I teach, it is assumed that I will do extra tasks happily because it is "for the betterment of the kids, i.e. the society." Actually, I agree that it is. And honestly, I do do the extra stuff because I enjoy doing it. I just hate the assumption, one that is made worse when people throw in a platitude about how lucky teachers are that they get to have so much vacation time. For the record, I've formally taught summer school once and vowed never to do it again (not because of the kids, but because of the burn out I experienced the next year in October). I have, however, worked every summer, revamping assignments, going to trainings, reading(!), collaborating with other members of my department, etc..

Incidentally, the same folks who list "summers off" as a lucky break for teachers are the same ones who smother teachers in common cliches such as, "Teachers are so important. You definitely should get paid more," and then they vote against raising taxes. They're the same ones who say, "Geez. You're job is so difficult. It takes a really special person to do it," and then they treat the school like it's Wal-mart and the teachers like they are customer service reps. Some pretend that they get to tell us what they would like to see happen in the classroom - like ordering off of a menu- and then they file complaints to management when the product isn't what they thought they paid for. I've heard parents tell their kids, "not to listen to that stupid teacher," when their child hasn't gotten his/her way.

Honestly, it really isn't their fault. We've allowed this sort of disrespect in our society in several ways:

*by not respecting that the teacher/student relationship is not a business transaction, but part of a sacred tradition involving mutual respect and understanding^

*by allowing bad teachers to continue to teach^

*by allowing those with the loudest voices to rule the day

*by filling our classrooms with so many students that teachers don't have time to guide each one^

* by making students and teachers adhere to state guidelines/statistics that look important on paper, but that have no real value^

* by allowing money to be the means of deciding who our heroes are
and/or (even more apt) undervaluing members of society who do not have a lot of money^

*etc. and on and on

^= money at the state or local level is involved in some way

I didn't intend this to be a rant. In fact, when I sat down to write this morning, I thought I would talk about the burden of summer - the heat, the lack of structure, the monotony. I guess I should be grateful that, if I want to, I can choose to go to the mall today or to the neighborhood pool. But those things will have to wait until I'm done grading the summer assignments, until I read some new poetry (possibly to teach next year), until I find out about the required reading for the conference I'll attend in two weeks, until I consider how I want next year to be different.

14 comments:

Amy said...

Here to a better year for you next year. Great class and students coming your way.

Christine said...

A-friggin'-men.

Kathy B! said...

I don't even know what to say. I am not a teacher but a full-time volunteer in the schools.

The whole thing is a mess, and I thank god everyday for dedicated people like you. I know it doesn't *change* things, but please know how much you are valued and appreciated. By those that matter

Sandy said...

You DO have a ver important job....one of these MOST-important. And it's not the teachers that are the problem(s), it's the administrators. And like every othe profession, there are good and bad teachers. But which group gets the most press?

Atlanta said...

Stopping by From SITS

Watch Shake Mules

YOU'VE Been Randomized!!

Our SITSta over at Petals Yoga RANDOMIZED me for Totally Random Sunday. Check it out!
Have a great day!

And I totally have a Simple Conest going on right now over here !

Teresha and Damon said...

Preach it SITStah! I worked in public education advocacy for many years and, to me, the biggest problem was the disconnect between parents and schools. I have witnessed parents disrespecting teachers in front of their child and, worse, the administrator not backing the teachers. So, I know you get it from both ends. I hope your summer improves (I know the heat in DFW is not helping!). We can't lose anymore good teachers. Hang in there!
p.s. thanks for stopping by my blog. you're right...we are traveling similar paths.

Geeta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geeta said...

Thanks for stopping by :) I'm familiar with Arundhati... her book is #3 on my list of books worthy of a chai break :)

As for teaching, I don't know much about the "subject." All I can say is, no matter what, no matter how screwed up the education system may be, don't lose sight of, or forget the ability you have to make a difference in the life of a child.

My 5th grade teacher played an unbelievable part in shaping who I am today. She was always praising my writing, and I remember a certain day when she read the beginning to one of my essays to the class because it was so good. I was so proud, and I knew in that moment that I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward 11 years and I'm writing a novel, I've written for a National magazine in India, and I'm about to head into my final year as a journalism major :)

Teachers change the lives of their students... and consequentially, the world :)

Ronnica said...

A friend and I were just talking about this the other day and how we wished that schools were more competitive. Not in the grade-driven since, but run more like a business. Our local schools are having to let go first- and second-year teachers, many of whom who are good, while they're keeping on teachers that hate teaching and are bad at it simply because they're tenured.

Ginger said...

Thanks to all of you for such supportive comments!

