from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Teacher's Life - the school year approaches 

Tomorrow I officially report back for the year, with students reporting the following Monday. And yet I have been hard at work for the past week. I was at school four days last week, missing only the day I had my colonoscopy. I was helping clear athletes for participation, assisting our athletic director (he was paid for his time, I was not for mine), and I began the laborious process of setting up my classroom - I am in an outside temporary and almost everything has to be removed and locked up at the end of each year.

I thought I’d offer a few vignettes - and memories - so that those of you who do not teach can have some idea why when people talk about how teachers only work 7 hours a day 10 months a year are very wrong. And perhaps you can thereby come to appreciate the dedication of so many who teach the children of this nation.

I have today been working on paperwork. I have had to update my professional goals for the year. Every year I am required to put together a document which states clearly what my expectations - for each class I teach, for each additional professional responsibility I have, and for more life as an educational professional general. At the end of the year I am required to go back and examine how I did in achieving my goals, and analyze why I did not meet any that were unfulfilled. This is an entirely separate process from the formal professional development plan which I am required to have on file and update annually. That document ensures that I maintain all qualifications for certification. I am currently on an Advanced Professional Certificate II, now entering my 11th year of teaching. My ongoing professional development can be fulfilled in a variety of ways, and much of mine personal requirements will be met by running workshops to train other teachers and in mentoring as I have the past two years student teachers.

I have prepared tentative rosters of all male soccer players - varsity and JV - who have submitted the necessary paperwork (physicals, insurance, permissions, checking GPA for eligibility, etc.) or whom we know will be submitting in the next few days. We are required to be able to show that a student has practiced at least 10 days before he competes in interscholastic competition, and no one can even dress for a practice who is not cleared.

I have set up weekly progress reports so that we can monitor the academic progress of our soccer players - especially important for our freshmen.

I have rewritten the letters that go home on the first day explaining my expectations in each class, how parents can check assignments, when they can expect grade sheets, how they can contact me. I have to have a copy signed by parent and student in order to enforce my expectations, because students are entitled to due process, and if we cannot prove that the parent was notified we can legally have trouble enforcing rules.

I will have 3 sections of AP Government. We do not have a supplementary reader. I have spent hours scouring for materials in the public domain or available by link on the internet. I have put together a page of links for those we will need for the first 5-6 weeks - we are hoping we can persuade the County to buy a supplementary reader so I don’t have to keep doing this. I am about to go off and set up handouts of publicly available material that is not online. Some of this copying will be done at my own expense.

Which reminds me - I began teaching in a December, when I took over a class where the teacher had lost his certification ( had not taken the courses necessary to maintain his certificate, and refuse to teach on a per diem basis until he made up the missing credits). I started on a Friday. On Monday I came in with a batch of stuff I had put together, and to be ready first thing (that school started at 7:30), make copies at a Kinko’s. A student in my home room saw the Kinko’s box, and asked if I had paid for the copying myself. When I responded that I had, she told another student, “See, I told you he was a real teacher.” I don’t know what it says that an 8th grade student decides that I am a real teacher because I pay for photocopying out of my own pocket. In that regard, there is an interesting relevant article in today’s Washington Post [Teachers Spend Big to Supply What Schools Don’t http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/13/AR2005081301237.html]

I have also been spending about 5 hours each day (including weekends) this week working on my AP syllabus for the year, preparing lesson plans for the first three weeks or so of school. That is because once I receive my class lists of students (probably on Thursday) I will begin the process of calling every single parent I have, so that by the end of the 2nd week of classes I will have talked with everyone. That ensures that they know how to reach me, and lets me know about any specific concerns for their child they wish to offer me.

But remember - officially I don’t start until 8:00 AM tomorrow. I will, however, be at school at 7 so that I can get some of the xeroxing for which I will not pay done before the lines build up - we have two copying machines for over 150 teachers.

I am not that unusual in the time, energy and out of pocket money that go into my being a teacher. Just remember that the next time you hear someone say that teachers have it easy, or suggest that they only work 10 month’s a year, or only 7-8 hours a day.
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