Teaching:  The Balancing Act

So many teachers feeling

the squeeze of their job against

the other areas of their life...

What can they do to make their lives

more balanced?

Unfortunately, there's not a lot that can be done. Public school teachers are over-worked and under-supported in their careers. Here is what we are up against:

  • School principals who use their schools as stepping-stones to more ambitious career opportunities. The more “growth” they can show in their teachers and student populations, the more accolades they receive from their superiors and the more likely they are to rise in their own career path, which has nothing to do with how children learn best.

  • Class sizes and student populations that work against the idea of differentiation of instruction. Teachers are expected to meet the needs of every child in their class, regardless of how much that child needs, how hard he cares to work, how difficult it is to reach his intellect, or any of the other myriad of issues 30 children can present.

  • Pay-for-performance evaluation procedures that rely on a convoluted matrix of “indicators of performance”. This includes standardized test scores from everyone in the building, “growth” data collected informally, and how much a teacher can impress her evaluator in a number of subjective criteria.

  • Parents who treat school as free day care: they don’t respect the idea that school is a place of learning and requires parents to participate in that process.

  • Workloads that include too many non-teaching duties: outside supervision before and after school, writing and “monitoring” growth goals for our students, documenting everything we do to work with children, and committee meetings for things like school purchases, community involvement, school leadership, and PTA.

  • School administrators who don’t care about the workload that comes with differentiating instruction for 30 children because they’re not the ones having to deal with it — someone else is. Administrators get a dollar amount in the thousands PER child in their school, so they want as many children as they can get their hands on.

        Over the last 30 years of revising and “improving” public education, almost everything has changed for teachers: so-called Best Practices in instruction, behavior management, professional development meetings, the idea of “support” for students rather than expectations…..the list could go on and on.

       The only thing that hasn’t changed in all that time is the paradigm of how classrooms are put together: one teacher in a 25′ by 25′ room with at least 30 children, all of whom have “special” needs.

        I would not encourage anyone to go into teaching these days.

 

       The bureaucracy that is pubic education is demoralizing.   For the last decade that I was teaching, I could feel the walls gradually closing in on me, so slowly at first that I didn't fully realize just how much the system I was working in seemed set up to defeat me. Even when I wasn't actively doing things for school, I was thinking about it. The school year became exhausting, and every year, I needed June, just so I could breathe.

       I’m not sure what you do to balance school life and family life, because school life must take priority, set up as it is for teachers.   There is no 'just figure out what needs to be done and what can go by the wayside' mentality where teaching is concerned.  Everything needs to be done.  Every day. 

       Teachers are in a no-win situation, and the sad truth is that the longer they stay in education, the less likely they are to get out of it, because they have no job skills for anything else.  If you think the striking teachers are concerned only about their paychecks, you are wrong.  They are concerned about how public education is being administered, but striking about that is a non-starter:  the general public does not care about the woes you have in your career.  They, along with most administrators, think you have an easy job and only have to show up for 6 hours a day to do it.

       Only those of us in the trenches know the awful truth behind the glamorous facade.  ;- )

T.L. Zempel, author and retired teacher
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copyright 2020 by TL Zempel