It’s Not Just Us

by Dean Mattson

Chris Lehmann has a brilliant new post I recommend you read. He’s written often how teachers are good people in a bad system and I always wondered what he meant by that. In this post, he fleshes that out quite a bit:

And yet, there are teachers all over this country doing their best. . . They are in the classrooms for 10-12 hours a day. They are bringing home papers to grade, and doing physics experiments with paper towel tubes, and as they hit their fifth, tenth, twentieth years in the classroom, they are forever making Faustian bargains about the balance between life and work. And let me say this — that’s no way to run a public education system. I want to celebrate every teacher who has made this job a calling. Thank you. But my concern is that this nation thinks that building an entire system around martyrdom is the way to go — that if you aren’t spending 80 hours a week and thousands of your own dollars, you can’t be an effective Title I school teacher.

Sound familiar?

I think because teachers rarely talk with colleagues outside our own schools, let alone outside our city, let alone outside our state, that we think we’re the only ones. We think it’s our own personal failings that are preventing us from finishing our work in a reasonable amount of time. Or we blame it on the demanding principal. Or it’s an unreasonable superintendent. Or it’s NCLB.

Then we feel guilty. What’s too much when it comes to the future of a child?

But it’s not just us. We’re all working very hard and more and more is being asked of us. And we’re getting tired. We’re losing control.

We hate to complain, we really do. But when our job starts to take over our entire life, we’re not just talking about dedication anymore, we’re talking about something else – something very unhealthy and out of balance.

At the end, Chris asks a good question: “How can we create schools where it does not require Herculean efforts to be a successful teacher?” Is such a thing possible?