“We need all third grade teachers to report to the playground!” That’s the message I heard over the PA system last week. It came on at 12:45. My lunch is over at 12:45. It starts at 12:15. I’m expected to be on the playground the exact minute my lunch is over.
The reason this expectation is in place is because of a different problem affecting schools today; under-staffing. My school does not have enough support staff to watch our students. My administrators are just trying to do the best they can do with what they have. I don’t blame them for the shortage and I know this is an issue so over the year I have walked out to the playground some days at 12:40. I did not mind pitching in when I could because I want to do what’s best for my students. It was my choice to go out there. However, it is no longer my choice. Now I am expected to do it. My team had a meeting to discuss our frustrations. The five of us each had a different view but we did work things out. One comment a colleague made really stuck with me though. She asked, “Are we really going to make a big deal about 60 seconds?” She also offered to go out everyday to watch our kids to make things easier for the rest of us. She said didn’t mind making the sacrifice for our kids and her teammates even though she may get burnt out. This woman is an amazing educator and our students cannot afford to burn her out and lose her.
In truth, her original question was right. 60 seconds isn’t something to really fight about. You can’t eat a sandwich in 60 seconds. And making sure our students are safe and supervised is pretty important. So for the sake of our kids, we gave up 60 seconds.
This story illustrates a problem with the teaching profession. Teachers are always giving something up or doing something extra without anything in return. There is a line in the sand that represents teacher expectations. It tells us everything that we need to do to fulfill our job. However, every year that line gets erased and moved up a bit as more is added to our plates. Teachers have to deal with new standards, new tests, and new curriculum. We have to learn new management strategies, new procedures, the ‘flavor of the month’ lesson or anything else that comes down the pipeline. Legislators, board members, administrators, and parents all add extra things to our job requirements and we eagerly agree with it because, “Hey, it’s for the kids.” None of us want to be known as the teacher who doesn’t want to help our kids. It is a level of manipulation to use our students to get us to do more without getting more.
So no, 60 seconds is not a big deal but when 60 seconds is added often over the course of time, it adds up to quite a bit. At what point do we make our line in the sand and say “this far and no more?”
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