I do want to address why schools shouldn't be businesses, in my opinion. (BTW, they are actually poorly run businesses.) First of all, if school is a business, then the administrators are CEOs, the teachers are salesmen and the students are products. The numbers become the most important part of businesses (which if fine), but numbers negate people. Believe me. It hurts when numbers trump humanity, especially when the numbers are not truly reflective of the circumstance.

Also, businesses do get to get rid of those who are not profitable to the business. Schools certainly can not (and possibly should not) exclude students who are not productive i.e bad products. I understand that tenure allows bad teachers to stay in the classroom when there are better, younger teachers suited for the job. I think rather than that being a business issue, it is more of a union one. We should definitely look at how we hire and evaluate teachers. Unfortunately, more thorough evaluation means spending more money when our resourses are better spent elsewhere (according to those who allocate funds).

School, in short, should be more about people and less about numbers.

Anonymous said...

Great subject! Definitely not a gripe but a critical community issue. Yeah, education is one of those things that everyone just assumes everything is going great until there is a "problem"--read: media attention-getting concerns like sex offenders in the system or changing grades for sports eligibility. Once these "blow over," then everything is bright and sunny once again. People love to gather for drama but ignore "drama-less" issues like outdated curriculum (unless they are reading about sex, drugs, or violence) besides the ones you mention.

Too many times, I see parents allow their child to give up the first time when it "gets hard" and then give them an excuse (he's sick, she's tired, they are going through a lot--not to dismiss serious personal issues but more importantly not to allow them to be used as a crutch through life). These parents allow their children to skip out on an opportunity to be challenged (and learn something, *gasp!*) or to find a passion in life through experimenting in various school subjects...then they complain when these same unchallenged and unmotivated (because they were never given the opportunity to be challenged) students turn to drugs, gangs, and mind-droning apathy. So many students perceive school as this obscure, larger than themselves, institution that they will never understand and that will never truly understand them. How can we make school personal and accessible? (I am still learning.) So many times I hear my students stereotype Asians and Indians as somehow more intelligent or having some great mysterious advantage over them ("Miss, that is why you don't really see them in alternative schools") and parents reinforce this by teaching them that "those foreigners" are taking our jobs. They blame the globe but don't want to learn from the globe...and like you said in a different post, cannot identify countries or plot out the globe. We need to face the sometimes-hard-for-some-of-us facts: there are those of us who will never need a fourth or even third year of math or science, those of us who may never earn a four-year degree but instead go on to trade school or a two-year college or no college, those of us who might never understand a particular subject even after having it explained so many times, etc. but the system is designed or prefers a singular yet universal idea of a college-bound student and teachers have too many students (like you say) to have time to learn more about each student as an individual and work with him/her individually...so again how can we make school more personal? I define "we" as teachers and parents because these are the viewpoints that I see the most and that I think can make more immediate change without restructuring the budget right away.

Yeah, sorry for my own long rant (I am making myself stop there, lol) but thank you for offering such a forum. I admire your posts and global teachings...I am so glad you are a teacher and so glad that I was able to learn so much from you. I will forever be grateful...and please know that despite what you may have heard, there is a lot of learning going on where I teach and you definitely had a hand in that. :)

<3 Mariam

(oops, started writing this before your post but baby started crying before I could post, lol...)

Christen said...

Amen! I totally agree with everything you wrote!! (P.S. - I also think it's a sign of an amazing teacher when he/she doesn't teach merely for the summers off!)

I absolutely love your blog! It's nice to know there are other English teachers with blogs out there!

Oh, and thank you for your comment on my blog!

Kool Aid said...

I agree with just about everything you say. My daughter just finished 1st grade and I was a busy volunteer in her room and on her school's PTA. We were lucky in that our school had a HUGE volunteer community from the parents, however, unlucky in the size of our school.

Unfortunately, due to the sizes of our schools, many of the children outside the "norm" were left out; this included both those excelling in their work or lagging way behind. That's the main reason I decided to teach Monkey at home starting this fall. I talked to her teacher about it and she thought it was a great idea and that Monkey would really flourish since she's so far ahead of her peers.

I have amazing respect for teachers - I just don't see how they can teach 18-20 kids at different levels on a daily basis. My dad has taught for going on 40 years now, my uncle was a public school teacher (now he's the most requested substitute teacher) and it certainly is no easy task. I hate that it has become more like pushing merchandise through retail stores at Christmas than about actually teaching the children. (When my dad retired from teaching the first time, that's how he compared teaching to - working retail at Christmas).

Anyway, sorry to ramble on, but you have a great post there, one that invites comments.

Hannah said...

Great post. I taught 4th grade for 3 years and it was the hardest job -- both physically and mentally -- that I have ever had.

www.FunnyPhotosContest.com Submit cute or funny photos. No ntry fee.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Love to Feel The Rain in the Summertime

Every year about this time, I start griping about summer. You'd think I'd love it seeing as I am a teacher and this is "my time off." Many have said that having free summers is a great reason to be a teacher.

