I am not a star!

At least not in the literal sense. Some days I do feel like a rock star or an all-star and maybe even a superstar. But a star is something that I can count on every night to shine in the sky. It can provide light and heat to solar systems such as what the Sun does for ours. Our Sun, a true star, is an infinite resource for heat, light, and energy (if we would learn how to tap it). It will never run dry in my life time. In this sense, I am not a star! Nor is any other teacher. We are not infinite resource for time or energy. We will run dry if we are not taken care of. There is only so much that can be reasonably expected out of us.

My school has been doing a math intervention program for the last four years. Our students take a 5 minute fact test once a month on a Tuesday and we have always gotten the results on Friday. This year, it has taken two weeks to get the results. I have learned that the person who was in charge last year was a full time employee. That position is now a part time position but still required to do all the same requirements. That position lost have of their time and pay. When I complained about this, I found that I had inadvertantly volunteered to help grade the papers. I’m not quite sure where I’m going to find the time to help. Nor am I getting any kind of compensation for this. I also found out that we used to have volunteers that helped grade the papers. Can you imagine a business that starts a new initiative with the hopes of finding “volunteers” to run it? That’s absurd! If a business does not have the resources to accomplish the goal or the money to pay people to do it, they won’t move forward with it! However, in edcuation we begin many projects or policies with the hopes of finding a volunteer to help. When those volunteers no longer show up, the work falls on the shoulders of the teachers. Everyone knows teachers can’t or won’t say no.

My school has also started talking about providing breakfast for every student to ensure that every child has to opportunity to be fed to help learning. Sounds like a great idea. However, this breakfast will occur in our classrooms. We will be expected to distribute the breakfast to our students once the bell rings and also clean up once students are done. I know that once it is realized that this is cutting into instruction time, they will expect teachers to open our rooms 15 minutes early to feed the students. And of course, I can expect no compensation nor any extra planning time.

My contract is Monday through Friday from 8-4. I have students from 8:30 to 3:10. I get 5 40 minutes lunch breaks and 3 45 minute planning times a week. How much do administrators feasibly think can be done by me in those “free” times? I only have so much time in my day.

And then you take into account all of the required meetings that I have to go to in a week and the workshops. I can only handle so much learning. I am not Einstein. I need time to practice and implement what I learn from a workshop. You can only dump so much into my brain.

Yesterday was a pretty demanding day. It was bad enough that I decided to take a personal day today to help recover. I felt like a Texas oil field. I had been drilled, prodded, and searched for oil and I came up empty.

How do we convince the powers that be that teachers are not stars? We are more like the oil fields in Texas. Sometimes, we get burnt up or dried out. We need a little more give and take. If you are going to expect something more out of us, than you either have to compensate fairly or else remove another obligation. No matter how hard you squeeze a berry, you are only going to get so much juice.


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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