We finished school today, so I thought I’d provide my thoughts on my first year as a teacher.
First, I like it much better than being a lawyer. It was last year this time that I submitted my two week notice to the firm. No regrets. Well, I do miss the lunches. Otherwise, teaching is much better. Most entertaining and low stress job I’ve ever had. There’s all that sentimental idealistic crap, too.
Second, I had no idea how much you have to struggle to be able to teach. And not with the kids, with the bureaucrats from the feds on down to the school principal. The amount of classes, meetings, and paperwork required by the state and parish is stunning. Little of this does any good, and whatever good it does is erased by the time it all takes away from your class preparations. Then when you make it into class, the office constantly interrupts with announcements, surprise assemblies, meetings you must leave to attend, random uniform checks and any number of other non-educational bothers. I’ve been shocked at how many things are working to keep you from focusing on educating the kids.
Third, the next time someone suggests extending the school year as a way to solve education problems, tell them schools just need to learn how to better use the time we have. See the above paragraph for some of the ways schools waste time. At our school, for example, the next school year will be about 36 calendar weeks, not counting holidays. In reality, though, after subtracting days lost to testing, prep for testing, assemblies, trips, and all kinds of random silliness, we will have about 27 weeks for instruction. One great way to save time? Instead of interrupting the year with state-wide tests, replace final exams with state-wide standardized finals. That would put 3 more weeks of instruction on our calendar next year.
Fourth, one great way to really improve schools would be more expulsions. In the seventh grade at my school there are about ten or fifteen students who do absolutely nothing other than interfere with the other kids’ educations. You could ask each teacher to independently list the twenty most troublesome kids, and at least fifteen would be the same on every list. This is not a teacher problem. I don’t know why these kids are like this, I don’t care. I’m not a social worker, minister, or psychiatrist. I am a teacher, and these kids are preventing me (and the other teachers) from fully educating all the other kids. Eliminate the problems, and the rest of the kids will greatly improve. Continue with the fuzzy headed “every kid is salvageable” nonsense, and everyone suffers.
Fifth, it does not take much effort to earn the boss’s favor. Come to work every day. Submit your lesson plans on time. Keep your class under control. Do that, and your principal will think you are awesome.
Sixth, it does not take much to enjoy your job, either. Remember you only work for half the year. Remind yourself that kids are a pain in the a**, but they are really entertaining, too. Have a sense of humor, especially about yourself. Don’t fight the system, just do the stupid paperwork, submit it, then close your door and teach your class the best way you know how. And of course the kids don’t know anything and don’t know how to behave themselves, that’s why you’re there.
Seventh, I have no idea what it takes to really be a good teacher. Maybe I’ll figure that out next year.
Finally, it’s a cliche, but it’s at least a funny version: