My writing schedule has zero rhythm right now, so I apologize. This was meant for last Tuesday’s Slice of Life, so why not get it published the following Monday. I will say, it’s early, so I’ll schedule it, but still. Good grief.
Last Tuesday, I showed up at 7:15 AM for a 7:30 AM meeting and left at 6:45 PM after school, practice, and a computer meeting. I got home, then drove my wife and me over to a neighbor’s house to take care of their animals, came home, ate supper, then graded for an hour and a half.
For almost all my years of teaching, I’d say yes. Being at school for 11 hours, then going home to do MORE teacher stuff was a way of life. But the last two years have been so much more. Going from “you are all so great” to “you all suck” in a matter of a couple of minutes has been hard enough. Tuesday, I was shared 10 different documents via email before noon ranging from our character education leadership day we were planning to data from our morning meeting. It’s overwhelming, to say the least. I’ve mentioned this before, but more organizational skills are trash, so trying to keep track of all that just sets me back.
Then, you add in the influx of huge behaviors that have overrun our school. Yes, Covid played a part in all of this, but at the same time, here in Iowa, many rural schools made the choice to go back face to face in September of 2020. Admittedly, the three months that students were out of school were not good for them, but it opened up a can of worms that had been simmering for a long time. I can’t buy the “learning loss” narrative that is out there right now. Those three months emboldened students to act out even more. Then add in the rhetoric that was out there about masks, the virus, vaccines, and the fact we believe the 30-second sound bites and can’t critically think our way of wet paper bag leads us to the place that we are today.
I used the word “overwhelmed” above and that’s a word I’ve never heard uttered so many times in a school year. If we as teachers get overwhelmed, it’s usually before a break, before the end of a quarter or semester, or especially at the end of the year. But October? No. I was having an interesting day, so I headed to the workroom to eat all the chocolate (think Cookie Monster but with Twix bars) and got talking with a colleague about the fact that we were both forgetting things all the time and always felt a step behind. It’s maddening because again, while I’m never going to be an organized person (my mess has moved from my desk to my Google Drive), it’s not been like this before, ever.
Add in this anecdote: I had a substitute stop by and talk for a bit. I’d had her kids in class and our daughters were in the same class together, but since graduation, we’ve not seen each other much. She commented on how she’d been a sub in my classroom a few years ago and had relatively few issues. Not to say that she had issues in the class she was substituting for, but she make the comment, “Kids have changed,” and that struck me. Our daughter graduated in 2016, so six, almost 7 years ago (damn I’m old). In that short time span, a substitute has noticed a change in attitude and behaviors. Like I said, Covid added to this, but the change was happening well before,
I’ve used a lot of words to come to this: The way our system is right now, not just here, but around the both the country, is not sustainable. We cannot continue down this path because teachers are leaving, new teachers are not out there. I enjoy watching TikToks (no judging) and come across so many teachers who are echoing this sentiment. Additional layers are being added, but yet, scores need to be up. More time is taken out of our day, but make sure you are forming relationships with everyone. I see 144 students a day. That’s a lot of kids, period.
I love being a teacher. I love teaching. I love seeing the students succeed. I love watching them grow. I feel sad that once they leave 8th grade, I won’t see many of them again (our school merged a while back and the high school is in another town). How do we fix the issues? I don’t know. I’m struggling getting my assessment done.
But this isn’t a sustainable situation. And, unfortunately, I don’t see it getting better, not unless things change in our state house, and that’s not looking promising. In fact, vouchers are on the horizon, so we do even more with less.
That will be fun.