The Problem With Teaching Today: Told Through Two Anecdotes

The following stories are

non-fictional and depict

actual persons and events.

I was observing a teacher’s classroom; she had been having problems with a student who was a behavior challenge. The student was being disruptive and unruly, not at all ready to learn. I walked over to him, and I calmly asked him, “What do you need?” He yelled at me, “I need my crackers!” I turned to the teacher and asked her why she wouldn’t let him have his crackers. She replied, “because it isn’t snack time.” Can you imagine? Here is a student telling you he’s hungry, and you won’t give him what he needs because it isn’t snack time? I asked the teacher, “Which would you rather have, an unruly student who is being disruptive, or a student who is ready to learn? Let him have his crackers.”

As told by a behavioral specialist

I was talking to my colleague, who happened to help me develop our curriculum, and her kids happen to go to your school, and she was telling me that her children hate your class. They were talking about it over dinner one night, and she said they told her that they hate your class because it’s boring and they never do anything fun. This concerns me. You should be making it fun for the students, you should be doing projects with your students. This is unacceptable. What are you going to do to change this?

An overheard conversation between a supervisor and a foreign language teacher

The first story was presented during a professional development session. Based on the faces of the other teachers at my table, they were all thinking the same thing I was. Here is a student who has just been handed control of this poor teacher’s classroom. If a behavioral “specialist” is telling us that we need to give students everything they “need,” whenever they demand it, then we are all screwed.

The second conversation I was privy to because I share a classroom with the foreign language teacher. Here was a teacher who was being reprimanded, scolded, by a supervisor for something that wasn’t even true, based on one conversation that occurred at the dinner table. Because one family of students reported that a class was boring and not fun, two teachers were subjected to the criticism of their supervisor. Like the foreign language teacher remarked, they were assumed guilty and must now prove their innocence. Going forward, they must provide their supervisor with photographic and video proof that they are following the curriculum and engaging students through projects. Things they were already doing, but now they have to prove it because of the remarks of a couple of students at the dinner table.

During our PD session, after hearing the cracker story, another colleague remarked, “We’re no longer teachers. The students have all the power.”

A Day In the Life

“One extra degree makes all the difference.”

Here I was, sitting in a staff meeting, being told by the administration that I can achieve more if I’m willing to give just a little bit more of myself, and all I can think is, “I’ve got nothing left to give.” You’ve taken one of my days. You’ve taken my classroom.  You’ve taken my instructional time. I have given everything, and yet I haven’t received more of anything in return. Except maybe students. I have more students in each class, but I can’t see that as a good thing.

Let me back it up. The idea is, if you push yourself just one degree more, you can go from hot to boiling, and boiling produces steam, and steam powers locomotives, and that’s an awesome thing. Or something like that. Honestly, you lost me at boiling. Yes, if I’m pushed just one degree more, I will be boiling, because I’ve been pushed pretty far this year already, and I’m none to happy about it.

First, they cut one of my days because “our numbers are down.” Then, they took my classroom because “our numbers are up.” And then, they cut my class time by ten minutes, gave me more students per class, and put me in a room with two other teachers. Two full time teachers, mind you. And now I’m being told to give more. Just a little bit more will make all the difference. Success is right around the corner.

Another favorite talking point was eliminating wasted time, “where can you cut back on wasted time?” (Well, for starters, I could not be in this meeting. There’s an hour and a half of wasted time I’ll never get back). Believe it or not, if you cut out 30 minutes of screen time every day, and put that time towards something more productive, like work, that equals 7,568 hours, which equals 4 1/2 solid weeks of time you could be using for work.* Think about that. Just thirty minutes a day. Because we all have that kind of time to spare, right?

I know this is supposed to be motivational. I get it, and maybe I could see the bigger picture here if it didn’t feel like I was being sh*t on, excuse my French. What I’m seeing though, the story I’m telling myself, is that I’m unnecessary, my class is wasted time**, and cuts must be made for the greater good in order to achieve success. Maybe I do see the big picture after all.

What kind of motivational nonsense have you had to sit through?

You better believe I was experiencing the 5 Stages of Staff Meeting Grief

*My numbers are suspect. I wasn’t really paying attention.

**Kid you not, this is basically what I was told when I questioned why art classes were being reduced by ten minutes.

Art Teachers Hate Glitter #tbt From the Archives

#tbt: Art Supplies Gone Wild

Portions of this post previously appeared on Art Teachers Hate Glitter on December 14, 2011 and on March 25 2011.

I’m not sure how this happened; I’ve never seen it happen before, but this pretty much says it all about how my day went. Of course, it could have been worse. I could have been the poor man I saw get hit by a service van this morning (he was okay. It was definitely his fault. The orange hand means don’t walk, kids).

Read the full story.

Why? I mean, seriously, why? Why, oh why, would you do this to us poor teachers? Apparently your new marker design is “greener” since they’re made from recycled bottle caps, and I’m all about being green, BUT I am not a fan of dumb ideas. And this, Crayola®, this is a dumb design.

Read the full story.

For more things that really burn my biscuits, check out more gripes. Or check out more #tbt posts.

Art Teachers Hate Glitter #tbt From the Archives

Spring Break! and #tbt: I Know Why the Art Teacher Cries

Portions of this post previously appeared on Art Teachers Hate Glitter on February 23, 2013.

Spring Break… because of paper cuts. And cardboard cuts.
… because she just sat in a puddle of water. Again.
… because it’s only Wednesday, but it has felt like Thursday for two days now.
… because she just stepped in green paint. Again.
… because her clock won’t stop buzzing, no matter how many times she beats it.
… because working in a tiny octagonal room with no windows and 30 sixth graders triggers her claustrophobia.
… because she’s on bus duty and has realized that she left her gloves inside.
… because she’s on her way to her car and has realized that her gloves have been in her pocket all along.
… because a 1st grader corrected her math. Continue reading

Dear Students: I Don't Know
Dear Students

Dear Students: I Don’t Know.

Dear Students,

I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re doing in art today. I don’t know when your clay piece will be out of the kiln. I don’t know where the pencils are, or the erasers. I don’t know whose paper this is. I don’t know why you didn’t put your name on it the last time I returned it to you with no name on it.

Dear Students: I Don't Know

I don’t know why your classmates are talking. I don’t know why no one can raise their hands. I don’t know where the pencil sharpener is, and I don’t know who broke the lead off inside of it.

I don’t know why there is water on your table. I don’t know who spilled paint on the floor. I don’t know who put the paint brush back dirty. I don’t know why it smells in here. Continue reading