Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Teacher

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!

29 comments:

  1. Well said! This is my first year not returning to the classroom, but it all rings true!

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  2. Great post! I've always had a lot of respect for teachers, but since sending my own little one to preschool it has increased ten-fold. His teachers truly love him (and the rest of the class) like their own - it takes a special person to do that. Connor attends private preschool and no supplies are required, it's included in the cost of 'tuition.' However, I try to check in with his teachers every month or so to ask for a 'wish list' for their classroom just to help out because I realize their budget is minimal compared to their needs. I plan to offer the same help once he starts to kindergarten in a public school because I'm sure budgets are even tighter! I really don't think most parents take the time to realize how much teachers use their own 'resources' (aka: money, not to mention unpaid hours) to create a successful year in their classroom. I loved reading your post as a reminder to help out more often!

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  3. Well said! This might be one of my favorite posts! I teach fifth grade and I am also expecting my first baby in six weeks, so for the first time I am trying to balance these two worlds but the teaching world almost always has to win out in order for me to do my job successfully. I've had parents say to me, "you are coming back, right?" and "you're not extending your leave, right?" which makes me even more anxious that they want their child put before mine without a second though of the sacrifices that it takes. This was what I needed to read today!

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  4. As a former 1st grade teacher, I LOVE THIS. I don't think most people understand how much work & energy goes into teaching a class full of kids. I hope I never forget!

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  5. very, very well said. i've obviously never been through any of this, but i do have a HUGE amount of respect for teachers as i know it's not a job i could do. perfect post for back to school.

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  6. I.LOVE.THIS!!! and it is ALL so true. it made me teary and stressed all at once - ha! :)
    i'm so glad you wrote this and hit publish - it is spot on.

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  7. Rachel!! This needs to be published! It is the perfect description of what our job is as teachers - beautiful.

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  8. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. My oldest is starting kindergarten :..( so thank you for the perspective into a teacher's full duties. (Although I promise I won't be the nasty parent emailing snotty messages :)

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  10. LOVE this! As a speech pathologist who went back to work part time after having my little one not even a year ago, every word rings true! And even if I decide this is my last year, I will always remember how it felt to get those one or two cards or emails at the beginning of the year.

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  11. Love this post. Thanks for sharing just a glimpse into the lives that us crazy teachers live each day!

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  12. I'm not usually one to comment, but I have to say this post is beautifully written and so very true. Having taught first grade for 10 years now and being the mother of two little ones, I can relate to every. single. thing. You have hit the nail on the head and I so appreciate you writing this AND sharing it.

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  13. Very well said! It's a much harder job than people realize and it's not very often that we are appreciated.

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  14. My parents each taught for over 30 years and my sister taught for 7 before staying home w/ her babies. This was great! It is a good reminder for me (as the one who isn't a teacher) of how important it is to start the year off right with your child's teacher. Trent starts pre-K this year (although we will most likely redshirt him for kindergarten next year), and I really want to have a great relationship with his teachers!!

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  15. What a wonderful post! I have a 4 year old in pre-school and I always struggle with ideas of things to do to show his teachers how much my husband and I appreciate their hard work. The first day of school last year, I did exactly what you said and wrote a note telling them how excited we all were and included ALL contact info. This year I think I'll send in some extra supplies knowing how much the teachers have to provide themselves. Above all, I hope any gift or note I send is secondhand to the daily appreciation I try to show for taking care of my baby when I'm not there.

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  16. Love it, Rachel! so good! Todd and I recognize that our kids' education is OUR responsibility. We are so thankful for teachers and even more thankful for excellent teachers, but we know that how they perform is up to us. And we want to be as involved as possible without being in the way, and be as much help to the teacher as we possibly can. We'll be praying for our kids' teachers this year!

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  17. So well said! Thank you to all the teachers out there!

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  18. Hi Rachel, I've never posted before but have been following your blog for a bit and love reading your posts. Thank you for such a well written post! I went to JMU too (2003) and taught in Fairfax County and now my husband and I live in Louisville, KY where I teach kindergarten. I LOVE what I do but I do get tired of the comment, "must be nice to have the summers off." Summers are part of teaching so that we can be amazing, energetic, focused, and sane the other 9 months of the year. ;) I hope when my husband and I have children and they are in school, I can show their teachers just how amazing I think they are. Like you said, it's the notes and the cards that mean so much. The awareness and acknowledgement of all that we do for little pay and lots of time but we do it because we love it and can't imagine any other career. Thank you again for putting into words what so many teachers are feeling this time of year!

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  19. This post made me cry...I am in the midst of doing all of what you mentioned, as I start back at school next week. Thank you for writing this post!

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  20. I wish I could show you a picture of my living room right now - spread out with binders of lesson plans and craft supplies for my new themed classroom. You have summarized these next few weeks so perfectly, even for a high school teacher... Thank you ( :

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  21. Me again...ha. My post tomorrow has Drew wearing the headband we won in your giveaway. :)

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    1. Can't wait to see her in it!

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  22. I love this, Rachel! So well said. I taught at a learning center, with a government program, and as a substitute, so some of what you describe I only know of through my parents' educational careers. Nevertheless, a teacher in any environment carries a heavy burden for her passion and her students, and do a job few understand and few appreciate, yet from which everyone has benefited at one point or another.

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  23. Beautifully written, and takes me right back to my days as a teacher busily getting my room ready and preparing for the year ahead.

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  24. After a week of working 7:30 to 4 (yes 4 our kids don't dismiss until 3:30 sad face) and being half dead while trying to also run my home, still tend to my own workout desires, running a blog, and working for another blog as well I love that you wrote this. I always feel so attacked and paranoid when it comes to teaching. We haven't even had a planning period this week, the kids won't start until next week supposedly. So straight days with kids, no break, no time to plan, and constant talking because we can't start our conduct grades until 3 weeks in.

    I think teaching is starting to kill me lol.

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  25. Amazing post, Rachel! And so appropriate considering all of the terrible decisions made by NC legislators this summer. :( Teaching just gets harder and harder (for less and less pay), and I constantly find myself saying, "If people only KNEW ___________." I had my first workday of the year yesterday and came home and passed out on the couch, absolutely EXHAUSTED from rearranging furniture and cleaning everything that I had just cleaned 2 months before, but was already covered in dust. I do it because I love it but it does help to receive few kind words from thankful parents every now & then as a reminder that our hard work is appreciated. :)

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  26. I think you teachers are grossly underpaid for the amount of work and care (and continuing education) that you have to go through. My older sister and best friend are both teachers and I feel for them so much when their summer ends because they are working so hard to get lesson plans done, etc. and their rooms together, even still, they LOVE their students and go out of their way to make a difference in their lives.

    There are so many good teachers out there and I wish all of you were paid more and given more appreciation!!!

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