Today’s Table Talk is by the MOAT’s good friend Andy Kerckhoff. He’s in the trenches and on the front-lines having been an educator for almost 20 years. He loves kids and is invested in raising a generation equipped and strong to do all they were created to do. Here’s a piece from a longer article Andy has written regarding teachers and their struggles to keep on keepin’ on. He’s got a good word for us as parents. Might we have ears to hear and conviction to teach our kids a little about respect.
Thanks for sharing Andy … and thanks for walking the road with me.
The Great Frustration of Feeling Underappreciated and Disrespected
Perhaps the most frustrating problem in the classroom is disinterested and disrespectful students. It’s hard enough to manage 25 motivated students, but when there is a group of difficult students in a classroom, then the classroom attitude decays into a constant conflict between teacher and class. And when parents will not offer any support to the teacher, then it’s not pretty, to say the least. In this class, the teacher is constantly fighting an uphill battle and feels like a jerk for having to discipline students so strongly. Just one really nasty class per day can ruin a teacher’s year, and in some schools those classes are the norm.
A lack of appreciation comes from parents as well. Communicating with a difficult parent can be more challenging than a tough group of students. In the age of electronic communication and instant online grades, some parents feel free to challenge anything and everything, without granting teachers the initial “benefit of the doubt.” Teachers never know what’s going to happen when they open an email or open a voicemail. And even if the administration is supportive of the teacher, a tactful response is always essential, and often stressful.
While it is true that teachers have autonomy in their classrooms during class, many of them feel that they have very little control outside of that time and space. For example, a teacher might have as many as a dozen bosses who feel comfortable demanding tasks (not related to the curriculum), large and small, mostly via a quick email. Then, there are the meetings by academic department, professional learning community, whole-staff, etc. The curriculum map needs a full update. Your PDP is due tomorrow. This student needs this six-page evaluation form filled out by tomorrow for his testing. We need you to be a part of a new committee to study another new initiative. Meanwhile, that growing stack of papers that needs to be graded is not going to grade itself. The frustration rises to a peak when a teacher senses that he or she is only valued as the hired help for everybody else’s pet projects, while his or her time is not valued.
Out in the community, there is a different form of disrespect. While many Americans hold teachers in high regard, it seems that for every one of them there is one who thinks teachers teach because they can’t do. And most Americans just don’t value education very highly. Too many people view school as a big pain in the butt that you have to endure so that you can get a piece of paper, to get a job, so you can make real money, and get a real life. Paul Simon said it best in his hit song Kodachrome, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s amazing I can think at all.” Teachers get the message. They see it in the media and in the marketplace. It’s a material world, and you are just a teacher driving a ten-year-old, high mileage sedan. It’s not exactly a subtle message.
About the Author: Andy Kerckhoff has served in various capacities in education for 19 years and is the author of the blog http://growingupwell.org