So, it turns out that this is actually not my "time off." I'm still working, and I'm not getting paid for it. Because I teach, it is assumed that I will do extra tasks happily because it is "for the betterment of the kids, i.e. the society." Actually, I agree that it is. And honestly, I do do the extra stuff because I enjoy doing it. I just hate the assumption, one that is made worse when people throw in a platitude about how lucky teachers are that they get to have so much vacation time. For the record, I've formally taught summer school once and vowed never to do it again (not because of the kids, but because of the burn out I experienced the next year in October). I have, however, worked every summer, revamping assignments, going to trainings, reading(!), collaborating with other members of my department, etc..

Incidentally, the same folks who list "summers off" as a lucky break for teachers are the same ones who smother teachers in common cliches such as, "Teachers are so important. You definitely should get paid more," and then they vote against raising taxes. They're the same ones who say, "Geez. You're job is so difficult. It takes a really special person to do it," and then they treat the school like it's Wal-mart and the teachers like they are customer service reps. Some pretend that they get to tell us what they would like to see happen in the classroom - like ordering off of a menu- and then they file complaints to management when the product isn't what they thought they paid for. I've heard parents tell their kids, "not to listen to that stupid teacher," when their child hasn't gotten his/her way.

Honestly, it really isn't their fault. We've allowed this sort of disrespect in our society in several ways:

*by not respecting that the teacher/student relationship is not a business transaction, but part of a sacred tradition involving mutual respect and understanding^

*by allowing bad teachers to continue to teach^

*by allowing those with the loudest voices to rule the day

*by filling our classrooms with so many students that teachers don't have time to guide each one^

* by making students and teachers adhere to state guidelines/statistics that look important on paper, but that have no real value^

* by allowing money to be the means of deciding who our heroes are
and/or (even more apt) undervaluing members of society who do not have a lot of money^

*etc. and on and on

^= money at the state or local level is involved in some way

I didn't intend this to be a rant. In fact, when I sat down to write this morning, I thought I would talk about the burden of summer - the heat, the lack of structure, the monotony. I guess I should be grateful that, if I want to, I can choose to go to the mall today or to the neighborhood pool. But those things will have to wait until I'm done grading the summer assignments, until I read some new poetry (possibly to teach next year), until I find out about the required reading for the conference I'll attend in two weeks, until I consider how I want next year to be different.

14 comments:

Amy said...

Here to a better year for you next year. Great class and students coming your way.

Christine said...

A-friggin'-men.

Kathy B! said...

I don't even know what to say. I am not a teacher but a full-time volunteer in the schools.

The whole thing is a mess, and I thank god everyday for dedicated people like you. I know it doesn't *change* things, but please know how much you are valued and appreciated. By those that matter

Sandy said...

You DO have a ver important job....one of these MOST-important. And it's not the teachers that are the problem(s), it's the administrators. And like every othe profession, there are good and bad teachers. But which group gets the most press?

Atlanta said...

Stopping by From SITS

Watch Shake Mules

YOU'VE Been Randomized!!

Our SITSta over at Petals Yoga RANDOMIZED me for Totally Random Sunday. Check it out!
Have a great day!

And I totally have a Simple Conest going on right now over here !

Teresha and Damon said...

Preach it SITStah! I worked in public education advocacy for many years and, to me, the biggest problem was the disconnect between parents and schools. I have witnessed parents disrespecting teachers in front of their child and, worse, the administrator not backing the teachers. So, I know you get it from both ends. I hope your summer improves (I know the heat in DFW is not helping!). We can't lose anymore good teachers. Hang in there!
p.s. thanks for stopping by my blog. you're right...we are traveling similar paths.

Geeta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geeta said...

Thanks for stopping by :) I'm familiar with Arundhati... her book is #3 on my list of books worthy of a chai break :)

As for teaching, I don't know much about the "subject." All I can say is, no matter what, no matter how screwed up the education system may be, don't lose sight of, or forget the ability you have to make a difference in the life of a child.

My 5th grade teacher played an unbelievable part in shaping who I am today. She was always praising my writing, and I remember a certain day when she read the beginning to one of my essays to the class because it was so good. I was so proud, and I knew in that moment that I wanted to be a writer.

Fast forward 11 years and I'm writing a novel, I've written for a National magazine in India, and I'm about to head into my final year as a journalism major :)

Teachers change the lives of their students... and consequentially, the world :)

Ronnica said...

A friend and I were just talking about this the other day and how we wished that schools were more competitive. Not in the grade-driven since, but run more like a business. Our local schools are having to let go first- and second-year teachers, many of whom who are good, while they're keeping on teachers that hate teaching and are bad at it simply because they're tenured.

Ginger said...

Thanks to all of you for such supportive comments!

