Today I finished my first week of my ninth year of teaching. This morning I was happy to go to work. I received my annual salary letter yesterday and for the first time since I began teaching, I felt like my pay reflects the fact that I am a professional. I had a lot to accomplish at work today but I was ready for the challenge.
But it seems those moments of pride in what we do never last for long. An administrative email was sent school-wide which announced for the first time that it would be mentioned to us, that our grades this year would be weighted 35% for homework and 65% for tests. This was especially puzzling because we had just spent the first two days distributing syllabi to students. Although we were told of a new grading policy the policy we were instructed to include in our syllabi did not include this weighting at all. The policy in my syllabi is two or three convoluted paragraphs about how late work won’t be docked points and how if formative work is not completed that summative work will only be attempted once. (So no test retakes if you are missing assignments for example.)
Like so many moments in my teaching career, I was furious. We had just spent and entire WEEK in meetings and this new grading system was not mentioned to us ONCE! 65% for summative assessments seems pretty high. We weren’t given much instruction on this just that we had to do it.
Additionally, in the very same email, we were told that we needed to spend a third to half of our prep time each day sitting in the halls as hallway monitors. I was not being treated as a professional. And my principal, who in the past I supported and defended in that email had lost my support completely. She didn’t even write the email! But her silence implied consent.
Usually, I can count on my principal to be forward thinking and open minded. She is typically thoughtful of teachers and students. And open to criticism. When I emailed her telling her I was confused about the new policy and how to follow through with implementation (and maybe I also mentioned how hall duty sucked the joy from my soul like a dementor) I expected her usual quip “It won’t be so bad. Please stop by my office tomorrow.” Instead I was greeted with radio silence.
I want to teach. I like my subject. I want kids to be passionate about their subjects. I want that awesome energy. But I felt like the floor was swept out from under me. I don’t even know how I am grading things. I have already collected student work! I have no idea how to enter that into my new weighted gradebook. I am sure that I can adjust to any system but that is the problem. I am spending time adjusting and adapting to a new system that I don’t understand, when I should be time planning lessons and thinking of great new ways to enhance student learning.
The teachers at my school often hear, “Thanks for being flexible” which always points out that for whatever reason our administration wasn’t prepared for something that occurred. But now it is the phrase that identifies my abuse because that phrase is used when someone is destroying my well planned lesson because they didn’t plan ahead and now have to ruin my day for something that was never scheduled but that they think is more important than the student learning I have carefully designed.
I hope that next time I can reach the teaching. Today I was weighted down with hall duties and constantly changing expectations. I was distracted by my own frustrations and the struggle to keep those frustrations hidden from my perceptive students.
There is a push for educational reform but I can’t understand why this reform has to be implemented by teachers. We were teaching. Students were learning. The push to have solid data of that teaching and learning by people who don’t understand the first thing about what I do each day has led to a great amount of my time being spent writing down curriculum, completing SLO forms, and figuring out a new discipline and grading system every year for nine years.
I would love to spend my time teaching. Will we ever reach that?
Today, alumni visited to say goodbye before they go to college next week. I taught them something because they came back to say “thank you”. Those visits, these students, are the only reason that I can’t just walk out the door and tell my administration that I am tired of being flexible. I am a professional and I want to be treated like one.
Just let me teach.
Of my colleagues, only I will speak up. We have no union protection because we are a charter school. Most people know nothing of labor laws and their right to unionize and so are fearful to say a negative word towards new policies. I am so angry and disappointed in my administrators, who I trusted and defended for so long, that all I can do is start this blog.