Friday, October 5, 2012

Teaching Is Hard Work

This blog has become mostly recipes but today I'm inserting a long note about teaching because I think it needs to be said.

Teaching is hard work. You may think you already know that.  I thought I already knew that.  But you just need to go teach for one day to understand that you probably have no clue just how really hard it is.  And I'm not even a teacher.  I'm a sub, or as they call us these days, a guest teacher.  I don't have to make lesson plans or grade work or talk to parents.  I don't have to create special plans for students with learning disabilities or deal with the really bad discipline problems.  I just go in for the day and do what ever the teacher asks me to do.  Most teachers understand that I haven't got a clue where they are in the schedule and so they give me the "easy stuff."  I've given spelling tests and I've helped with reading, writing and social studies work sheets.  I lead singing or read to the class.  I  make sure the students line up and get to recess, lunch or special classes.

And with only that, I recognize that every single teacher, even the 'poor performing' ones are WAY underpaid.  I am retired now but I was very good at my job.  I was a computer programmer and then an instructor and also a customer services specialist.  I'm really, really good at customer service and I earned a very decent salary.  And I deserved every dollar.  But I made more money than most teachers do and I wouldn't do their job full time  for twice as much as I made.

Imagine having 25, 30 or even 40 students in your class.  You give them a math worksheet.  The worksheet has 30 addition or subtraction problems.  In your class there are probably 5 students who will finish that in 10 minutes.  There are 5 who wouldn't finish it if they had all day.  The rest try.  You walk around or pull together the students who need some help.  While you're doing that, the 5 who are done want to do something else.  Maybe they can help other students, maybe not.  You also have at least one discipline problem who not only isn't doing the work but is bothering the other students.  You have to watch that some students don't 'help' their neighbor too much and you have to watch that all the students stay on task.  Sometimes you yell.

That was just math.  Move on to reading.  Again, 5 are reading 3 grades ahead of the class and a couple don't even know the alphabet yet.  Oh, and you just might have one (or five) who don't speak English as their primary language.  In one of the classes I subbed in one student spoke only Chinese.  Lucky for me there were 4 other students who spoke Chinese and English.  They helped him  But meanwhile they didn't work on their own reading.

Having a grasp of the subject isn't the only issue.  Children pick on one another, don't pay attention, have to go to the bathroom, need a drink.  Sometimes they just use the eraser on their desk making little eraser bits that fall on the floor until you notice and make them stop.

How do you keep your eye on 25 or 30 or 40 children at a time?  Very carefully.  You try to be fair.  You can't see everything so what do you do when Mary tells you that Joey was saying bad words to her?  What do you do when Kimberly cries for no apparent reason and doesn't tell you what is the matter.  And speaking of names, let's just say the first part of my day is learning how to pronounce interesting spellings of names I thought I knew how to spell.  Or names that seem to have only consonants in them.

Having spent less than a year subbing I'm am amazed that teachers manage to keep going year after year.  I do get why.  The children are mostly amazing and wonderful.  Even when they are troublesome, they are just children.  They test their boundaries and they get distracted.  I haven't met more than one or two really malicious children and I'm sure there's a back story for them. Most of them want to please. And most of them really do enjoy learning.  When they 'get it' and their eyes light up, it is totally worth the time and trouble. So I do understand the reward that teachers can feel.

But still we need to pay them more.

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