Sunday, May 11, 2008

I’m Burned Out Just Listening To A Little Of What Teachers Are Up Against by Anthony McCarthy

Asking two highschool teachers I know about one of those tertiary level issues I mentioned yesterday, I got a crash course in their reality. Most of the basic assumptions I brought to my questioning were wildly optimistic. Instead of the 185 days I assumed as their opportunity for teaching their subject it was actually 180 days. Instead of the three days I’d imagined given to standardized testing, it was actually a week, sometimes more. And, as one of them reminded me, a class period devoted to giving a unit test is also a “day” when they aren’t teaching new information. He said that he never gets to the end of the textbook he’s got, never mind adding new topics to be brought up. That’s why he couldn’t tell me how many actual teaching days to subtract for unit tests.

And, as both reminded me, their “day” is actually not a day but an “hour”. And that “hour” was 50 minutes long, at least a tenth of that just spent on getting kids settled and taking care of administrative junk. Then there are the non-teaching problems they’ve got while actually teaching their subject matter, ranging from confused or listless kids to even the best behaved kids cutting up, to kids with a history of psychopathic violence. I asked how they dealt with kids who didn’t have the background knowledge for their subject, they said it was a huge problem.

So, when you subtract the 15 minutes from those 180 hours and start subtracting “hours” given over to, not teaching but testing, and figuring in the time spent with remedial and behavior problems, it looks like a mighty hard job.

When you ask one, don’t even bring up what they think when university based geniuses start telling them what they need to add to their curriculum. Not unless you really want an earful.