What does a teacher do?
I have had many reasons this school year to reflect on my purpose and how I spend my day. Every day is completely different and filled with challenges and victories. As I reflect on just yesterday, I began the day attending the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at 7:45 AM, then I conferenced with 2 students on a paper they are writing (yes, in math), I touched base with colleagues about struggling students, and I gave out make up work to students who have been ill.
Once the bell rang and the school day started, I taught my classes while in the back of my mind I grieved over grades – I have many students that are struggling for many different reasons. I know that I have to stay in contact with their parents about their progress (all grades are posted online and all papers are usually graded within 24 hours. My heart breaks because I know that some of the students are just in over their heads, some students are just not willing to try, and I have one student that looks at me every day to tell me that what I teach is pointless.
Later in the day, I had an in-depth conversation with a student about integrity and character. She ended up in tears and I spent time consoling her. She is overwhelmed. Fifteen years old and life is too much. This time in my day is priceless and will teach life-long lessons.
Throughout a typical school day I have the privilege of reaching about 100 kids and I take that very seriously. My job can only be done successfully through relationships, and it takes time to build relationships. I choose to take every opportunity to connect with my students on a personal level because I truly care.
I could write for hours about how important my job is to me and how I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The current challenge is that I have suddenly realized that I do all that I do with minimal resources and now those resources are about to be decreased. I have a heavy heart thinking about how I can possibly do more with even less.
Just to clarify, when I mention resources, I don’t mean that I want more money.
I didn’t choose teaching for the money and anyone that knows me knows that I actually view doing more with less as an exciting challenge in my own household. I am talking about time and professional resources. Our curriculum in the state of VA has changed drastically over the past 5 years and we have not gotten updated teaching materials/textbooks since 2005. Can you believe that I actually rely on “google” to find some of my best activities? I used to be so proud of the things that I found but recently when I realized that that was really my only option for resources I was stunned. Can you imagine being a new teacher and not having any resources?
The other major resource is TIME. One of the budget proposals in Hanover is to have teachers teach an additional class. I already bring home 10+ hours of work a week in addition to arriving early and staying late at school. I can’t imagine how much more work I would have to do outside of the school day by adding 26 more students and another class. I spend roughly 40 percent of my non-teaching time at school working with students individually. When would these students get the one on one attention that they need?
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish that I had more time to work on lesson plans, contact parents and get ahead on grading.
Now, I have to be concerned that I will have even less.
–A high school math teacher in Hanover County