Friday, July 12, 2013


Overheard...  everywhere:

Teachers make too much money.
Teachers have the whole summer off.
Teachers have it easy.

And the best one of all:

I could teach. It's not that hard.

Teaching is the one profession where most people think, given an opportunity, they could go into a classroom and do it.


Because everyone has been to school.
Everyone has had experience being in schools and "doing" school

These same folks would not dream of thinking they could do "doctoring" for a day, or do "piloting" with no training.

But everyone--our politicians, legislators, ministers, and neighbors--think they could successfully reform and run the schools, manage our classrooms, design our various curriculum, create dynamic lessons, and reach 100% achievement in all areas with all students.

The rising number of charter schools and schools in church basements started by  two ladies sitting in the last pew are evidence of this.

In reality, teachers-- good teachers, the ones you want your children to have, the ones most teachers I know strive to be-- spend at least part of their summer thinking about the coming year, preparing materials, reading the latest professional books or potential new books for their students, meeting and planning with colleagues, as well as attending classes, seminars and conferences.

They are also out spending their own money-- lots of it-- to buy books and other supplies for their classrooms and their students.

And they are doing all of this under an ever-growing weight of testing and assessments, teacher evaluations heavily weighted on the same,  new federal and state legislation, expanding curriculum, and increased diversity of needs in their students. 

In Success Stories From a Failing School: Teachers Living Under the Shadow of NCLB (PB)  by Marilyn Johnston-Parsons and Melissa Wilson, teachers at an urban school share poignant stories of the successes they were able to accomplish, as well as the hindrances of the enormous amount of testing and other artificial activities centered around NCLB "accountability." 

When this book was first published, many of the essays, letters, dialogues and other pieces were performed locally by these teachers. What a powerful image this presented of life for both students and teachers under No Child Left Behind !

We do not realize the mounting responsibilities of teachers--it has grown steadily since the beginning of the last century.  Jamie Vollmer gives us a glimpse of the expansion of curriculum and required duties--decade by decade-- in The Ever Increasing Burden on America's Public Schools.

Many people, groups.... and  books suggest answers for our schools.
Some suggest that just changing one thing will make a huge difference. 

 In Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton,  it is the arrival of an extraordinary substitute who played music and invited  the children to draw and write to the music that made all the difference--turning an ordinary school day and  an ordinary school into something extraordinary.

Is there really some one miraculous thing that will do it? 

Some folks think we that more time--added to the day, the week, the school year-- is the answer.  They think more of whatever we are doing will do the trick.

In A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech, the principal gets caught in this trap.  His school is great and he erroneously thinks more "school" will produce an even finer school.  Of course, this plan backfired and everyone concluded that what made their school fine in the first place was the best path.

And then there are proponents of creative schools that foster inquiry and discussion and collaboration and authentic thinking and learning --which is also fun for both the students and the teachers.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! by Dr. Seuss, with Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith, tells about just such a school.  And... because the kids in this school did learn both to think and how to learn... they did great on the test!

We all want our schools to be wonderful.  
Teachers I know work hard to make this happen every day.
They spend their time and their efforts to make this happen for each and every student they touch.

Both  Mr. Falker and Mr. Lincoln, characters in two books by Patricia Polacco, are that kind of educator, the kind we may have been blessed to have in our lives, the kind we pray for in our own childrens' lives... and the kind we teachers want to be when we grow up.

We all want our schools to be wonderful.  
And I repeat, the teachers I know work hard to make this happen every day.
They spend their time and their efforts and their money to make this happen for each and every student.

These teacher are classics.

They don't make too much money.
They don't have it easy
They don't spend their summer doing nothing.

And just anybody CAN NOT walk in their shoes and do what they do.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What changes would you like to see in our schools and public education?
What is the best way to accomplish the changes  you desire?
Write a letter to the editor or draw up a petition to initiate your suggestions.

Write a poem, narrative or essay about your experiences in school--positive or negative.
You may remember a special teacher, or a particular day that made all the difference for you.


  1. This is such an important message for everyone, Robin. Whenever somebody asks me what I'm doing "with my time off", I've been sure to explain about CAWP, blogging, Twitter, workshops, planning, etc. so they can understand how hard most teachers work over the summer. I love how you sprinkled the related books throughout your post -- reading it felt just like being back at CAWP! :-)

  2. Jen, I think it is so important that folks know what teachers actually do-- so many picture us only standing in front of a class and don't realize what goes on behind, before, and after the scene.

    Glad I could give a little extra "CAWP". ;-)