Work-in-Progress Wednesday – Teaching

I fought the good fight today – I left for the first day back at school in a pretty good frame of mind, despite all my misgivings. Part of me had been dreading today, as it meant the end of all my art work for the summer. But I was reminded of a lot of other “first day’s back” in my career. I was struck by how exactly 40 years ago today I flew out of Vermont for my very first teaching job – at Baldwin High School on Maui.

Now I haven’t been teachng for 40 years – a few years off working for learning centers, but I thought back to that first job. I had a three-week methods course and 6 weeks of student teaching, with a recommendation to find another career. I was nonetheless the first person in my graduating class to have a job after college. And as my wonderful Poli Sci professor pointed out, how bad could teaching in Hawaii be?

I was fortunate to have really good mentors, because in all honesty I didn’t have a clue as to what should actually happen in a classroom. I focused on relationship-building with students. I had no idea about curriculum, but I did know I didn’t want to repeat mistakes my teachers had made. I didn’t ridicule anyone, I listened, I got involved in their problems. I learned a lot, not the least of which was about my experiences in the teachers’ lounge. After having lunch with “veteran” teachers for a couple of weeks, I started eating by myself, working on correcting papers – a habit I continue to this day. I told myself at the time I didn’t want to grow up and be just like those teachers, bitching and moaning all the time about teaching.

Fast forward to today, 40 years later. My tolerance level for incompetence and stupidity is in the negative numbers. Today was all meetings, and when I did have two hours, NOTHING seemed to be working. Here we are charged with teaching digital natives (students who have grown up with all this technology) using 21st century skills and equipment.

Right. None of the printers was hooked to where they needed to be. Plus, when you tried to print, it took literally (I kid you not) 7 minutes for the printer to accept the print command. The programs continued to freeze up – just a reminded that the public voted down the technology override last year. Computers need to be reimaged, wireless is not working well, laptops need to be distributed (I don’t work with a laptop at school, as the technology is so erratic, and I am tired of losing work and grades.) Pages wouldn’t open on the screen, and trying to make any corrections just didn’t work. The copy room is being moved Friday, so no printing of materials we might need for the start of school on Monday. A good many of us haven’t had out rooms cleaned at all, due to the fact the school was completely closed for a full month due to refurbishing the air conditioning – which is a good thing, as we live in the desert.

Most of tomorrow is meetings. I have to be ready for freshmen orientation on Friday morning, and I can’t get power points or documents to load up so I can work on them and be ready. Plus sometime in June my teaching assignment was changed for this year and no one bothered to email me about it….so 60 percent of my teaching schedule now is something that I haven’t totally planned for – as it was only supposed to be 20 percent.

So there I am, the veteran teacher bitching and moaning about the state of education. It is ironic that even after 40 years, nothing much has changed. I am trying to continue to learn and improve my work in the classroom – just because I can – and will – retire in 3 years doesn’t mean I can’t improve as a teacher. But shouldn’t we start to get some breaks?

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2 Responses to “Work-in-Progress Wednesday – Teaching”

  • Kay:

    Linda – I feel your pain! I retired after 38 years of teaching ten years ago and your first days sound exactly like the ones I used to go through. Administrators who are on the ball (and I only had a couple of those really good ones) can make SUCH a difference for both the teachers and the students! Good luck this year.

  • Thanks, Kay – I’m behind!! I survived the first week with the usual schedule screw-ups. Hopefully it gets better! Someone said there were 39 weeks left in this school year…..

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