Does anyone have cheese to go with my whine?
Prepare to listen to a teacher whine.
I know that there are some teachers who don't work very hard. There are some teachers who never have, but there are others who have burned out, and there is a reason for that. Teachers who want to do a good job sometimes get so much thrown at them that it's tough to keep the fire burning.
I began my teaching career in Mt. Iron, Minnesota, and that school district did it right--at least for high school teachers. I had two classes to prepare for--American History and World History, I had two prep periods (meaning that I had two free periods during the day to prepare for classes, correct papers, etc.), and my classes never contained more than 25 kids. I spent a good deal of time at my job, worked hard, and I had a chance to try to be creative, but I wasn't overwhelmed.
Then I moved to Warroad. Before I came here, they didn't have two prep periods, but there had been an understanding that each teacher would have one study hall in addition to their one prep period. Since one generally doesn't have to "teach" during a study hall, this would enable the teacher to do things like correct papers during that time. Four years before I came here a new high school had been built, and the rooms were designed to handle 25 kids in a class.
Somewhere along the line, the study hall understanding went by the wayside. Then there was an understanding that teachers who taught advanced placement classes would have a second prep period for that. Then we started making cuts. That one also went by the wayside, replaced by an understanding that all advanced placement teachers would have a study hall. Guess what happened to that one? Now I have four different classes to prepare for, including an advanced placement class; I have one prep period and no study hall, and I began the year 33, 32, and 31 kids in my regular American History classes so that I am literally tripping over people as I walk through the aisles.
I can do this. Yes, I can do this. I've had to get to school about an hour and a half before classes start, come back every night for about an hour, and spend much of my weekends there, but I can get everything done. The problem is that I feel like Crabby Crabberton so much of the time, and I don't like myself when I feel like that. Some kid comes in and "interrupts" me early in the morning to make up a test while I'm scrambling to stay caught up, and I feel like I'm ready to bite his head off. A parent calls during my cherished prep period to discuss their child, and I feel resentment that they can be "so stupid" as to take me away from what I'm doing. I almost always restrain myself from reacting the way I feel like reacting in those situations, but as I said, I don't like myself very much when I feel that way. But it's tough not to.
Believe it or not, the purpose of this is not to enlist anyone's sympathy. I can read the minds of some who might be reading this (Three months off in the summer!). There are two points, however, that I do want to make. First of all, when school districts decide that there are no consequences to increasing the workloads of teachers, they are wrong. There are things that I would like to do that I can't do. I always feel guilty that I don't have my students write more, but nothing takes more time to evaluate, and when I'm already feeling overwhelmed, there is no way that I'm going to have students doing any more of that than they already are. I would also like to be able to do more to reach out to some of my students who aren't doing well, but there is just no time. There is no question that I could be a better teacher if I didn't have so many classes, and so many preps, and so many kids, and so little in-school time to prepare.
My other point is that while many people have justifiable criticisms of teachers' unions and their insistence that things be written into contracts, there is a reason that teachers turn to them. We do have a union in Warroad, but it is a rather "nice" union, so we have tended to trust our school board and administrators when it came to those "understandings." Besides those "understanding" that have gone by the wayside, in the round of negotiations that were completed last year, teachers in our district received a one-percent raise while our administrators, who negotiated after us, received several times that. Our being nice and our being trusting have gotten us where we are, and besides making us feel like a bunch of saps, I'm not so sure that it's been good for the education that is taking place in our school.