By Greg Sampson
May 2 – 6 (2016) is Teacher Appreciation Week. One grumpy, old teacher has some ideas as to how he could be shown appreciation.
1 1. STOP turning the lights out every 10 minutes. My classroom is equipped with a motion detector, which means after 10 minutes of no movement, the lights go out. This not a problem when I have classes, as normal student fidgetiness and teacher circulation to groups keeps the lights on. But when I am on my planning period, sitting at my desk, answering parent email or returning their phone calls, writing new lesson plans, reviewing and grading student work, or doing other paperwork my employer demands, the lights go out. I have to get up and walk through the room, even though I am doing the work required of me. That is particularly egregious in the predawn hours (yes, I get to school one hour or more before my contract time) and there is no light to see by. Why do I have to stumble into furniture and wrack my knees to get the lights back on?
2 2. Let me decide whether I want ONE-sided or TWO-sided printing when I need to print out lesson plans, student rosters, Department of Ed downloads, and other necessary documents. To force a default to two-sided printing … and when I try to make it one-sided, you separate the first page as one-sided and do the rest of the printing as a separate two-sided request. Micromanaging teachers to this level is ridiculous, my dear employer. But the joke’s on you. I now print out two copies of everything. Not only have you not saved paper, you have extra expenses for toner, electricity, and machine maintenance.
3 3. Give me the supplies I need so I can carry out your requests. Every professional development session I go to, we work in groups and chart our responses. But when I want to do this in my classroom, my supply request for chart paper is denied. Really? But getting teenagers to work in groups, chart their work, and report to the class is deemed “best practices.” But you won’t buy me $30 worth of chart paper for the year even though your budget totals $1.7 BILLION. Not feeling the love.
4 4. Pay my money on time. If you bargain with my union and agree to pay salary supplements, it is not a discretionary expense you can do any old time you feel like it. Why should I wait until late February to receive the money you promised for teaching a hard-to-staff course? Pay me throughout the year, every paycheck, like a reasonable person would. Then you wouldn’t hold to your announced paydate because you said not every principal turned in a list of who was eligble. Really? But as a fellow teacher said, you know what we teach when it comes to sending out the threats of termination for being out-of-field, but you don’t know what we teach when it comes to honoring our contract supplements.
5 5. Stop pushing your great online platforms. I tried to use your testing platform, ran into problems, and was told pointblank by your staff that the Unify platform was NOT for teachers to use. Only test coordinators and administrators should be using it. I tried to give my students the test you pushed, but couldn’t make the online calculator available to them. As a mere teacher, a peon, I am not allowed those privileges. The word you need to find is EMPOWERMENT.
6 6. Treat me like the professional I am. Communicate with me once or twice a month. LEAD, dammit. When I ask a question of district staff, I should receive a direct reply, not a response that came through channels that I cannot talk to them. Your rigid hierarchy is condemning the district to grinding mediocrity. (Not to mention the arrogant egos too many people inflate through such nonsense.) I have good ideas about curriculum. Act like you want to hear from me. After all, I am the pro in the classroom and can tell you how well a curriculum design is going. Get your noses out of data. It is one source, but not the only source of knowledge about student learning.
7 7. When I tell you the textbook is terrible, you need to believe me. Until you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the classroom, you don’t have the experience I do. You want to raise test scores? LISTEN when I tell you the book is ineffective and the online resources do not help.
I have no illusions I will receive this kind of appreciation. Maybe I’ll get a free lunch one day or a monogrammed pen in my mailbox. That’s all teacher appreciation means these days. But even a grumpy, old teacher still hopes . . .