To Be a Good Teacher

It’s the end of the school year, and as I do every year, I’ve already begun thinking about the fall. Especially so this time around because I have a new course I’m teaching. I’ve been reading lots of books trying to find the right literature for the honors English class. I’ve been thinking back over the year to evaluate myself and how I could do better. I need to have my students do more writing. I want to challenge them in reading more than I already do. I ought to reach out more often to parents. I’d like to attend more school activities.

I love my job, certainly. I enjoy my students and I want to teach them well. But grading writing assignments takes a great deal of time, as does developing new literature units, composing parent newsletters, and going to ball games and concerts.

And it seems more and more that these extra things are no longer extra, but expected. They are part of how I am evaluated. To an extent, I understand. It’s important as a teacher not only to challenge the student, but also to support the whole child. The kids really do ask me to come to their plays and activities and track meets. And when I’m able to attend, they are excited to see that I took the time to do it.

But what about the whole teacher? What about the fact that my husband and I have a little farm we’re trying to develop and manage? What about the time I’d like to spend developing my own writing? What about getting a chance to relax and rejuvenate?

I spend much more time working now than I did when I was teaching fifteen years ago. Back then, I got to school early and stayed late but never took work home. Now I arrive an hour early and stay an hour afterward and often work through lunch, and I still end up grading papers and planning lessons at home in the evenings or on weekends.

Teaching has the best vacation package of any job; I fully admit that. But I also spend at least part of every vacation working on schoolwork.

I hope that soon, administrators and those at the state level who make rules about testing and evaluations will see that the output they are expecting is driving people away from teaching. And not just the lazy ones, but some really good teachers.

I’m sticking it out because I enjoy it and I think that I just might be making some kind of good impact on kids.

But also because I hardly have time to think about pursuing anything else.

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2 thoughts on “To Be a Good Teacher

  1. Being a teacher these days has to be the most thankless job – and so stressful! I think it’s been heading this way for a while now. I remember that my favorite science teacher stopped teaching because his wife had triplets & they needed more money. He went to work for the post office. That was 35 years ago!

    • Yes, many teachers are leaving. The crazy evaluations and expectations are too much for many. There are so many good things about the actual teaching… but too much time taken away from teaching to attend meetings and fill out paperwork and document all the stuff I do in my classroom.

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