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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Years Rant

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It's New Years Day and my birthday is tomorrow.  I'll be 55.  I've been with my wife for nearly 25 years, my kids are 20 and 13.  And, I have 3 cats.  Other than the financial mess we've made, we have a pretty darn good life.

What makes me frustrated?  There are not enough people in the world who are willing to work outside of "normal hours."  What makes me mad?  That I get frustrated with these people who seem to have wonderful lives and are content to work those normal hours.

I think it all started when I was growing up.  My dad worked in a Ball Bearing Factory.  He worked a basic 40 hour week but would work whenever he was needed.  There was a time when he had to cycle his shifts working days for a couple of weeks, mid-days for a couple of weeks, and then grave yard for a couple of weeks.  This seemed to go on forever but probably "only" lasted 2 or 3 years.

But that was work for pay.  My dad would then come home and work around the house.  He was very handy.  He kept a very large garden (for Connecticut standards) that was probably more than 1000 square feet.  He repaired lawnmowers and snow blowers and various other pieces of equipment for friends and co-workers.  And, he always had time to throw the baseball or do some other father-son thing.  Even though he was 46 years older than me.

I was certainly lazy, by the standards set in those days, but I also learned from watching and helping my father that there are times when you do whatever is needed to be done.  And you did this until it was done correctly.

So, when I came home from college, the first summer, I decided that I would take a grave yard shift at the local Waring Blender Factory.  I was on a four year scholarship with the Navy (Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps - NROTC) and I knew that when I graduated I was guaranteed a job as a Naval Officer.  I'd NEVER have to work in a factory like my dad.  But I wanted to experience that life.  I learned a lot that Summer, but mainly I learned that I was right for saying that I'd NEVER work in a factory like my dad.  Ironically, I worked there the next summer as well.  Just not the grave yard shift.

In the military you learn that you do whatever it takes to get the job done right.  There were days that ran together.  And, you'd look back and realize that you hadn't slept in a couple of days.  But that's just what you did.  When you add that to my growing up you see that there is this work ethic there that won't ever be changed.  And it is that background that gets me so frustrated with my current profession.

Teachers work hard.  Let me get that out straight away.  They don't get a chance to go to the bathroom or sit and make a run to Starbucks for a coffee.  They come home and have to deal with calling parents of students even while they put their own children on the back burner.  Since the profession is mostly women (and men in this world are pretty much the same as they've been for hundreds of years), teachers end up going home and cooking dinner and playing with the kids and putting the kids to bed and helping the kids with homework, and.....(but that's a topic of another post) - BEFORE they grade papers, call parents, and plan the next day's lessons.

Teachers, these days, are expected to be actively learning or providing learning to other teachers during a majority of their Summer Break.  So very few ever take that 12 week vacation - even though there are a lot of cynics who decry the fact that "teachers don't even work during the summer!"  So, I understand why teachers get defensive when additional items are thrown on their plate.

However, I think it's time for teachers to remember who their consumer is and what their product is.  The consumer is the parent sending their child off to become all they can be.  The product is that child.  We need to do whatever it takes to make sure the product we deliver has been given every ounce of our ability.

All I ask is that teachers take a minute to think about my last paragraph.  Are teachers doing everything they can to create the best product?  Are administrators recognizing when teachers need a break and when teachers aren't putting forth the requisite effort?  Are instructional coaches doing what it takes to make sure teachers are armed with the best tools available?  Are instructional coaches identifying teachers who need a break or aren't putting forth the requisite effort?

Just because it is a Saturday or Sunday doesn't mean teachers can't meet and plan for the coming week.  Just because it is the middle of a Spring Break, Winter Break, or Holiday Break doesn't mean they can't get together for a coffee and discuss upcoming plans.  Just because it is 9 PM doesn't mean they can't get on social media or Facetime, or Skype, or IM and discuss things going on in the classroom that need attention.

Teachers need to work together better.  Teachers need to have "study buddys" who they can bounce ideas off of or that they can ask help from.  Teachers need to stop working in a vacuum.  Gone are the days when a teacher came to school and spent the day inside the classroom only to leave at the end of the day and not have to interact with anyone else.

My wish for 2013 is that the 2 or 3 teachers who read this go out and find someone on their campus who they can get together with outside of "normal" hours.  Then these same teachers need to get on twitter and find a group of teachers who is on twitter at times they are on and are willing to interact and help with plans and ideas.  Then these same teachers need to pick one day a week when they can devote to a twitter chat and start being an active participant.

My wish is that every student has a teacher who is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they are receiving the best education available.  Happy New Year faithful reader(s).