Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rebuilding Our Classrooms

"Teachers have the entire summer off! What a cake job!"  
 ..........said no teacher ever. 

This is a popular refrain often tossed around when the topic of the teaching profession comes up. Even close family members of mine have been known to joke about my “blissful summers of rest and relaxation.” In the past, I would smile and nod while quietly thinking how little they really know about the teaching profession. There may actually have been adolescent eye rolling taking place. Guilty.

Now, I am much more likely to patiently explain how many days I have actually gone into my classroom to work on it. First, I must address the quizzical look – yes, we (teachers) must take down much of the beautiful environment we create before we leave in June. That involves much packing, storing, sorting etc. And, that is if we are lucky enough not to have been told our room was changed for the following year. Room Change Packing is a whole other process requiring packing boxes (maybe provided, maybe not) packing tape (maybe provided, maybe not) labels to identify all your stuff (one for you to duplicate and hand tape on all boxes) and a huge ordeal to survive. Some teachers do this multiple times throughout their careers. Aviva on her "Living Avivaloca" blog talks about this at length and describes some of the summer conversations and meetings that take place.

So, what does this have to do with teachers working in the summer? (Still the quizzical look) All those items that have been packed must be unpacked and put back where they belong. 

Wall displays are created, bulletin boards built, shelves uncovered and filled, desks moved to the right grouping, desk set up, signs around the room, art supply bins refilled, calendar set up, desks moved to a better grouping, tables shifted to create center possibilities..  (ok here is where the eyes begin to dart around the room. I am beginning to lose my audience.) I teach 6th. I haven’t begun to explain what the primary teacher must prepare.

This is a process that takes multiple days. Simply setting the same room back up takes at least three days.

If you moved your room, it will easily take a week to unpack all the boxes. This is all done during those blissful endless weeks of summer, once you know it is ok with the maintenance to reenter the building. This unpacking can occur as late as the last few days of August especially if there was construction over the summer in your building. When there is construction, there is always the possibility that it won’t be done in time for you to get into your room at all before school starts. My first year in my current district, school started before all the windows were in. No teachers were to enter before the first day of school because the floors were not in yet.I had unknowingly entered to put up a bulletin board; administration was not happy with me.

Then, I remind my listener of the professional development classes that teachers attend during the summer. (Wrinkling of the forehead occurs here) Our district requires one work day over the summer. Teachers who sign up to write curriculum may use one of those days to meet that requirement. Then you may be advised to attend training for a new curriculum. While voluntary, it can be critical information conveyed at those trainings that is necessary for the start of the year. For me this year, I have written curriculum for three days, attended staff development  for another three days and attended a union workshop another day. Others I know have worked on curriculum topics for six days in addition to workshops they may take. Clearly it varies but that is close to two weeks work during those “blissful endless weeks of summer” for me.

At this point my listener sidles off to chat with another family member, eyes darting back and forth apologetically signaling with a nod of the head in the direction of the new chat partner.

Of course, I understand.

The perception of teaching being a great job with summers off is much easier to process. I still believe it is a great job, make no mistake about that. But, it can be a challenge for non-educators to actually imagine all the work that goes on to make that first day magical for your students. The two weeks of professional development and curriculum work combined with the days spent recreating my classroom will total three to four weeks of work easily. Do the math. I was done on June 26th this year. Of the nine weeks of summer, I actually was working for four of them, leaving five “blissful endless weeks of summer” to catch up on everything I had let go during the school year. Some teachers actually travel and go on family vacations during that time. But no teacher ever really “turns off” the job. Anywhere we go, we notice ideas or items to use in our classroom. Conversations with other teachers are seldom free of work references. Students notice us out and we are “the teacher” again.

Today it seems teachers are defending themselves on a regular basis. I don’t mind explaining if it will help to clarify how very hard teachers work. I don’t mind explaining if maybe, just maybe, my listener will gently push back the next time they hear 
Teachers have the entire summer off! What a cake job!” 

We are your neighbors, your friends, your sisters, your brothers, your aunts, your uncles. We haven’t spent one second disparaging your professions. Why has it become commonplace to disparage teachers? And so, I am happy to defend, explain, and educate others about the profession of teaching. That’s what we do. We teach.

No comments:

Post a Comment