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Showing posts with label career choice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label career choice. Show all posts

Monday, January 2, 2012

GBE2: Work

This week's GBE2 writing topic is work. For better or worse, here's my take on it:

For over twenty-five years, I've taught intellectually gifted kids in an affluent suburb of Memphis. I've seen dramatic changes in what and how I teach since the eighties. Don't get me wrong, the kids are great other than the fact that they never grow older. They will always be around nine or ten even though I've aged twenty-five years. Yet their parents have grown younger. When I first started teaching parents were old people, so how did they get so young? Scary!

As for gifted curriculum, it used to be if the kids were happy, the parents were happy, and administration was happy too. I only was responsible for meeting the IEP goals which I wrote. Not anymore. It's all about test scores and achievement.

Gone are the days of paper-mache´ puppet shows, fancy tooth pick bridges, or spending 100,000 fictional dollars on the stock market. Today, teaching is all about curriculum. My math lessons follow closely to what the classroom teacher is doing yet tougher. I teach reading lessons, with reading groups that cover novels. At least they still let me pick my novels–sorta. We have a list of board approved books.

I still love my time with the kids, but I miss egg drop competitions that plummeted raw eggs with goofy faces and silly names down shoots into kid designed landing pads. I can do some of the fun stuff, but by golly I better find an SPI objective before I do.

I used to start each class with a Shel Silverstein poem; now, I begin with Daily Grammar Practice. Sounds awful, but it's not bad. The kids' ability to diagram complex sentences is even impressive.

But teaching means unbelievable pressure. We've heard of teachers cheating to raise their students' test scores. I certainly don't condone this behavior nor would I ever cheat on a test; but honestly, I understand where this is coming from. It doesn't matter if you have a Doctorate degree or how long you've been teaching, it's getting to the point that your students better show growth or you could be out of a job.  Do you know of any other profession where a person's bread and butter is dependent on fickle kids?

In Tennessee, every public school teacher has a minimum of three (was supposed to be four) evaluations every year. These evaluations involve massive time commitments and paper work as administrators who are stretched thin enter classrooms to watch us teach. Plus, the same folks are scouring over value added scores. This is a comparison of students' growth on tests from year to year. Mind you, I teach gifted. This means that even though my students' test scores are already in the upper nineties, I need to show growth! However, when it comes to other measures of student achievement, I'm scored on the performance of the entire school. Ie., kids I don't even teach.

Please remember, I love the kids! I love the delight when they understand something new. And I love hearing them laugh when I inject humor into my lessons. However, I'm ready to retire because I'm tired. Typically, I arrive at school between 7:15 and 7:30 and leave sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening. Many times, I bring my work home with me once I leave. Sure I just had two weeks of vacation, but I spent several hours of it completing special education report cards, writing IEPs, making flip charts for my Promethean board, grading writing, and re-reading chapters for discussion this week. Unfortunately, the pressure on us is so intense that the fun has evaporated. In fact, when my college age daughter took a career placement test to help her find a major, the counselor said, "Be a teacher."

I said, "Don't you dare!" Those who are eligible to retire are doing so in mass... and this is supposed to improve education? What has the government done to my profession? I know my teachers from the 60s and 70s never worked as hard as I do nor did they get blamed when I misbehaved. We are one of the most disrespected professions and have even been blamed for the weak economy because we have too many benefits. I pay for my insurance, and it's not cheap!

November 1, 2017, that's when I'll be eligible to retire... unless our lovely legislators raise the retirement age.