"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, March 10, 2012

GUEST POST: Top 10 Things I Wish I Could Say Out Loud

Top 10 Things I Wish I Could Say Out Loud

[originally posted at ruralteacher]

10. The State Tests, SATs, ACTs and any other High Stakes Test that you take will NOT predict your future success in life.  If anyone tells you that your success in life – as a productive citizen who is well-adjusted- depends on a TEST score, they are LYING TO YOU! Your life, your child’s life will be measured in many ways, but I can guarantee you that NO ONE is going to care what score you or your child got on a 3rd grade State Assessment. For that matter, NO ONE cares what your SAT score is – in fact, many colleges and universities are now going “Test Optional” meaning you don’t have to submit your SAT or ACT test scores to be considered for enrollment. So, talk to the college you’re interested in and find out. If High Stakes tests aren’t required – why spend your time and money on something that is meaningless?

9. I did NOT become a teacher to have my summers off! It seems idyllic, having “nothing to do” in July and August doesn’t it? My summers are spent cleaning up last year and preparing for next year. (In my world – the year actually begins in September) I am in my classroom unpacking supplies, rearranging the room, organizing materials, throwing out what didn’t work, washing the cupboards, dusting the shelves, and planning the ‘big picture’ for my new students. Sometimes, I’m at endless training sessions by choice or at the demand of my school district. Yes, I do spend time with my family, but everything is timed around when I have to “get back to school”, which much to the chagrin of my own kids is about August 1st.

8. I only get paid for 10 months of work.  As my school district continually points out to me: I am a 10 month employee. I get a salary for 10 months’ work that I must spread over 12 months of living.

7. Having tenure does not  mean I have my job “for life” no matter what I do. All that being “tenured” guarantees me is due process and some representation in the event that I am accused of something that would warrant my dismissal as a teacher. Actually, with a contract, there are very easy ways for an administration to terminate me whether I have tenure or not: consistently being late, not completing report cards, any failure to complete my “job duties”, and now in NY two years of an “ineffective” student test score rating.  The fact that I was even granted tenure rests solely on the administrators who observed me in my first three years of teaching and decided that I was a teacher that they wanted to keep around.

6. Going to school sick is better than  writing plans for a substitute. I actually have LOTS of accumulated sick time simply because it’s MUCH easier to go to school and get through the day with a pounding headache or a cough than it is to try to write plans for a sub. Most often, the sub is not a certified teacher, and my plans have to actually include so much step by step detail that it’s just easier to go to school. Obviously, if I’m contagious, or a doctor tells me that I can’t be in school, I stay home. There are those days when the sinuses are just not cooperating and it would be heavenly to crawl back under the covers and sleep, but it’s just too much work.

5. The Principal’s Office and the Superintendent’s Office are STILL scary places to be! When I get the phone call or the email or the written note that the Principal or Superintendent wants to see me – I tremble a little.  I start to wonder if a parent has a concern that he or she didn’t address with me, or if something I’ve posted on Facebook has gotten me in trouble AGAIN. Worst are the ‘direct, explicit instructions’ to do or not do something that I know would be good for kids. If I don’t follow those instructions – I am insubordinate and could be fired. 

4. The Board of Education, the Governor, the President are taking advice and making decisions about your child’s education from people who have never taught a day in their lives! All the talk about EDUCATION REFORM in the US is being framed and led by people who have little to no experience as classroom teachers in any capacity. The ideas that are gaining momentum – more testing, using test data to rate teachers, privatizing schools, creating MORE charter schools – are NOT based on anything that educators know about child development, developmentally appropriate practices, or what we have learned about LEARNING.

3. The “experts” you see on TV during things like NBC’s “Education Nation” or in the movie “Waiting for Superman” do NOT have children’s best interests at heart. Sadly, many of the ‘experts’ are simply folks who have a whole heck of a lot of money and have decided to use it to shape education policy so that they can get richer. It’s interesting when you start to follow the money – from the approved test vendors to the pockets of the politicians. These ‘experts’ are looking to grab a piece of the pie in the form of MORE MONEY FOR THEM on the backs and lives of your children. They are shaping policies that have no basis in what may actually be good for students, but instead in what is good to add to their piles of money.

2. Even though, as a teacher I am vilified in the press, I still LOVE teaching! Teaching and being a teacher is MY LIFE. The smiles, the hugs, the drawings, the ‘aha moments’ that I get to see MAKE MY DAY! I am so lucky to have a career that I truly love- when I am left to do what I do best – TEACH!! I never imagined doing anything else with my life. I haven’t gone on to be an administrator because I honestly love being with my students every day. I would miss it terribly if I couldn’t do it.

1. My name  In my small town, if I ever attached my name to this blog, I’m not sure what would happen. Perhaps I would be praised, and perhaps I would be called to the Principal or Superintendent’s Office and politely asked to stop. The stories I tell are MY stories, but there are others  that could be impacted if my identity were known. This is the FEAR that teachers live with – fear of speaking up and out because we, quite honestly, have mouths to feed, kids to put through college, and mortgages and taxes to pay. It’s gotten so bad that many of us don’t speak up at Faculty Meetings or Union Meetings – we just put our heads down, dance faster, work harder and wonder how long til we can retire because teaching has become WORK………..


  1. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Thank you for telling your story, PL. As an educator I think one of our institutional issues in education is the lack of a teacher voice. As an reformer, I think it's inaccurate to say we all are wealthy and anti-kid. I'm pro kid and think we need to do re more to meet their individual needs. Every person I work with has taught. I made less last year than I did my first year of teaching. Teaching is work. It's hard work. It's hard work for education champions at every level. We need more conversations to make learning opportunities excellent for all.

  2. Unless you are an educator, no one seems to get it (or care to). Don't even try to provide the public with the realities of our day, quarter, year, they'll only think you're whining.
    Fight the good fight, and don't grow weary!
    Terry Balster

  3. I wasn't feeling well this past Thursday, but it was so much easier to just go into work. Sub plans suck so much... especially when it is not a planned absence. When I am sick, I will have to wake up early (even though I won't be working) and go to school to put some sub plans on the desk and make sure the papers the students need are organized for the sub.

    I wish people could really see all the work during the year and during the summers that teachers do so that they better understood what all goes into our jobs as teachers.

  4. Ah yes, love the students, hate the administrivia! I did not really mind the long hours of work, or the lack of official recognition, because my students and their parents have let me know, even years later, that it made a difference. I also often taught sick, sometimes with no voice at all, because even impaired, I could do so much more than I could put on a plan sheet for someone else to try to do.