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Bob Shepherd: The Hard Work of Teaching

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Author: dianeravitch

Bob Shepherd, a frequent commentator (I love his writing and wish he would write more often for the blog) had this to say about teaching:

 

For many years, I held various jobs as a publishing executive (in later years at very high levels). I thought that I worked very, very hard.

 

 

Then I returned to teaching.

 

 

Everything I did before was a vacation by comparison.

 

 

Teaching is relentless in its demands on one’s time and energy. I came to school this year and found that I had 190 students, 3 minutes between classes, no prep period on half my days, car line duty in the morning, 20 minutes for lunch, two extracurricular activities to coach (including plays to produce), administrative meetings one day a week after school, 20 detailed lesson plans to prepare each week (specifying the class, period, standards covered, lesson objectives, assessments used, bellwork, vocabulary covered, and ESOL strategies and 504 and IEP accommodations employed), a requirement that I post 16 grades per quarter per student (for 190 students for 4 quarters, that’s 12,160 grades in the school year, or 67.56 grades per day), enormous amounts of paperwork (filing, photocopying, keeping a parent/teacher log, filling out reports of many kinds, preparing class handouts and tests, keeping attendance logs, posting grades), many, many special meetings (parent-teacher conferences being among the most frequent), and classes and tests to take to maintain my certification.

 

 

If I assigned a five-paragraph theme to each of my students, I would have 950 paragraphs to read–roughly the equivalent of a short novel.

 

 

Basically, there isn’t enough time for ANYONE–even the greatest of teachers–to do the job at all adequately. This is the great unspoken truth about teaching. This is the real elephant in the room. If you want to improve teaching and learning, you have to give teachers more time–MUCH, MUCH MORE TIME.

 

 

And somehow, with all those demands, you are supposed to give each student the individual attention that he or she deserves. Anything short of one-on-one tutorial is a compromise, of course. And that’s that the job boils down to. A great compromise.

 

 

And the attitude of administrators is typically, “Well, what’s the matter with you? Why don’t you just do x? Why didn’t you just do y? Any good teacher would be doing z every day.” As though teachers were people of leisure with all the time in the world. I have noticed that administrators label practically every email that they send out IMPORTANT and use exclamation marks ALL THE TIME: “Due today! Must be completed by Thursday! Mandatory attendance!” I have sometimes wondered whether they shouldn’t be issued, at the beginning of the year, a maximum number of quotation marks that they can use. Of course, they are just responding to the similar insane demands that are placed upon them by the central office and my regulatory requirements.

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