Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Respect for Teachers

I grew up the daughter of a public school teacher, and I loved it. My dad was a popular teacher in his high school and I loved being at school with him. What he did always looked so fun.

I don't remember him talking much about the tasks of teaching - the lesson planning, the grading, etc. I do remember when his school was switching to block scheduling and he was talking to teachers who already worked with that schedule to help him make the transition smoothly. I remember that he taught most summers in order to contribute extra money to the household budget and to help send me to college.

You hear a lot of complaints and controversy about teaching these days. Students are struggling and the country is looking for someone to blame. As teachers play such a significant role in the educational lives of students, they are the obvious target, even though there are many other factors - parents, home life, hunger, skill deficits, learning disabilities, etc. The schedule sounds cushy - summers off, holiday breaks. We forget the hours spent outside of the school day researching new ideas; grading papers; meeting with administrators, parents and colleagues; brainstorming how to help struggling students; planning differentiated lessons for a class of 25 students at varying levels of skill; etc. 

This is my first year teaching an almost full time schedule, and I have to tell you, I am exhausted. Even with the long weekends here and there and the holiday breaks, I am worn out. Since this is my first year, my lesson planning is largely from scratch. My compulsion for buying and providing new reading material for our school (to the joy of my students) means a lot of my Christmas break and many weekends are spent preparing books for library-level usage. I see my colleagues working day after day to make a difference in the lives of their students.  They stay late and come in early. They research and share ideas with one another. They throw themselves wholeheartedly into special programs designed to augment the curriculum and help their students. I am anticipating the summer break, not to rest and play for a couple months, but in order to do all the things I can't get done during the course of the regular school day.

I have a new respect for teachers who pour themselves into their calling and into the lives of their students day after day and year after year. If you have school-aged children, consider today how you can encourage their teachers - classroom and non-classroom - this spring. I'm sure they could use it.

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