On a Day of a Teacher

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I stopped at the grocery store on the way home where the clerk said to me that I looked tired and must have had a tough day. After I smiled and affirmed her observations, she encouraged me to relax this evening. While nodding, I said to myself, “Who is she kidding?”

The 6:30 AM-to- PM part of the day at the high school was interesting.

  • I arrive at 6:30 AM for the final preparations of the day.
  • 7:25 AM – Homeroom starts and it’s too short to do scheduling justice.
  • Three classes (85 minutes each) had lab activities, which had various issues.
  • The fourth class had a Performance Objective Assessment (POA), a required district assessment.
  • During my conference period I had a parent conference on the phone, then went to the Special Ed. room to work with students.
  • After the last class, I knew 16 students would be retaking a different POA, but little did I know there was still more to come.

It’s 2:30 PM.

  • Most students arrived for the retakes – so getting them started is the priority.
  • Another student wanted to discuss grades. She saw the time wasn’t right and was willing to talk some other time – I was thankful.
  • A second student graciously waited as we had to shift from one make-up item to another, and then I finally started 20 minutes of tutoring.

It’s 3:00 PM. As the tutored student left, a Special Ed student entered to retake a POA. I decided to test him orally; and I determined he was deficient. Learning is very difficult for him and I would like to continue oral evaluations with him. I tried remediation and found some helpful websites for him to do in the classroom for about fifteen minutes while I continued multi-tasking.

It’s 3:15 PM. Another struggling student appears – the one who appeared earlier then left. She was very patient with the hectic after-school period. I’m sure school isn’t easy for her, but her academic laziness compounds the problem.

It’s 3:25 PM. A parent appears at the door for a surprise meeting. I excused myself from the student to meet with the parent. I addressed her questions, and she kept it short because she saw I was working with a student.

It’s 4:30 PM. The tutoring session is over; and I think it went well. I’m alone in the room, so I prepare to finish a few tasks before leaving for home.

It’s 4:35 PM. A student who made-up a POA earlier (and the son of the walk-up parent) wanted to go over the POA to see how he did. Good news – he did well. He’s been improving yet doesn’t yet “show” the grades to please his parents. We talked as I tried to give him some insight in school success.

It’s 4:45 PM. Has the last student finally gone? I think so … but it’s time to check the phone messages to see who called. I imagine some parents because it is “Interim Reports Day.” Yep … two parents. I returned the first message as it seemed to be more pressing. Fortunately, it was a positive conversation.

It’s 4:55 PM – Time to check my email. Yikes! – an unpleasant note from Special Ed. Good timing! … and to think that working with them and their students has been a source of personal pride on all counts. I’ve even received commendations for that work.

It’s 5:00 PM. I’m tired … time to go home – but I have to stop at the grocery store for a few items. I recorded the after-school events.

It’s almost 8:00 PM (but I’m home). I had dinner and did the dishes. I haven’t read the paper nor watch the news. Fortunately through dinner, I did get a chance to talk to my wife.

I still have those 16 papers to grade so those student can get their updates tomorrow in order to cushion the mid-term report damage. Who knows how many other papers are overdue. Plus, I wonder what I will be doing in class tomorrow – and classroom readiness is another personal pride. I don’t feel ready … all along I keep thinking about the Kroger clerk’s suggestion.

This account was a real day – maybe not a typical day – but very real – actually a modified account of a reflection that I wrote (and kept) as one of the assignments required by our building administration.

Teacher is a difficult but rewarding career. It’s the joys of movies as October Sky and Mr. Holland’s Opus. It’s the wide-range of emotions from Dead Poets Society and Stand & Deliver. Teaching is also similar to a Rocky movie of being resilient from being a punching bag and getting knocked day.

Yes – this was 18 years ago – and to think the pressure on teachers today is much greater than then. I wonder – How many teachers today will reach full retirement?

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On Anybody Can What?

“Anyone can teach.”

I’ve heard that statement many times from people outside of the profession – along with this one: Those who can, do – those who can’t, teach.

Everybody is an educational expert – after all, everyone has sat in a classroom. Yep – everyone who has owned a car is also a qualified mechanic. Everyone who has eaten at a restaurant is qualified to run one. Because I’ve owned GE appliances, I’m qualified to be on the GE Board of Directors. Oh, yes!!!

As a group, teachers are very defensive of themselves and their professional. Then again, unless you’ve done it or are/have been married to a teacher, people are clueless about the time, demands, and effort involved – let alone the knowledge behind instruction and the subject matter. But back to my initial statement – Anyone can teach.

President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) stated that one way to improve teaching quality was to make it easier for non-teaching professional to enter and lead a classroom.. Although the commission’s report was over 30 years ago and teacher certification and licensing has changed since then, the saying and mindset still exists.

A body of knowledge exists with any occupation. Plumbers specialize in plumbing’s body of knowledge. They can get stumped because each plumber doesn’t know everything. The same can be said for all professions and occupations.

It’s obvious that Anyone can teach decreases the importance of the body of knowledge associated with teaching and learning. How else can one justify bringing in an outside professional who lacks teaching experience and teacher education training? Because the auto mechanic fixes cars, shouldn’t he/she be able to fix my air conditioner and furnace problem?

Interestingly, business has a similar and related mantra inside their own organizations – Anyone can train. For example, management promotes a top salesperson into a training position with hopes of the salesperson’s knowledge and experience will help the rest of the sales staff. After all, Anyone can train. Yet, leadership in the business ignores training’s body of knowledge because what are the odds this new trainer has any knowledge about training, training development, and learning?

A body of knowledge associated with effective training is significant – just like teaching. And just as Anyone can teach, Anyone can train is an illusion. To many people, training and teaching is getting up in front of others to disseminate knowledge – also known as the sage on the stage delivering death by PowerPoint. However, like the book title says – Telling Ain’t Training (Harold Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps) – and telling ain’t teaching either.