This is a message from my wife, a BC teacher. Comments will be moderated and I will remove those deemed asinine…
Friends and Family,
If you have not already blocked me or “unfollowed me,” PLEASE READ this one last post before you do. It comes from MY heart.
I am a teacher. I LOVE teaching, LOVE my class, and LOVE my students (maybe not every moment of every day, but that wouldn’t be realistic). I even LOVE my school, my coworkers and my principal (yes, it is hard to believe, I know).
I worked hard to become a teacher. I was never satisfied with “just getting through,” but needed to be the best. Even now as a more veteran teacher, I work hard to do the best I can do and to be the best that I can be. I know that I can always do better. I want my lessons to be exciting. Actually, I want my lessons to be life altering. But no matter how hard I work at home and in the classroom, I will never be able to really do my job properly. Just typing this brings tears to my eyes. It KILLS me that I cannot be everything and do everything for my students. No matter what I do, I am not enough.
Let me talk about my Grade 1 classes. I have taught this grade at my school long enough to know that though students change, the composition of my class remains generally the same. I average around 22 students (some years more). I should consider myself lucky that I am not always filled to 24. As a Grade 1 teacher, I rarely have students that start the year with any special needs categories or designations. That means that I don’t qualify to have any extra support in my class. I alone need to meet everyone’s needs AND teach them all how to read, write, add and subtract.
In every class I have taught, there are always 2-4 students who will struggle academically. I try my best during every pencil to paper activity to sit at a back table with them (and anyone else who is having trouble with the concept being reviewed). These students will often do nothing unless I am there to guide them step by step through every worksheet, journal and project. They don’t do anything independently because they legitimately can’t. I do my best to meet their needs.
In the same class I will have 3-4 capable students who are unable to focus without someone constantly keeping them on task. These students also need me to sit with them in order to get any work done. If I don’t repeatedly refocus them, writing 4 sentences can take a full day. I also work hard to provide these students (along with my whole class) with a wide variety of physical breaks throughout the day. I do my best to meet their needs.
Still in the same class, I will have 1-2 students who are behavior challenges. They usually have trouble controlling their emotions. When they are upset or angry, they can sometimes hurt others. I even had a 6 year old who threw chairs. Usually, though, they just hit, kick or say mean things. These students are dying for my attention. They act out because their basic needs in life aren’t being met. Some are hungry, some are dealing with difficult issues at home, and some are lonely. There are so many reasons that they are hurting, but they need me to help them. I need to stay near these students so that I can intervene before they hurt someone or they disrupt their neighbours (or the whole class). These students get the most of my time and energy because they DEMAND it. I do my best to meet their needs.
This class also has 1-2 very quiet and insecure students. These students do their best to fade into the background. They want to avoid attention. They will say nothing even when they don’t understand what is being taught. They are hesitant to join me at the back table when I am providing small group help. They don’t want to “bother me.” I try my best to get to these students at their desk to see how they are doing. Sadly, I rarely make it there before it is time to move on to the next subject. But I do my best to meet their needs.
Every class also has 1-2 students who are “brilliant.” These are not always naturally gifted students, but are sometimes students who work very hard to be the best. These students are bored to tears as I review “C-A-T” or how to “add 1” in math. They need to be challenged. Realistically though, they are only 6 years old and still require that I spend time with them to go over any more challenging work and to be available to answer their questions that come up. They cannot be independent. I rarely have time to spend with these students because there are so many more in the class who need me. I do my best to meet their needs.
The rest of my students are the neglected group. They are capable students who can usually get their work done in the allotted time. They have better control over their emotions and have more refined social skills. It may sound like these students are doing fine without me, but they also need me. They need me to comfort them when their cat dies. They need me to acknowledge their successes, even the smallest triumphs. They need me to take an interest in their lives. They need attention. Sadly, I do not always have time to touch base with each of these students on a daily basis. I do my best to meet their needs.
BCTF is my union. The union is helping me fight for more. Yes, I really do think I deserve a raise. Prices for gas, power, food, everything is going up. I work hard and I have a stressful job. I provide an essential service.
But the union is helping me fight for more than that. We are fighting for an educational system that will actually help teachers meet the needs of students. I WANT to meet the needs of each one of my students. They all deserve to have their needs met. I need to have smaller classes. I need to have support for my distracted students, my struggling students, my quiet students, my behavior students, my “brilliant” students, and my average students. I need a librarian that can work with me to teach information literacy and the love of reading. I need a learning assistance teacher who has enough time to come into my classroom and help meet the needs of my most at risk students (so that I can try to meet everyone else’s needs). I need to know that support staff will be replaced when they are home sick.
But the union is helping me fight for even more than that. We are fighting to restore 2002 funding to our schools. Imagine how much cheaper everything was in 2002. Our school boards are being crippled by a government that requires it to make cuts to meet unrealistically low budgets. We live in a “have” province, yet our school districts are given $1000 LESS per student than the national average. I need to have a school budget that actually allows me to buy art supplies and materials for science experiments. I need to be given enough school supplies to last the entire year. I need a full-time custodian who can help us keep our class clean and safe. I need computers that are up-to-date enough to perform required tasks (my classroom computer is so old that it is unable to connect to the internet). I need to have textbooks and materials that reflect the current curriculum. I need to have a globe that includes Nunavut. I need to have hands-on materials and games needed to make learning fun and active. I need a hot lunch program to feed my students who are hungry. I need Kleenex and Band-Aids that stick.
So before you remove me from your FB wall, please take a moment to think about what you would want for your children, your grand-children, your nieces and nephews. Then, tell the government that it is time that teachers are given the working conditions needed to meet EVERY student’s needs.