Is It Suck It Up Time

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Back in October of 2002, when I was first hired as a second career and conditional teacher, I was complaining in the teacher’s break room to the lead special education teacher, about the amount of work that I was having to do at home and on weekends. This was just to keep up with the work I was expected to have completed for my classes and special education duties, not get ahead or find creative activities for my students to become involved with.

This was his reply:

“Get used to it, we really don’t care how much time outside of school it takes you to get the job done, as long as you get the work done. If you don’t like it, find something else besides being a teacher. We know that you can’t get all of your work done during the school day and that you will have to work nights and weekends to get it done. It is part of the job expectation of being a teacher. So either suck it up and just do it or find another profession to work in. We can always find someone else who will do it”.

This comment stuck with me enough that I put it in my journal that day and when times are difficult I refer back to it, to remind me of the attitude that many people in and outside of education have towards teaching. Just “suck it up”.

Needless to say I sucked it up and have been teaching for almost 10 years now, with a little 15 month break thrown in to spice things up and get a reality check. But as I grow older and my time becomes, much more valuable to me, I begin to wonder more often about other alternatives to teaching’s seven day a week, multiple hours after school working on school work, “volunteering for after school activities” that are expected of teachers by schools, other teachers, parents and “others” (whoever the others may be).

Our present education system is a demanding mistress, it demands that we use more and more of our personal time  to complete our school work and yet, when we discuss this “fact” we are told that we are whining and complaining and that we should be glad that we have a job and that we are allowed to teach other people’s children.  This is the education/teaching model that we have used for so long that too many believe that this is the way “life should be” for teachers in the U.S. and many other places.  This to me is the industrial model of teaching, use ’em up, spit them out, get new ones”.

Like every teacher out there, I have willingly given up my personal time and life to complete school work (in fact I am looking at about 6-7 hours work on the table beside me today after I finish this post) and will continue to do so, but I want a few things back in return for doing my school’s work, when I should be doing things with family and friends or simply relaxing and enjoying a day or two off.

First – I want true leadership – not management by objectives or numbers. Leadership is vastly different and much more difficult than management is and unfortunately, in education today the prevailing method has become management by numbers and don’t push back against the “system”. Which leadership does.

Second – If I am a bad teacher tell me that and provide me the opportunity to improve and if I don’t improve get rid of me.  Don’t use tenure as an excuse to keep me around if I have it, we all know that tenure is there as a protection against capricious dismissal, not a guarantee of a lifetime job.

Third – Show respect for me as a professional, I worked hard to become a certified teacher and I continue to work to improve my skills as a teacher mostly on my own time, not the school’s.

Fourth – Trust that I am competent at my job and let me do my job, if I am not go back to my second statement.

Finally – Do not go telling me that my student’s test scores are low, I already know that and I realize that many of the students I teach may never reach proficiency on a standardized test, no matter how well I or someone else “teaches” them.  I am a special education teacher and my students are in special education because their diagnostic “test scores” are low compared to their peers, amongst a lot of other reasons.

So I really don’t give a rat’s ass what some politician’s artificial standards are for my individual students. I care about my students and the progress they are making, many times on things that can’t be measured on a test like: positive behavior, coming to school, smiling in class, being in a safe place, not saying hurtful things to a peer, helping a peer, reading a book and enjoying it for the first time in their life or simply a student saying “thank you” and mean it. These things and many more, mean more to me and the students than some snapshot score of where they were yesterday, will ever mean to either of us.

However, I also know in today’s climate that the things I discussed are not going happen anytime soon in most places, there are just too many incentives not to do them. Instead I fear that expectations and conditions for teachers in many areas will get worse (maybe a lot worse) in today’s management climate of management by numbers, accountability, standardization and data collection.

I read this article from the The Star.com –

Saving public education: Why teachers matter by Rick Salutin

this morning which sums up a lot of the issues and what I am thinking pretty well.

You know something else, I am getting tired of “sucking it up” and my personal time has become too valuable to continue to have to simply “suck it up”.  I want to do things that I am passionate about and want to do, not something that I am forcing myself to do because it is what is expected of me and so many others.

Ah decisions, decisions.

What have you done to make a difference today?

3 thoughts on “Is It Suck It Up Time

  1. Amen to what you want to see out of leadership….by the way I think I know the Lead Special Education Teacher you speak of….hum I found another career because of his "Leadership"Keep the faith Harold it will happen eventually on leaders actually leading. (of course that's when you become the leader.)

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  2. Oh wow! You summed it up exactly. I've been a sped teacher for 19 years and am tired and burnt out. Lately, I've found myself thinking of doing something else, but not sure what. Mostly, from the things you said in your article. I'm just tired of "sucking it up and just doing it!"

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