Sunday, September 27, 2009

In the Trenches

This week is a LONG week. It is conference week. We teach all day then have conferences until 7 or so for a couple days, hopefully finishing up the conferences in the afternoon the remainder of the week. We do have an "inservice" day on Friday which means a day of meetings. So you might say a prayer...for me and my energy level but also for my husband and mom who will fill in the gaps. I enjoy meeting with parents and sharing student success stories. But I do miss my kiddos for those hours I am away. I just have to remind myself, it is only twice a year. I hope and pray that for two weeks out of the year, they aren't terribly scarred by my absence. The other downside is that it exhausts me. I don't know why. I am sitting for much of it. But the talking and thinking that goes on...well, it is tiring. Or more tiring, I should say. :)

I have been thinking alot about teachers and schools. I just read Obama's plan/idea to have shorter summers and possibly longer school days. It seems weekly I am reading (whether in the paper or on the Internet) the evils of the public school or the many ways we are failing kids. And of course, with No Child Left Behind, our test scores determine our "success" as a school and whether we deserve to continue teaching our kids.

You know, I realize there are some poor performing schools. I also realize there are some poor teachers out in the world. I have met them too. I probably had a few (I know I did) in school, though I really have to say more were NOT that way. What bothers me is the current trend to make sweeping statements about schools/teachers based on a few bad apples. After all, I read stories of some really poor parenting, yet I rarely hear that all parents are doing a poor job raising their kids. I have seen articles about unethical doctors, but I don't generalize that all doctors are bad...I am quite thankful for the doctors we have around here. As I have pondered these thoughts, especially in light of yet more changes the government hopes to make, I cannot help but reflect on some of the things I have witnessed while "in the trenches". Some of these things are based on my own experiences (both as a teacher and as a parent), some are based on what I have observed among other teachers...
  • A teacher crying after receiving a hateful note from a parent (more often than not over a misunderstanding)...always a lovely way to start the day. But even after she cries and gets a hug from a co-worker, she will go in and love and teach that child anyway.
  • Teachers slipping food and clothing into the backpacks of students who are living in high poverty homes
  • A teacher giving up part of her lunch or snack stash to a student who didn't get the lunch choice he/she made that day and wouldn't eat otherwise
  • More than one teacher slipping money into the lunch account of a student who will otherwise only get a cheese sandwich even though five notices have gone home informing parents of the need for lunch money
  • Teachers making home visits on their planning time (which is precious time to quickly prepare for future lessons, gather student papers, have meetings, etc) to try to get signatures so that a child can get future additional help at school because the parents haven't attended any of the meetings requested
  • Several teachers quietly and without fanfare gathering "angels" from our Angel Tree to make sure our students get a Christmas
  • Teachers visiting sick children in the hospital
  • A teacher crying when he/she realizes that a student has moved again...sometimes for the fifth time in that school year, and that same teacher who will float on air with happiness if/when the child returns "home" to her classroom
  • Teachers using their own money to buy books and other materials to make sure students have books in their home
  • Teachers supplying school supplies (again, with no fanfare) to students who otherwise would have none
  • Teachers comforting a child who has lost a grandparent, a pet, or sometimes even a parent
  • Teachers who attend baseball games, birthday parties, etc. for their students (that one has gotten tougher for me as we have added to our own family)
  • Teachers who buy things from fundraisers they don't really need but cannot say no to those little faces
  • Teachers who pray for students and families...we cannot pray at school WITH the kids, but we can do it on our own time FOR the kids
  • Teachers who love and accept all of their students for who they are, who don't see race or color or citizenship status, who just see a child to teach
  • Teachers who go into the schools two weeks before their contracts/paychecks even start just to get the room ready for the children
  • Teachers who attend meetings after school, on the weekends, during the summer, all to become a better teacher to help their students become better learners
  • Teachers who run clubs, like the Chess Club, after school...all volunteer work to allow students opportunities to learn and grow
  • Teachers who are bound by the requirements of laws (No Child Left Behind), the policies of administration, the expectations of parents who go into the classroom each and every day to teach
  • Teachers who jump for joy in the hallway when a student finally achieves a learning goal
  • Teachers who cry when they receive a note of thanks, too few unfortunately, from a child or parent for a job well done
  • Teachers who call with concerns about a child's behavior (not our favorite chore) only to get cussed out over the phone in return
  • Teachers who go pick up children for school (with permission of course) because their parents just cannot wake up to send them themselves
  • Teachers who save their children's toys and books that just might be useful in the classroom...or at the home of one of their students
  • Teachers who order extra books (with their own money) to get more bonus points which means more books for the classroom
  • Teachers who beg their husbands to build a loft for the classroom (yes, that is mine, but there are others) because they know the students will benefit from the extra room
  • Teachers who fill out pages of grants in hopes of bettering their learning environment
  • Teachers who use their own money for snacks and field trips when some children/families just don't have the money to pay for it themselves
  • Teachers who call and visit parents to obtain a much needed signature for a field trip after the fourth note has gone home and never returned
  • Teachers who will visit parents, stay later, and rearrange their own schedules to ensure 100 percent participation at parent/teacher conferences
  • Teachers who fuss over a sick child while the office tries to call three numbers on the child's card that no longer work
  • Teachers who share the news that a child's vision might not be perfect
  • Teachers who take one look at a child walking into the classroom and know that a child is sick and should not be at school
  • Teachers who miss the field trips and parties of their own children to be at school with their students
  • Teachers who in spite of the unkind words of the public still love their job and can imagine no other place to be each day