I do want to address why schools shouldn't be businesses, in my opinion. (BTW, they are actually poorly run businesses.) First of all, if school is a business, then the administrators are CEOs, the teachers are salesmen and the students are products. The numbers become the most important part of businesses (which if fine), but numbers negate people. Believe me. It hurts when numbers trump humanity, especially when the numbers are not truly reflective of the circumstance.

Also, businesses do get to get rid of those who are not profitable to the business. Schools certainly can not (and possibly should not) exclude students who are not productive i.e bad products. I understand that tenure allows bad teachers to stay in the classroom when there are better, younger teachers suited for the job. I think rather than that being a business issue, it is more of a union one. We should definitely look at how we hire and evaluate teachers. Unfortunately, more thorough evaluation means spending more money when our resourses are better spent elsewhere (according to those who allocate funds).

School, in short, should be more about people and less about numbers.

Anonymous said...

Great subject! Definitely not a gripe but a critical community issue. Yeah, education is one of those things that everyone just assumes everything is going great until there is a "problem"--read: media attention-getting concerns like sex offenders in the system or changing grades for sports eligibility. Once these "blow over," then everything is bright and sunny once again. People love to gather for drama but ignore "drama-less" issues like outdated curriculum (unless they are reading about sex, drugs, or violence) besides the ones you mention.

Too many times, I see parents allow their child to give up the first time when it "gets hard" and then give them an excuse (he's sick, she's tired, they are going through a lot--not to dismiss serious personal issues but more importantly not to allow them to be used as a crutch through life). These parents allow their children to skip out on an opportunity to be challenged (and learn something, *gasp!*) or to find a passion in life through experimenting in various school subjects...then they complain when these same unchallenged and unmotivated (because they were never given the opportunity to be challenged) students turn to drugs, gangs, and mind-droning apathy. So many students perceive school as this obscure, larger than themselves, institution that they will never understand and that will never truly understand them. How can we make school personal and accessible? (I am still learning.) So many times I hear my students stereotype Asians and Indians as somehow more intelligent or having some great mysterious advantage over them ("Miss, that is why you don't really see them in alternative schools") and parents reinforce this by teaching them that "those foreigners" are taking our jobs. They blame the globe but don't want to learn from the globe...and like you said in a different post, cannot identify countries or plot out the globe. We need to face the sometimes-hard-for-some-of-us facts: there are those of us who will never need a fourth or even third year of math or science, those of us who may never earn a four-year degree but instead go on to trade school or a two-year college or no college, those of us who might never understand a particular subject even after having it explained so many times, etc. but the system is designed or prefers a singular yet universal idea of a college-bound student and teachers have too many students (like you say) to have time to learn more about each student as an individual and work with him/her individually...so again how can we make school more personal? I define "we" as teachers and parents because these are the viewpoints that I see the most and that I think can make more immediate change without restructuring the budget right away.

Yeah, sorry for my own long rant (I am making myself stop there, lol) but thank you for offering such a forum. I admire your posts and global teachings...I am so glad you are a teacher and so glad that I was able to learn so much from you. I will forever be grateful...and please know that despite what you may have heard, there is a lot of learning going on where I teach and you definitely had a hand in that. :)

<3 Mariam

(oops, started writing this before your post but baby started crying before I could post, lol...)

Christen said...

Amen! I totally agree with everything you wrote!! (P.S. - I also think it's a sign of an amazing teacher when he/she doesn't teach merely for the summers off!)

I absolutely love your blog! It's nice to know there are other English teachers with blogs out there!

Oh, and thank you for your comment on my blog!

Kool Aid said...

I agree with just about everything you say. My daughter just finished 1st grade and I was a busy volunteer in her room and on her school's PTA. We were lucky in that our school had a HUGE volunteer community from the parents, however, unlucky in the size of our school.

Unfortunately, due to the sizes of our schools, many of the children outside the "norm" were left out; this included both those excelling in their work or lagging way behind. That's the main reason I decided to teach Monkey at home starting this fall. I talked to her teacher about it and she thought it was a great idea and that Monkey would really flourish since she's so far ahead of her peers.

I have amazing respect for teachers - I just don't see how they can teach 18-20 kids at different levels on a daily basis. My dad has taught for going on 40 years now, my uncle was a public school teacher (now he's the most requested substitute teacher) and it certainly is no easy task. I hate that it has become more like pushing merchandise through retail stores at Christmas than about actually teaching the children. (When my dad retired from teaching the first time, that's how he compared teaching to - working retail at Christmas).

Anyway, sorry to ramble on, but you have a great post there, one that invites comments.

Hannah said...

Great post. I taught 4th grade for 3 years and it was the hardest job -- both physically and mentally -- that I have ever had.

www.FunnyPhotosContest.com Submit cute or funny photos. No ntry fee.