Monday, October 14, 2013

The Day Job: A Little Vent

Let's talk about the day job for a bit--the teaching gig.  Eydie and I have avoided this topic not because we don't love our profession, but frankly it is difficult to talk about it without writing about students and parents (even if we change the names to protect the innocent and the guilty), and with all of the anxiety that this profession is fraught with these days, we won't chance it.  Let me just say that teaching is not as enjoyable as it once was.  I think I can say that without getting my derriere canned.  Teachers worry about that a lot lately. 

Eydie doesn't look anything
like this.
Prairie Eydie is a reading specialist for a 6th and 7th grade middle school.  She works with students who are not "proficient readers." Translation:  They don't do well on the standardized tests we are required to give with greater and greater frequency.  She also co-teaches in a variety of subject areas that are reading heavy. Translation:  You won't find her in a tracksuit bouncing basketballs.

I don't look anything like this.
I am an 8th grade English teacher in an 8-9 upper middle school. Yes, I can hear you gasp.  First, you are noting all of my grammatical and mechanical errors.  Just stop it!  This blog is my release from conventions.  Second, you are pitying me because the thought of spending 8 hours each day with 14 year-old insanity strikes terror in your heart.  Medication and the wine bottle get me through it.  I AM KIDDING!!!  Don't you dare forward this to my principal.  I am in enough hot water as it is.  I really do love this age group, and that is not the Merlot talking.

So why isn't teaching as fun as it was back in 1985?  Well, I  have become a whore to the Common Core. Yes, yes, this is the educational initiative that is going to bring American education back to the forefront of the world (violin music rises to a crescendo).  Test the bejeezuz out of these kids, and they will reach educational enlightenment.  Oh yes, and teach to the test because that is always the great motivator.  The creativity is being sucked right out of the classroom.  If you find that glorious teachable moment, you had better find a Common Core standard that speaks to it.
Of course, a fancy-dancy graphic will also improve
student performance.  Just make sure to use
lots of arrows.I think I counted 11 here.

My math ain't so good.

Yes, I know I sound like a cynical old bat.  It is just that I have had enough initiatives thrown at me during the past 30-some years to have developed a rather high degree of skepticism.  Just let good teachers teach, and let those good teachers mentor the new ones. The mentor-ship initiative (there is that word again) in my school district has teachers with less than 10 years of experience in leadership positions.  I'm not sure if I knew how to empty the pencil sharpener at that point in my career.  I thought I was a great teacher, but I was barely adequate.  When districts hire, they hire young.  Young=less dollars.  Master teachers are encouraged to retire before age 60.  Old=expensive.  The result is that education today has lots of overflowing pencil sharpeners. 

While I was visiting my daughter's university last week-end, I had an opportunity to go to a fabulous concert featuring 300 students from Lawrence's music conservatory. While looking at the concert program, I noticed that the vast majority of the professors who had taught these fine musicians were my age or older.  When these professors joined their students for the final curtain call, they met a standing ovation from administration, parents, and students. Experience and wisdom were honored.  These halls of higher education are what we hope for our students in middle and high school.  Why don't we want the same level of experience in our teachers for these students as they prepare to enter colleges and universities?  When is the last time the seasoned veteran teachers in your school district met with a "Standing O?"  Maybe mine will happen as I enter my first hour class this morning.

This isn't really heading anywhere.  I am just venting, and thank for for "listening."  As my dad would have said, "Buck up, girl," and that is just what I will do today for the 6,120th time.  If nothing else, I am persistent.

Nothing more romantic than taking a little grading to bed.

And if you send this to my principal, just remember that my real name is Eunice Schnifflebottom, my school is in Outer Mongolia (no internet), and you will need an international airmail postage stamp on that envelope.  No extra charge for yak delivery from the airport. 

Prairie Sherry

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