In November of last year, the high school where I teach at got a new principal. The previous principal, the one who hired me, was loved by all of the staff. He was easy going, wasn’t a micro-manager, and was one of the most approachable principals I’ve even worked with. As our new principal took over, the staff seemed uneasy and unsure of what the following year, this year, would bring. The new principal didn’t make any major changes last year and sort of just went with the flow. Things were good.
Oh how the tables have turned.
This summer our new principal brought in new assistant principals that were moved up from the middle school where she’d been the principal earlier. I call them her cronies.
And now I am currently living in micro-management hell.
For the past three months, I have felt heart flutters and a crippling pressure on my chest. I dread reading emails and get depressed on Sunday night knowing I have to go back to that place.
I do, however, have WONDERFUL students this semester. I’m not even being sarcastic for once. They are wonderful. They high five me when they come to class, they seem excited to be in English class, they do their work, they eagerly discuss the literature with gusto and enthusiasm. They aren’t jerks. I’ve only written ONE referral. They are an English teacher’s dream.
They, of course, will be awful now that I’ve said good things.
Anyway, as I was making copies yesterday, one of my fellow, veteran English teachers came into the planning room. We started talking about the school year, our students–you know teacher-talk and he said, “We’ll get through this.” After he said this, we sort of joked and headed our separate ways. I got in my car and it really hit me, the mood at school among the faculty is that of an oppressed nation. We get late slips for being a minute late–not an exaggeration, I’ve received five of them– we get emails about how to write referrals, in faculty meetings we are show videos of “high caliber teaching,” (a post to follow on the video and the late slips to follow) and we are constantly being treated like a bunch of uneducated, moronic monkeys.
This type of oppression is very common among public school teachers. My father, a teacher for forty years, consistently complained about the issues he dealt with as a teacher. The complaining definitely increased over the years. He was so relived to retire this past summer. In the wake of the Chicago teacher strike and movies like Won’t Back Down and Waiting for Superman, teachers are often given a bad rap–some of it is deserved–but should teachers–or anyone really–be forced to work in such oppressive conditions?
It is very easy for administrators to forget what it is like to be in the classroom and have unrealistic expectations for their faculty. The teachers are in the classroom everyday dealing with the variables that are often ignored by society and administrators when it comes to student performance. Teachers have to cope with variables like students from broken homes, homelessness, negligent parents, and hunger–just to name a few. We are then shown footage of teachers team-teaching in affluent schools with classrooms with less than twenty five students. I have three classes of over thirty five students, and I teach in an urban school where affluent is a far reach. Frankly, these kinds of expectations are insulting to those of us who teach students whose last priority is school and first might be helping their mothers pay rent. It is insulting and patronizing to know our leaders–our administrators think we are not planning engaging lesson plans. Oftentimes, I create awesome lesson plans that blow up because half of my students do not do their homework or talk through the instruction beforehand.Also, engaging lessons with thirty seven kids is very challenging. It’s frustrating.
Administrators forget because many of them only taught for two or three years before becoming principals or assistant principals. Oftentimes, they are handicapped by the district to have certain expectations of their faculty. Although, this year with our administrative changes, it is very evident that our leaders have no faith in us. The administration dictates to us what needs to be on our white board, where it needs to be placed, how to write referrals, how to structure our ninety minute class, and on and on.
It’s depressing as hell and frustrating. The little bit of creativity that I have is being completely stifled and my contributions, all those extra hours I spend being a teacher beyond what my contract pays for, are not appreciated. When I get to my work thirty minutes before I need to, but am them one or two minutes late to a duty post, publicly shamed for not being at that duty post, then leave two sometimes three hours after my contract day ends, it makes me feel like not showing up and forgetting the whole thing.
If America wants good teachers, there are some things society needs to consider.
1. Treat your teachers how you’d like to be treated.
2. Appreciate them for all those extra hours they spend being teachers after the school day.
3. Stop treating them like they don’t know what the f*&! they are doing. They know what the f*&! they are doing.
4. Remember that teachers spend every damn day with the kids: not the principal, not the assistant principal, sometimes not even the parents spend as much time with their own children.
5. Remember that teachers are educated. Stop treating them like kindergarteners. They are professional adults. They are already under paid college educated adults, how about treating them like they’ve earned that degree?
6. Stop wasting their time with extra bull crap. Let. them. be. teachers.
7. Remember that they are human. Just like you are human, they are human. They have feelings, families, struggles, and challenges, just like you do.
8. Stop vilifying them for the under achievement of the students. Teachers are not the villains: the broken homes, absent parenting, and disrespect by the media are the villains.
9. Instead of making changes to education every five minutes, wait ten and let the teachers show you what they can do.
10. Let the teachers do their G-ddamn job.