Sunday, October 12, 2008

Losing focus

My apologies to the good folks who follow my blog. I've not posted for a bit because my job has taken over my life!

People need to know what teachers are dealing with these days! Who would have thought that an elementary school teacher would be so overwhelmed, so stressed out, and so overworked, that she would have to stay up on several week nights past 11 pm!

After 18 years in this profession, I thought things would become a little easier; with experience, things become second nature, you know? However, administration seems to look for more ways to bring us down, so we're practically crawling and scraping our way across the shiny floors.

Too much to describe here, and I don't wish to sound so terribly negative. But a very sad thing is happening in schools today, at least where I'm at. They are wearing us down. We are becoming tired of fighting the good fight. Morale is low. People smile weakly at each other in the hallways, speedwalking the kids to the next class, rushing to grade-level meetings where we will be told of yet another assessment that will determine what we need to focus on.

Focus. We're not able to focus any longer. There are too many foci at a time, I fear we will only be mediocre in the end.

They tell us the big focus this year is science, to incorporate it in every way possible, especially throughout the literacy block. In fact, we've been told to put aside a lot of the literature, and to use the science text and science leveled readers to teach reading. (Wow.)

At the same time, we are to focus on writing, and vocabulary. Infuse it in all areas.

And test. Benchmark tests. Quarterly tests. On-line tests. State assessments. Friday tests. Just last week I gave my 4th graders a district math test, 53 pages long, that took two days!

I'm not going anywhere. But I feel for the newer teachers who are just coming in to this field, and feeling like they will walk right back out. And I hate seeing so many colleagues becoming resentful and tired.

I feel some of that bitterness growing inside me, so I try my best to talk myself out of it on the drive to work. My kids need to see a cheerful and energetic person in the front of the room. They will get just that. I love my job, I love my kids, I love the art and science of teaching.

But I hate what has happened to school.


This Brazen Teacher said...

It's too bad that teachers feel compelled to preface a frustration with: "I don't wish to sound so terribly negative..."

I think there's a cultural stigma present that causes teachers to feel as if they are "whiners" when they point out just how much the system sucks. Because it DOES suck.

And you are not a lone... ALL teachers fewl this way- and yet I think they feel isolated, because their opinions are so often discredited. What society and admin say to discredit:

"If you cared about the kids you would do this."

How does a teacher argue with this statement without appearing to be a child hater? Teachers are guilted into working within systems that are wholly INSANE-- because they fear being branded a "bad teacher."

Thank you for writing this. You echo sentiments across the teaching profession- and teachers realizing they are not alone is the first step in uniting for change.


Fidgety said...

You are not alone. There is a reign of terror being played out in the NYC school system. Before I was reassigned, we were graced with a new principal from the Leadership Academy. She was stoic and robotic. One could never tell what she was thinking or feeling. My school was in a state of fear and confusion. Everyone was quiet and paranoid that their job was on the line. My school has now settled into a state of silent complacency. Colleagues who once spoke up to better the school, no longer do. What a sad state my school is in.
P.S. I love your little "Meez" person!

Shinade said...

Oh my trust me I believe you. My daughter is a Professor and my son-in-law is pre school teacher.

They are always loaded down with a ton of work.

It takes real dedication to be a teacher. I admire you.

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with BrAzen ... do not apologize for railing against the inequities and wrong-headed policies teachers and students suffer in this terribly lopsided, top-down management horror public school teaching has become under NCLB, TFA, and, in Chicago, "turnaround schools", "transformation", i.e., school takeovers that displace experienced, tenured teachers (while the union does nothing) and hire only the young, the inexperienced, the complacent, the fearful.
And, yes, if my students ever wrote a run-on like the above, I'd say, "let your reader take a breath ... give them a period." But these days we can't stop to take a breath as you so duly note.
Keep fighting the good fight.
"Excessed teacher"

Bill Womack said...

Hang in there, Cassy. I wish I could offer you words of wisdom, but alas I have none where teaching is concerned. I'm saddened to hear that it really is that bad in the school system now. My father was a college professor, and I saw first-hand how many lives he changed for the better. Thinking back on it now, it boggles my mind the reach a good teacher can have. Then again, I still think about my favorite teachers, many decades down the line. Though it may be of little comfort now, you're doing some of the most noble work there is.

The Fearless Blog said...

Don't lose your enthusiasm and allow the love to rule!

diane said...

I only have a sec to comment know, but I just wanted to say I love your blog & I'll be back.

I've been teaching for about the same amount of time as you. I completely understand how you feel. More and more is added to your plate each year, but nothing is ever taken away. In my "professional educator" role I jump through the hoops I must (and let's face it--a lot of those hoops are ridiculous). I try to focus instead on the role of TEACHER and those faces in front of me each day. Sounds like you are doing the same, but I hear you. Believe me, I hear you.

Betty said...

I always thought teaching would get easier when I had a lot of experience under my belt. Instead, every year was more difficult due to all of the documentation and testing. It's hard for those to understand if they haven't done the job.

katied said...

I am feeling your pain as today. I too have had little time to reflect and write...a habit that I happen to strengthen my teaching. You say there are too many foci (yes , yes ,yes)...don't learners benefit from simplicity (adults and kids). I was just complaining to fellow teachers about how our responsibilities and expectations are widening instead of deepening. It is hard to feel the love these days. Thanks for this post.

Jennifer said...

Cassy -- I just wanted to offer my support and share in your frustrations (from outside the teaching world). It sounds like a rewarding profession, when you get a chance to push through the paperwork, federal mandates, tests, etc. etc. That appears to be getting harder and harder.

You have some very lucky students.