By Joe Rector
I walked into the workroom early the first day of school after Labor Day because I like to arrive early to find out what I’m supposed to do for the day as a substitute. Some teachers were already present and readying their rooms for students in 7:00 a.m. classes. Others arrived a bit later until all were on hand by 8:00. So began another day of educating the young, but these teachers today have much more piled on them than just a few years ago.
No, this isn’t a piece that bemoans the salaries we pay our teachers. Yes, they are underpaid, but most of them knew the low wages of the job before they went into the profession. That doesn’t make it right, but I see other things that are discouraging.
One is the expectations of teachers to perform extra duties. Bus duty has long been something that teachers despise. It required them to arrive even earlier than normal and to stay until the last bus arrives to pick up students. If a bus breaks down, those teachers must remain with the waiting students until another type of transportation can arrive. On many occasions, administrators might have already headed home as the teacher hangs around with bus riders.
Some teachers are expected to serve lunch duty roles. They make sure students don’t act up and that they clear their tables of all trash and trays. It’s shocking how many students will walk from the table with the expectations that someone else cleans their messes. I always wonder if they do the same thing at home but know that the answer is “yes.”
In some schools, teachers are required to stay in touch with parents about a variety of things. When students miss a set number of days, the teacher is required to call the parent to inform them that the child has missed days. Yes, parents need to know when their children miss excessive numbers of days, but calling after three or four takes more time from teachers. It’s a redundant task since most schools have programs that automatically call home when a child misses a school day.
Teachers are also expected to call homes when students’ grades become D’s or F’s. Parents’ knowing about poor performances of their children is important. However, they have access to the grades of students through the school’s computer platform. All that is necessary is for them to get on line and look. If they have questions or concerns about the grades, then they can contact the teacher for a meeting or conversation. The onus of responsibility for the child’s maintaining a passing grade should fall upon the parents, not the teachers.
Most teachers have large classes. For a high school teacher, that can mean 120 or more students per term. Tests and essays and worksheets must be graded. A single planning period is not enough time to complete the grading, especially when teachers must sometimes meet with administrators or cover other classes. That means they spend hours marking those papers at home.
The fact is that teachers work hard. Oh sure, some are lazy and rarely hit a lick, but for the most part, teachers put in plenty of energy and time to make sure students are exposed to concepts of classes. When additional duties and tasks are added, the job can become overwhelming. Again, most teachers knew what they were headed for when they accepted a job. Still, it would be nice if they could teach classes without having to complete so many other assigned duties. Give a teacher a thank you for the work that he or she does. Then make sure your child takes advantage of the opportunities to learn and be ready to face the college or technical school that waits in the future.