Saturday, September 02, 2006

Just Do It

It's Labor Day Weekend, and my in-laws have just come to town, so this will be my last post until after the official school year starts.
I'm actually getting nervous which bugs the holy hell out of me.
Oh well.
I was very surprised at the amount of responses I got to the
syllabus post. There is something, however, I would like to clarify. What I am not happy about is not that I have to make syllabi, but the fact that I now have these inserts that must be in them. Instead of a paper that covers just my expectations, I know have to also have all this legal mumbo-jumbo to, as was so perfectly put, "cover my ass," as well as the district. That's what I'm frustrated about more than anything. The world has changed SO much that we HAVE to put things in to cover our asses. It's all about not getting sued. So instead of a one page syllabus, which is just my expectations, I'm now giving a four page packet where most of it is district issues. That's the part that annoys me. There's not enough room for my stuff without handing out a small paperback book.
So here's the issue: in my last post, Tom asked me if I've "considered a new line of work," outside of teaching.
The answer is no. It's not teaching that drives me batty. Not even close. The problem is the bullshit that surrounds teaching.
What do I mean?
If you put me in a classroom with the kids, I will be quite happy to go through and explain Romeo and Juliet or to explain the importance of writing a good essay. That's not the problem.
A colleague of mine puts it best: "It's not the kids that frustrate me. It's the adults."
That's the crux of it. The kids are fine. They say and do stupid things at times, but that's what kids do.
The adults should know better. The parents, the administrators, and the other teachers.
The parents who blame the teacher when it's really about their parenting.
The administrators who should know better than to take away our time with political bullshit.
The other teachers who let such petty issues take over their relationships and their classrooms.
I'll give you an example.
On Thursday afternoon, our librarian went into crisis mode. We are tagging our textbooks so that they have to be scanned in order to let the students take them home (which is a great idea as it means that if a kid loses the book, it's on record).
She was told that students would show up to help her. The morning rolled by without a student showing up, but she didn't say anything.
You'll recall that I am now the chair of my department (also known as "The position no one else wanted") so she called me after lunch almost in tears. "Oh my God. We have an emergency."
"What's wrong?" I replied.
"Just come to the library."
We had 700 textbooks and paperbacks that needed to be tagged and then moved.
"The administration wants all these books out of the library by tonight. It's Freshman Orientation, and they want the library to be clear of these books."
So, I sent a message out over the PA for everyone in my department to show up to the library.
To their credit, almost all the teachers showed up. One, it turned out later, left early and left town.
However, once they were there and heard what we had to do, the kvetching started.
"Why do we have to do it?"
"I'm not using the textbooks, can't I just go?"
"I have better things to do with my time."
And on and on and on it went.
I had to explain to each person, almost one on one, why they needed to get to work.
"We have to do it, because the students didn't show up. It sucks, but it happens."
"You'll help because it's about the department being ready, not just you."
"Even if you aren't using the books, the rest of us need your help."
Even then some did the minimal work and left.
"I have practice in an hour, and I have to get ready."
"I'm pregnant, and this isn't good for me."
"I have to meet with (fill-in-the-blank teacher) in a few minutes."
Two hours. It tooks us two hours, and that's with the amazing recruiting job I did (I went to other departments and called in favors).
The coup de grace, however, was the football team. Those kids were lent to us for ten minutes, and they hauled almost all our books to the classrooms. They never questioned what I told them to do, they just took the orders and ran with it.
Once the books were in the rooms, however, the teachers bitched about having to put the books on the shelves.
That night, we had the parents in for Freshman Orientation. Some of the returning students' parents offered to come and help. One was the parent of a football player who had helped us out.
"Why did you make my son carry books today? He came home complaining about his legs. If he can't play tomorrow, you'll be sorry."
Huh? The kid also went to practice that day. Maybe that was made his legs hurt. This parent is banking heavily on her kid to become a superstar football player so he can "take care of her."
So let's review:
The parent complained that her kid did a good deed.
The administration, rather than say, "Hey, here are the books that your kids will get to study from this year," said, "Get those books out of sight of the parents...FAST!"
The teachers complained and came up with excuses to not have to work...then complained when the work wasn't done exactly how they wanted.
This is the bottom line for me (pay attention Tom):
The problem is that while I love my job, there are areas that I hate.
I hate the fact that the administration can't just let is work. They use us as political tools. I have seen my union president six times in the last four months, and she said the same thing every time.
I hate the fact that there are so many minor stipulations that I have to have in my syllabi and on my walls so that I won't get sued.
I hate the fact that so many of my colleagues are unwilling to stay and help students after school. I hate that they won't even stay to talk to students.
I hate the fact that I can't accept or give a hug to a student as it can be construed as sexual misconduct.
I hate the fact that many of my colleagues are so unwilling to share their curriculum with each other.
I hate the fact that parents are unwilling to understand that we just don't have the money to do certain things.
I hate the fact that I put in $400 of my own money last year in order to ensure that the kids had books, pencils and pens, paper, and such, and yet I'm still told that my school has too much money.
I hate the fact that a friend of mine teaches at a private school, and he gets everything he needs whenever he asks and his department has a much bigger budget than mine has.
I hate the fact that so many people think teaching is so easy and think teachers get too many breaks and such.
I hate the fact that there was a small amount of time that I thought to myself, "You know...maybe I should just be a stay at home dad until he's four."
I hate the fact that people think that teaching is, "a pink-collar job," which means it's just for women.
I hate the fact that my job is considered, "a fallback job," for so many people. I couldn't make it as a lawyer, so I'll teach. I couldn't be a journalist, so I'll teach.
But there is a great deal to love.
I love my job. I love it. I love explaining the English language to a student.
I love shooting the breeze with the students.
I love working with the kids to build sets.
I love watching a kid have the light bulb click on in his or her head.
I love that the kids that graduate tell me that I helped them in some way.
I love that I'll still talk to those kids now and still help them while they're in college.
I love my job...I just hate the bureaucratic bullshit associated with teaching now.
Have I considered another line of work? No, not since becoming a teacher. This is what I was meant to do.
Will I always be happy? No, but that's the point. Even if you get your dream job, there are always things that will bug you.
Professional sports stars deal with pain and losing.
Lawyers lose.
Doctors can't save every patient.
No matter what you do, there are days.
If work was meant to be fun, it would be called Super Action Fun Time. It's called work, because it takes effort, because you have to labor.
I have bad days, but I love what I do.


Laura said...

You should know that whether they acknowledge it or not, you make a difference in the life of every student you teach. Teaching isn't for everyone, but those who it is for, love it. Keep your head up and I hope this year doesn't suck too much. I'll never forget how much you helped me through senior year and even now into college. Thank you.

P.S.: I'm sorry if our class left the auditorium looking like shit. I don't remember that, but I'm sure none of us intended to.

Aliecat said...

Yikes! Nothing worse than bureaucratic bullshit to suck the life out of you. It exists in every job. One of the main reasons I didn't become a doctor was all the administrative BS and the HMO crap that they have to deal with. That you have only 15 minutes to spend with a patient because you have 100 more to see that day. Sucks.

cat said...

I agree EVERY job has one sort or another of BS to deal with. But you are lucky, you found and succeeded in a job you love! I hope this year goes well for you! Back in the days when my Dad was a teacher, it was good, you could slam a kid against a locker to break up a fight, or accept/give a hug, no questions asked. Now, my Sister says she is afraid to touch a kid even on the shoulder... that is sad. Kids need appropreate touch! We all do. SIGH... sorry did not mean to bring things down. I again hope this year goes GREAT for you!

PS, sorry I cannot spell worth a damn...