Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?
I am an art teacher, a damn good one. However, I have my limits like all people. I can’t do everything perfect and some things I am not qualified to do, or paid to do, or hired to do, but I do them in that, “other duties as assigned” part of the teacher contract.
Would parents want to know what teachers do in the “other duties as assigned” part of a teacher’s job? Would the General Assembly be okay with the ” other duties as assigned” part of my job? Or any teachers job? Or the decision process related to what teacher get what student for how long and at what time of the day?
Take me for example. In my tenure in Delaware education I have taught art, music, STEAM, and math. I have taught classes of 10 to 38. Disabilities, you name it and I have seen it in my classroom. Ranging from the inability to talk, walk, or hold a pencil all the way to a fourth grader with a house arrest ankle bracelet; and don’t forget the child with an 8th grade reading level in third grade. Sometimes I have had the help of a para, but most times I am on my own. I teach whoever comes in my room. It’s amazing we have all these regulations in Delaware. Who is highly qualified. Who is certified? Qualifications for emolument. But once your hired… It truly doesn’t mean a damn thing!
Below are a few situation that happen all the time. Some of these are personal experiences and others have been observed.
Scenario 1: a school board member really wants more gifted options in their district. So an idea comes up that teachers are to share their interests and talents with students outside of their teaching area. So, it’s implemented. But, we can’t mess up math and ELA time, so the specials teachers can do it. So for 12 class periods out of the year, non standard, non district approved classes were created for students based on what teachers like Taking away from art, music, pe, and more…
Scenario 2: enrollment in down, so related arts teachers have less classes. We need help with test scores in math and ELA. So related arts teacher start helping the tier 1 and 2 kids to improve their scores. ( didn’t I say most neediest student with lease equalified teachers… I am certified, but not in math; definitely not common core math)
Scenario 3: there are so many students and teachers that we have floaters; teachers with no permanent classroom. You guessed it, most of them are first year teachers… My first year sucked… And I had a classroom. I wonder how these first years go…
Scenario 4: someone messed up on scheduling a school event, so let’s switch everything about our day. So a teacher will teach classes on the last full day of school that they have never, ever taught before. Student they have never meant…
Scenario 5: abc student has a hard time in the morning because their medicine doesn’t work until later. This student really needs a routine to start the day off right, so let’s give them special first thing in the morning. Everyday they will have a different first class up until their medicines starts working.
Scenario 6: we have a lot of students geting ones on SBAC. We need help. Let’s hire more paras. They are qualified and know what to do to gets test scores up. Our teachers have failed, paras will close the gap!
Scenario 7: Let’s teach something new! There is no curriculum, no training, and no real money, but it will be cool and fun! There is no time in the schedule so let’s cut art and music down and we can fit it in.
I feel I am getting more and more sarcastic with each scenario and I could go on and on. It’s crazy isn’t it?
What are we doing?
I do think that everyone I work with today and in the past have and will continue to do the best they can, but it’s not working. We are all in the system and the system only lets you move so far and do so much from where you are. And speak out… Teachers are people pleaser, we don’t like to get yelled at.
Our system is designed for needy students to fail. New teachers to fail. Challenging populations to fail. Anyone who really needs it to fail.
I do not know the answers but I think most of it is mindset. If you have a talent, you should use it. Life is not supposed to be easy. The good teachers should get the neediest students. The experienced teachers should get the students that are hard to crack. The fragile students due to medication or trauma should get the teacher they see day in and day out during challenging times because they have a relationship like no other. The students who can’t read should have a reading specialist. The student who struggle in math should have a math specialist, not an art teacher.
It’s not all about money. It’s about value. I am good at what I do. I was hired to teach art. Let me do it. Reading specialists specialized to teach kids how to read. Let them do it. Many specialists do “other duties as assigned” like scheduling, event planning, and data analysis. I don’t think that was part of their degree.
Our system has to change so the neediest get the best, not the other way around.