Friday, September 27, 2013

A Trying Year

In a way, this is a gut-wrenching school year for me. It has nothing to do with evaluations, E4E asshats, our puny Teacher's Choice allocations, or any of the other issues you'll frequently hear me moan about on this blog. It has much more to do with the fact that this year, for the first time, I will be eligible to retire.

I know some of you may think this is cause to sing Hosannas, but I am completely ambivalent. Part of me wants to go, and another part wants to stay.

On the plus side, I truly love my school, and my colleagues are great. Even my supervisors are top notch (that's been my experience--the mileage of others may vary). On the minus side, I am tired of the MOSLs and RttT and the thousand other slings and arrows that make teaching such drudgery these days.

My school, along with many others in this city, I am sure, has just spent the last three days administering tests in three subjects so that teachers can be evaluated by them. THREE DAYS of instruction LOST at the very beginning of the year.  In addition to that, all of us will be pulled from our classrooms for an entire day to grade these assessments, so that makes four days lost. None of this has anything to do with the kids--it all has to do with the mania to hold teachers "accountable".

How are we ever going to teach these kids anything if we do nothing but test them?

I'm sure some will claim that I have burned out, but I have not. I could go on teaching indefinitely if not for the massive amounts of meaningless paperwork and testing we have to do. In truth, I want to TEACH, not to be a professional proctor or a data entry collector.

For about the first week of school, I was convinced that this would be my last year. After two PD days filled to the Plimsoll mark with Danielson, MOSL, and IPCs, and a week of baseline essays to administer, I swore this year would be it. And then something happened.

A girl I taught in 6th grade two years ago was crying in my 8th grade class the first day of school this year. I don't know why. I asked her if she was upset at being in my English class again. She look up at me quizzically and her tears stopped. She said, "No, Mr. Talk, of course not. You're my favorite teacher. You've been my favorite teacher since the 6th grade."

I'm still not sure if I should be happy that I can still make a difference in the lives of kids like this girl, or mad at her for giving me a real reason to stay on.


Stu said...

Mr. Talk, I had the same dilemma when I retired 3 years ago. There's no right answer...and of course, the difficult decision you have to make is not going to be easy when students tell you how valuable you have been in their lives.

What helped me was volunteering. I was a reading specialist in an elementary school...and when I retired I immediately began volunteering and doing basically the same work I did when I was getting paid...albeit for a shorter amount of time each week. I still get to help children the way I had been when I was working, but I don't have to worry about the "tests" or paperwork or PD.

I know that's not an answer for your situation is likely different, however, my point is that perhaps -- if you choose to retire -- you can find some way to still make an impact on students' lives and achievement. That is, after all, why we became teachers in the first place, right?

Mr. Talk said...

Stu, thanks. That sounds like good advice. I'm thinking about ways I can keep teaching without all the nonsense, and I hope I'll find one.

On the other hand, I could use a few months watching the Maury show and eating Oreos.