by Sara Jones, PTAC Member
It was hard for me to find the time and energy to write this blog post. Each of us only has so much energy, and like many teachers at this time of year, I’m running on fumes.
We find the energy for the things that are important. But, there are always sacrifices.
We find energy to make sure all of our students’ needs are met.
We work to make sure each child’s emotional and physical needs are met so that they can learn. Then, we work to make sure their academic needs or met. As our students have become more needy, we have to expend more energy to give them what they need.
Sometimes we steal energy from our own families to give to our students. We know they love us, and we hope they’ll forgive us. Sometimes we steal energy from ourselves. We sacrifice a little of our own physical and mental health so that our students are OK. Sometimes we sacrifice too much.
I often reflect on all of this. Each day I race against the clock to get everything on my to do list done before finally heading home hours after students have left. As a high school social studies teacher I try to steal minutes to plan lessons that will be relevant and engaging for my students, grade assignments that students have completed, and stay current with new technology that can enhance my curriculum. There never seems to be enough time to do all of that while still teaching the content of my courses, allowing students to understand how the world is interconnected, and helping them recognize and remedy misconceptions.
My day begins at least and hour before the first bell of the morning and several hours after the last bell of the afternoon. And because I am always looking for ways to become better at what I do, I often spend weekends and always spend at least part of my summer on professional development opportunities that I seek out.
I’m not complaining. I’m happy to do what needs to be done for my students to be successful. It’s why I became a teacher. I love my job and I love my students.
But, the longer I have been in the classroom, the more I have been asked to spend energy on things that don’t really help my students. I’m frustrated. My students deserve better.
My students deserve the best me. They deserve my energy to be focused on them and their needs instead of assessments that rank and sort them, but don’t help them learn. They deserve my energy to be focused on them instead of new initiatives, mandates, and procedures that will be forgotten by next year. They deserve my energy to be on them instead of completing paperwork that will be spend more time being filed in a drawer than being read.
My students deserve an education system that allows me to spend my energy on them.
Some claim teachers are not using their time effectively. Those of us in American schools know that we need more time to do our job effectively. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, US teachers spend more time in front of students than teachers in any other country in the world.
Like most of the teachers I know, I am very good at what I do. Imagine how much better we could all be.
Imagine if I had more time and energy to collaborate with those other teachers to share our best practices and work together to create amazing lessons. Imagine if we had the time to give immediate and meaningful feedback on all the assignments our students are working on. Imagine if we had time to read current research about how children learn and books about how to be better teachers - not just during the summer, but all year so that we could immediately put what we learn into practice. Imagine if our policy makers decided to prioritize the mental and physical health of teachers so that they could be better for their students.
Imagine how much our students would benefit.
Imagine how much better their education would be.
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee