Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Teachers aren't babysitters

In one of my graduate classes, the professor asked the class, "What is the purpose of teachers in our society?" The grandiose responses from each class member was laudable. The professor was impressed with our responses and dismissed them all by stating that we were babysitters. Consider who the parents call when there is no school day. Do they call a teacher? No, they call a babysitter. Schools are necessary to watch over the children while the parents work. This of course was a cynical way to start a graduate class at Teachers College.

Of course we know teachers are more than babysitters. We are highly trained individuals who complete many years of education and continue in professional learning throughout our careers. We are constantly adjusting our practice based on the newest or revised pedagogical practices spit out by researchers at our many colleges and universities and of course as proclaimed from the newest elected politicians and their minions. We are a more regulated profession than any other and we are everyone's political football. Were some other professionals as regulated we would be the ideal society.

What exactly is it that teachers do? Let me relate my experience. When I first started teaching, I probably spent ten hours of preparation for each one hour I taught. The amount of time I prepare for each class is immense and it of course lessened as I gained more experience and understood my own pedagogy, whether I taught the same material or not. When I prepared a class, I'd read the material be it a poem, short story, novel, essay or play many times. I'd read secondary material to bolster my own ideas. I would cobble the lesson and refine it constantly. A lesson is always under construction. Now that I use technology, the cobbling is more fun and constant. I trim, add, and modify each lesson constantly. Because I use the internet, adding recent essays and events to augment the lesson add authenticity to the projects the scholars do.

Once the lesson has been done, we then engage in the assessment process. The National Council of Teachers of English suggested that each essay should receive about 15-20 minutes. In my early days, I had five classes of 32 students per class. That meant I would have 160 essays per week to assess. That translates into 24 to 32 hours needed for assessment. Now this is just for one essay per week. Consider the collection of homework, assessing a quiz or two, and assessing other work done in just one week.

I found that I spent the first two or three days of a vacation in bed sleeping. I was worn out, spent. Then I would use much of that time reading material I would use in class after the vacation. Summer time was used to take more classes to earn more graduate credits, which was required by NYC so I could keep my teaching license. It is always easy to identify an English teacher when I ride public transportation, they are the one correcting papers.

I have friends who are lawyers and they, too, work as long as I do preparing briefs and for cases, but they are paid for that time. I'm paid only for the time I'm in the classroom and not the time I spend out of the classroom preparing for my time in the classroom. Teachers were work at home employees long before other businesses added that option to their business. And yes, it is about the money, otherwise politicians wouldn't be so quick to steal our money. I have bills to pay just like everyone else and I should be paid accordingly.

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