Kids are back in school, and so are teachers and administrators. As a retired teacher with 30 years of teaching under my belt, I thought I would share a few things. Today I am talking to parents of high schoolers.
1. I may have up to 180 students to keep up with. Unlike lower grades, there is no size cap on my classes. I can have as many as 35 to 40 students in one class, which makes it difficult to monitor the behavior and work of each student all the time, although I do my best to do just that.
2. My work day begins way before students arrive and ends way after they leave. I arrive up to an hour early each day in order to prepare my lessons and classroom for the day’s activities. I may need to run copies and the earlier I can grab a copy machine, the better. I also have to prepare and deliver lessons for students who are out of my classroom for the day, like those who are in in-school suspension or behavior adjustment classes. After school I have tutoring or duty or I sponsor an extracurricular activity that may last well into the evening. Then I have my own family to care for when I get home.
3. There is much more to do during my 45-minute conference period than I can physically accomplish. Often staff development meetings are scheduled during this time. My to-do list rarely gets completed and may include the following tasks:
- call parents about behavior and/or grades;
- consult with other teachers;
- check and gather supplies;
- prepare activities;
- meet with administrators;
- write lesson plans;
- prepare power point presentations;
- record grades;
- prepare progress reports;
- learn new technology;
- fill out paperwork on special needs students;
- attend meetings;
- read and answer emails;
- grade papers;
4. I would love for you to be a fly on the wall or peek into my classroom door window to see how your child is behaving during class, especially if I have contacted you about his or her behavior. Most parents have no idea how their children behave at school, and they tend to believe what their children tell them, rather than what their teachers tell them. Many parents would be embarrassed at the behavior of their children.
5. Just because you send supplies with your child doesn’t mean he or she will make it to school or my class with them. I can’t tell you how many pencils, pens, and sheets of paper I have given to students who show up to class without them. I have tried everything I can think of to help them be more responsible, such as making them pay for supplies, making them trade personal items, sending notes home, etc. Holding their personal items in exchange for supplies seems to work the best.
6. I can give a student a pencil every single day and he continues to come to my class without a pencil! One day I got so frustrated I emptied an entire box of pencils on his desk and told him that he now had enough to last for awhile. Did it work? It made me feel better, but he still came the next day without a pencil!
7. I don’t hate your child or anyone else’s. Teenagers love drama and they will tell their parents that the reason they are failing or have detention (or whatever) is because the teacher hates them. Don’t fall for it.
8. I would protect your child with my own life if it came to that. The news media is continually amazed that teachers will put themselves in harm’s way to protect their students from gunmen or storms or whatever. I know of no teacher I ever taught with who wouldn’t do the same thing. Your children become our children when they enter our schools and classrooms.
9. I spend my own money on student supplies, classroom supplies, and decor. If activities require scissors and glue sticks and journal notebooks, I will purchase them myself to make sure every student has them. I decorate my classroom to make it a welcoming and comfortable place for me and my students, and I spend my own money and time to do so. There is no money in the school’s budget for decor and very little for supplies.
10. I did not choose teaching as a last resort. I chose teaching because I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a positive influence on the world, and even though it is frustrating, maddening, exhausting, and draining, it is the most rewarding career I could have chosen. I am proud to be a teacher.
It may be cheesy, but it is oh, so true.