School starts this week. I taught high school English (or language arts as it is now called) for over 30 years and have been retired for over 10 years.
For those of you who think teaching school is a cushy job, you should try it for one week. It's not. The obvious part of the job is planning and preparing to teach, by any means possible including acting crazy, students for over six hours a day five days a week. Teachers don't get breaks and even eat lunch with their students. They are "on" for the whole time they are at work. Preparing lessons and teaching a class is the enjoyable part, the part that education schools generally prepare teachers to do.
What those who think teaching is easy don't take into consideration is the back-breaking amount of record keeping that must be done. Attendance and tardies are just the tip of the iceberg. Parents must be notified when a child misses a certain number of days or has a certain number of tardies. That notification must be documented. Tests have to be graded. The progress of each student in reaching the goals of the lessons of a unit must be monitored and recorded. Report cards and progress reports must be filled out. Parents of students in danger of failing must be notified and parent conferences scheduled.
That's not counting monitoring dress code, hallways, lunch rooms and bathrooms and bus duty. Then a teacher must maintain discipline in the classroom and contact parents about students who do not meet discipline standards. They have to issue books, order supplies and reserve media center and computer time for their students. High school teachers usually sponsor a club or extracurricular activity. Then there are faculty meetings, department meetings and at least 10 other kinds of meetings that require their presence.
All these things must be juggled daily and they can't be done in the eight hours spent at school. Most teachers spend a lot of time at home completing their work. My Sunday afternoon routine was to grade essays. I would promise myself, if you get 10 done, you can (whatever reward sounded good at the time). Five classes of 25 to 30 students equals about 130 essays. Figure a minimum of 10 minutes to grade an essay and write comments to the student and how long does it take to grade 130 essays? And I had to decipher handwriting as computers were not available back in the dark ages. (One of the teachers in my department once made a remark about her taking the SATs. One student asked incredulously, "They had SATs when you were in school?" The teacher answered, "Yes, we chiseled the answers in stone.")
So I don't long to go back to the classroom. But I do miss the one thing that keeps good teachers coming back - the students.
Most students want to be in school and while they may not be not eager, they are at least willing to learn. Interactions with the students and the ah-ha looks in their eyes and sounds in their voices when something clicks can be addictive.
So can some of their funny responses and comments in class. I remember one time I was talking about the life of King Arthur, legendary king of England and creator of the Round Table. I explained how he died in battle and said that the last battle supposedly took place on a spit of land with the ocean on one side and a lake on the other and that it took place on the shortest day of the year.
A young lady in the back of the class raised her hand with a quizzical look on her face. I called on her, and she said, "But, Mrs. Travis, I though all days were 24 hours."
So to those brave men and women who are returning to the class room to teach, I salute you and hope your days have more than 24 hours. I appreciate the job you do with way too little time to do it. I hope you will love your classes and enjoy the year.
Paula Travis is a Newton County resident and retired schoolteacher. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.