I know there are a lot of moms who read my blog who have children that are getting ready to attend school, so here's a little post for you. Your babies' teachers are hard at work getting ready for your child to walk through their doors, and as a former teacher, this is a post I always wanted to write, but was too afraid to publish....
Right now, as you go to Target and Wal-Mart and get all those last minute items on the supply list and try to squeeze in a few more trips to the pool, your child's teacher is doing the following....
She is pouring her heart and soul into a classroom. Spending a lot of her own money on pillows and beanbags so that she has a cozy reading corner, and markers and crayons because there will definitely be children who show up with no supplies. And she's more than likely bought a new rug because let's face it, a classroom full of dirty tennis shoes means you can only get one year out of a rug. But cold tile floors are not warm and inviting, so a rug or two will help her students feel more at home in her room. She will have tired arms from carrying in boxes and bags full of stuff for her classroom from the car. She's probably going into her building at all sorts of crazy hours, even if her "work week" hasn't begun yet, so she can hang posters and put name tags on desks and sort through tubs of books.
That same teacher will probably have to sit through 8-12 hours of meetings once her work week begins. Some of these meetings will be useful, and some will be a waste of time, but she will sit there as the to-do list in her minds grows. All of the new practices of teaching and planning her district implemented last year will be thrown out the window because they didn't get the results the system wanted. So she will have all sorts of information and new standards thrown at her and be told to implement them in her classroom from day one. Out with the old in with the new. She will be given large binders that she's required to use to track data and anecdotal notes on each of her twenty five students. She will have one on one meetings with Special Education teachers in the building to go over the IEP's of students in her class who have special needs. And she'll be given some guidance on how to modify her instruction for those children.
Meanwhile, at home, she'll still be required to cook, clean, and do laundry, but in her "free" time in the evenings, she'll begin to put together her lesson plans and units for those first few weeks and months. Not just a "list" of what she'll do each day, but detailed plans for each day and each subject. These plans will include her essential questions and and established goals, and she'll have to include how she plans to assess and collect data on her students with each lesson. And chances are she can't call it a "lesson" plan anymore. That's not the PC term these days....it's probably called a "learning" plan, and she'll be collaborating on it with her fellow teachers on her grade level in their "PLC's" (professional learning communities), because "teammates" isn't the professional term she can use anymore.
There will be a filing cabinet in the office that has a drawer with her name on it, with twenty-five folders in it, one on each of her students, and she'll be asked to go through and take a look at each students folder. If she misses something in a folder, such as a note that a child has asthma or maybe he moved here from a new school where he had been suspended six times, that's on her. She better read all twenty-five files carefully.
Some of her friends and acquaintances will roll their eyes and make rude comments as she says she's heading back to work. They'll comment that it must be nice to have your summers off, despite the fact that she was required to attend multiple professional development workshops over the summer (with no pay), and has a total of two personal days to use between September and June.
But despite all of these things...she will be delighted on open house night when she gets to meet your babies and put a face to a name for the first time. She will excitedly give them hugs and show them where to put their supplies, because this is the part of the job she loves...the students. She will spend the next 180 school days loving on them, helping them, counseling them, teaching them. She will do this on days when she feels sick because there are no subs available. She will do it when she's missing her own child's field trip to the zoo, because once again, she only has two personal days. She will do all of these things even after she's been brought to tears and is questioning her career choice after a hateful email from a parent who thinks they can say whatever they feel over the computer screen.
So as you get ready to send your children to school this fall, or you have a friend who is a teacher and she's doing all of what I described above....take a second to say thank you and recognize that she's putting 110% into a job that recognizes maybe 20% of your effort. She is a human being, who has her own family and life at home, but for the next ten months, she will lose her own identity and just be a teacher to most. On the first day, bring her a card saying how excited you are to work with her this year. Let her know that you, the parent, are on her team. Remind her that you want to work alongside her to see your child flourish over the school year. Gifts are not required, but certainly appreciated, but nothing says thank you like a heartfelt card or email reminding her how thankful you are for what she does for your little one. You may bring her to tears, but I promise they'll be the good kind!