I could go on, but this teacher needs to get to bed so I am ready for a day of learning and then a night of conferences. I guess I just wanted to say that what you read in the media is only one part of the story. Yes, test scores hold us accountable. We want our kids to be learning, otherwise our job is in vain. And sometimes we don't do as well as we hope we will. However, what you read about is only one small part of our job description. Much of what we do "in the trenches" goes unseen and unspoken. We do it because we care. We do it because that is what we are called to do.



  1. Beautiful post, Reba. Teachers are so underappreciated in this country. As a parent, I would also like to add a thank you to teachers for taking time to call a parent when your child does something great or special and not just take the time to call for the issues. And, let's not forget those teachers that take the time to help "the new kid" make friends and fit in with other students. Max's kindergarden teacher is wonderful, but part of me wishes he had you for a teacher :)

  2. Oops...I must need to go back to school too...spelled kindergarten wrong :)

  3. Preach on sister!!! A great post. Teachers have always been my unsung heroes. Praying for a good week. Vickey

  4. Amen for teachers like you, Reba!

  5. I used to teach at the university level, but I could NEVER teach kindergarten! I don't have the patience, the passion or the stamina. And while I do think that public education in this country has it's share of problems (and I'm in California, which in spite of being a wealthy state has shamefully underfunded public schools) I never think that the problem is with the teachers. In fact, I think the system short changes teachers just as much as it does the kids. Teachers perform the most important job I can think of -- they nurture and guide the world's future brain surgeons, cancer researchers, astronauts, inventors, presidents, Supreme Court justices, Nobel prize winners and poets. And still they are grossly underpayed and underappreciated. Cheers to you!

  6. Well done my friend, co-worker, and child's teacher. This needs to be cross-stitched somewhere and put in our/many schools for parents to see:)!!! You are a blessing to me and my family!

  7. I am just now getting to catch up on your blog and this one brought me to tears---and made me laugh! Your statements are sooooooo true!!! People who are not in the education "business" just have NO CLUE how much teachers, bus drivers, coaches, administrators, teacher assistants, etc. give of themselves to the children we come in contact with daily! The truly good ones, the EFFECTIVE ones, give 100% of their hearts, among all the other things they give!! YOU are one of those!!!! God bless you!!


Sweet Words of Wisdom