Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Teacher's View of Spring Break

If you know any teachers, have ever lived with a teacher, or you are or have been a teacher yourself, you know that the words SPRING BREAK are music to an educator's ears. I am no exception. It's no lie that most of us count down to the next school vacation we will have, sometimes even 
before the current one is over. 

 It's not that I don't enjoy my job, because on most days I really do enjoy my job. It's what God has called me to do, and I work hard to take kids to the next level. 
I love when the lightbulb finally comes on for a child that I have been working with, and there is certainly never a dull or quiet moment 
in my entire day. 

I am not only their teacher, but their nurse, their mama, and their caregiver...ALL DAY LONG!
I must constantly be aware of not only each student's location, but I must also be 
aware of each child's educational, social, health, and safety needs. 
They are constantly changing!
This doesn't even include all the interruptions that occur throughout the day. 

Little Johnny needs to ride a different bus home today than usual and he needs a note from the office, as well as an escort to the bus so he knows where to go. Little Susie has a sore throat and tells me about it every 5 minutes even though I have already given her a peppermint and she has already seen the nurse, and we have a water fountain in our classroom that she can go to freely.  Little Joey has problems keeping his hands to himself no matter how many times he is reminded. Little Sally picks up things off the floor and puts them in her mouth and/or sucks her thumb even though she has been reminded at least a hundred times how nasty this is. Little Timmy always finishes pretty much any assignment he is given in 2.7 seconds flat, while Little Leroy takes forever and a day to complete the same task.  Little Mary needs to go to the bathroom again right in the middle of my teaching time even though she's already been three times and it's only 10:00 a.m. Little Pete needs to go to the Counselor's office, but he doesn't know where it is, and neither does anyone else in the classroom, so I have to escort him there while another teacher watches my class for a few minutes. Little Bobby says something inappropriate and he and I have to discuss why we shouldn't say those words. Little Lucy decides it is appropriate to write on the carpet and/or her forearm with a marker. Little Nan fell and scraped her knee. Little Sarah has a papercut and she thinks she's dying. Little Betty came in late or is absent again, and I have to make sure I set aside time to catch her up on what she misses. (Little Betty doesn't understand that the world keeps spinning when she's absent.) Little Jimmy is upset because he and his family are having to move to a new house and he doesn't want to. Little Jamie didn't eat breakfast this morning and he's hungry, so I need to find him a snack.  Little Sam whines and complains about everything constantly and doesn't use his manners. Little Amy needs to go to (speech therapy/ESOL testing/small group/the office, etc...) and she'll miss out on part of our lesson, so I'll have to meet with her one-on-one later in the day. Little Carrie has asthma, so when she starts wheezing I have to intervene. Little Lisa misses her mama and needs some extra loving. I have a parent to call or a note to respond to in a child's agenda. Money for (yearbooks, fundraisers, etc...) are due. It's (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, someone's birthday, a special event, etc...), and I spend my own time and money to make sure the students get to celebrate in a fun and interesting way while learning something new. Due to (special school event, testing, a short week, required half-day meetings, being absent, whether planned or unplanned, etc...), my schedule is completely thrown off track, yet I am still expected to teach the students the same amount of content as usual. I am in the middle of teaching an important lesson and someone says or does something that gets me and/or the students completely off task for five minutes.  There are pencils, crayons, gluesticks, and jackets on the floor, but mysteriously no one knows how they got there. It's time to line up, and I am having to remind everyone AGAIN that we need to line up quietly and keep our hands off the wall and face the front.  I ask everyone to stop what they are doing when it's time to move on to something new, and at least 3 kids continue what they are doing rather than stopping and looking at me. The lunch line is incredibly long and slow, and I only get 20 minutes to eat my own lunch. Five kids didn't put their name on their paper and I have to figure out who they are. Four kids didn't understand the new concept I just taught,  or the concept that I just retaught, and I must find time during my day to work with them in a small group to do some extra reteaching. (Meanwhile, I must keep the other students, who are only 6 and 7,  on task and doing something meaningful while I work with that small group. ) We can't get too loud, especially when other grade levels are testing, yet we are encouraged to let our students think and work creatively. I must take at least two grades per subject area per week per student and put them into the computer, as well as sort all the papers appropriately and make necessary notes so parents can see them once I send them home on Monday (after I spend at least 45 minutes sorting all the papers and putting them in the take home folders).  Lesson plans for all subject areas have to be created and reworked constantly. There's homework and a newsletter to create on a weekly basis. Copies have to be made. The phone is ringing. An announcement is being made over the intercom. I have a meeting to attend right in the middle of my class time and a substitute will be with the kids for the next hour. My class is divided into three different groups for Art, Music, and P.E. so I have to get them all to the right place at the same time and I have to pick them up at the same time, too. Another teacher needs to talk to me for a minute about a student concern. There's a fire drill. Someone threw up. I haven't been to the restroom in about 4 hours and my bladder is about to pop. The office called and said I have a new student. Another student is moving away and I have to gather all of his or her things to send to the new school as soon as possible. It's library day, but three different kids didn't put their book in their bookbag even though they have been instructed over and over to keep it in there when it's not being read.  Pencils need to be sharpened, tables need to be cleaned, bookshelves need to be straightened, papers need to be filed. It's been raining and/or cold for the last ten days and we've had to have indoor recess, so I must get creative about how the students can burn up some of the stored up energy they have. It's nice outside and we can go to the playground, so I have to monitor them and make sure they are playing safely. This important student data is due today. Progress monitoring graphs must be updated. The curriculum is all new, and we are just now getting to dive in and learn how to use it. 

I think you get the picture.

Did I mention that I do it mostly by myself?
These kids are 6 and 7 years old, so they are still pretty needy. They don't always 
understand that I can't help everyone at once. 
If you have even one young child at home, you know
how needy they can be sometimes.
Patience is definitely not a strong point
for most kids this age.
You know how they don't always listen to what you say.
You know how you have to constantly repeat the same directions over, and over, and over again...
day after day after day after day. 
Now, multiply that by 18 (or some years up to 24).
And, remember, I don't have help most of the day! 

Yes, I know there are millions of people who also work 8 hour days just like me and they don't get a Spring Break. However, these little breaks are what keep us teachers sane. (Or at least a little more sane than we would be if we didn't get these breaks!) 
I can't just call in sick and leave it at that.
I have to make detailed plans any time I am out, even if I am sick as a dog, 
and it's almost impossible to make plans that allow a substitute to 
know and understand everything they need to know about your class when you can't be there. 
I have a notebook with a lot of necessary details, but there's no way to include everything.

Let me put it this way- I may get paid for an 8 hour day, but on average, I put in at least
a 10 hour day. That's about 10 hours a week that I get no compensation for, and no, I do not get paid for the hours I don't work. 

Teachers don't get paid for going to PTO meetings, getting to school early or staying late,
 and contrary to the belief 
of some, we also don't get paid for the summer. Our paycheck just gets divided 
over 12 months so our families don't have to go hungry in the summer. 

So, why do I keep doing it, you ask?

The smiles on their faces, the sweet hugs, notes, and drawings I get on a daily basis, the look in their eyes when they are in awe at something new I have helped them discover, the moment they finally understand something that has been difficult and the lightbulb goes on, the funny things they say and the meaningful conversations we have, the books we read together and discuss, the activities we do together and learn from, the field trips and events we attend together, the thank-yous from their parents when they begin to notice a difference, hearing a non-reader learn to read, the satisfaction that I have helped open the eyes of a group of students to something new.

It's not an easy job, but it's the job God has called me to, and as long as He wants me to, I will continue doing it, and I will do it to the best of my ability. 

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