Back to School: A Teacher’s Wish List

It’s back to school time.  And teachers are FREAKING OUT.  Because it is almost Labor Day, and Summer is over.  The to-do lists are out. of. control.  The parents are already calling.  The administration is sending a million memos, some in print, some in digital form, a mixed media medley of messages that are often vague, full of jargon and these many forms of communication do not seem to align with one another.  We are worrying about our students, we are worried about our sanity, before we have even started.

The rest of you?  You are rolling your eyes and saying it’s about time you slackers had to get yourselves back in the working world with the rest of us.  Never mind that teachers generally put in enough overtime during the school year to compensate for all of that unpaid “time off” during the summer.  Or that they work second jobs during the Summer to make ends meet.  Or that even though they work during the Summer,  taking classes or preparing for the new year, they are only paid for nine months.  Ahem.

Regardless of your stance on teacher compensation or hours, I think everyone can appreciate these seemingly simply desires that every teacher wants, but usually does not receive, from September through June.

Time to pee.  Seriously.  There is no time to pee.  In between classes?  We’ve got students popping in, admin popping in, other teachers popping in, and not just to chat, but with some sort of need.  There is often a crisis.  We live by the bell, by the minute, by the semester and EVERY SECOND COUNTS.  We are in a bizarre time warp where things must be done NOW (even though what must be done NOW can realistically hardly be done EVER).  This is a problem for many reasons, but the no-peeing part is especially troublesome for those of us who have birthed children.

A desk that isn’t broken.  One of my students on the autism spectrum took out all of the wheels from several of my desk drawers, and those kind of things just don’t get fixed.  You just, for thirty years, have drawers that go thump thump thump thump, jumping a bit as you pull the drawers out or push them back in.

A chair that isn’t going to cause disc damage.  Okay, if that isn’t possible, at least A CHAIR.  I don’t have a chair, because the one I bought (which happened to be an exercise ball because I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a chair, and I have a relatively weak core) was lost when I moved classrooms.  Poof.  I blame privatization.  Our regular custodians would have made sure my chair made it to my new room.  It’s really not that far away.

Coffee.  No, this doesn’t just exist in any “teacher’s lounge” I’ve ever been in, unless it was in a coffee pot bought by a teacher, made with coffee bought by a teacher and, if it existed, was hopefully cleaned by a teacher.  Who knows when they had time to clean it….it probably wasn’t cleaned.  But, let’s be honest, we really care more about the coffee than the cleaning.

Time to drink coffee.  There is no such thing as a coffee break.  There is really hardly a lunch break. C’mon. I can’t believe more student scaldings don’t happen, to be honest.

Time to work by ourselves without interruption.  Planning period?  Hahahah!  That is filled with meetings and more meetings and, oh yea, STUDENTS.  Do you know, teachers have to plan what they are going to do when they stand in front of their students?  Do you know, teachers have to grade their students work?  Do you know, teachers benefit from collaborating with other teachers?  Time for any of these things is what teachers want.  So much more so than apple-shaped trinkets.

Pens.  Why is it so hard to get pens?  And pencils.  We need a million pencils for the kids. They are incapable of keeping one in their possession for an entire day.  And they are incapable of not stealing our pens.  Don’t get me started on tape.  I got an email from a co-worker last year saying that they would not be providing tape for their students because they were ON THEIR LAST ROLL OF TAPE and would not be providing any more. This is what teachers become at the end of May.  Barbaric tape deniers.

Tissue.  Maybe the kind that doesn’t cause chafing the first time you wipe your nostrils with it.  But, if that isn’t possible, we’ll take the tissue that feels like sandpaper.  I’ll take the sandpaper tissue.   I NEED SANDPAPER TISSUE.  Anything is better than my sleeve. Best case scenario if I don’t have any?  I’m wearing a pattern (that doesn’t show the snot so much).  But, my students?  They don’t even use sleeves.  If they don’t have tissues, they just use my air.  And my desks (which are also your kid’s air and desks, by the way).  Ew.

A cabinet that locks.  And ideally, a key that goes with it. Because if the stars align, maybe I can go pee.  But, I don’t want anyone to steal my wallet when I do.

For anyone making decisions about what happens in classrooms to actually have experience working in a classroom.  We can all have dreams, right?

Time to eat lunch.  At least, sometimes? Pretty please?

Assessments that aren’t arbitrarily changed from year to year. Oh wait, the change isn’t always arbitrary.  It’s usually based on profits for companies and cost-savings for our government…

Assessments that actually measure something of value.  Can anyone give me some proof that anything we assess actually has merit? Hello?  Bueller? I’m all for data.  I love data.  Just not pointless (even if well-intentioned) data.  And hell hath no fury like a teacher who cares about their students seeing them freak the heck out because of assessments that, in the long run, don’t mean anything.

More coffee.  There is never, ever, enough.

An automatic translator that turns what we are actually thinking into polite and professional language. Seriously, how do politicians and admins do this?

Wine.  Coffee only goes so far.

Time to work one on one with students.  We really want to help our students.  All of them.  That’s why we’re here.  We just can’t be everywhere and help everyone at the same time.  Anyone who says class size doesn’t matter has never been in the classroom.

Note that nothing on this wish list pertains to wishing the students were anything but themselves.  The students are the best.  They are why we keep coming back.  Parents, keep sending those lovely students of yours! They keep us going.

desk

By Malate269 (Own work) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Anything you’d add to the list?

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7 thoughts on “Back to School: A Teacher’s Wish List

  1. So, basically I can give my kids’ teachers a lovely crate of wine and tissues and they’ll think I’m the greatest? Poor teachers. I feel for all teachers and wish I could be queen of the American education system for long enough to double all teachers’ salaries.

  2. Hand sanitizer. Because germs.
    And I will echo the concept of having those who have taught be the ones making educational policy. And assessments that aren’t designed by for-profit corporations with no skin in the game other than delivering an “assessment” and collecting their fat paycheck from the State Dept. of Ed.

  3. It’s really simple…excellent teachers should select more excellent teachers and they should run the school and do the evaluations and create the method of assessment. Coffee would be delivered by parent volunteers using rolling carts. Teacher furniture would be selected by the individual teacher and all broken furniture, including that of students, would be sent to the district boardroom. Master teachers would be paid during the spring to recruit new teachers by traveling to campuses.When a new teacher who has been determined by his or her peers to be a master teacher signs a contract to continue teaching for 5 more years, they earn a $10,000 signing bonus. And, we should look at the Harlem Project which provides education and parental and training from birth to graduation. Oh, and we need career counselors to work with students to find job training programs that pay at least $50,000 and obtain a signed commitments from the future employer. Teacher programs at the universities should be taught by master teachers who have completed 25 years in the classroom and students entering would need a 3.5 GPA and letters of recommendation, New teachers would not need to begin taking classing for continuing certification until after their 5th year of teaching. Master teachers at the end of their 15th year will have all college loans excused.

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  5. Oh yes coffee, coffee, and more coffee. We would rush to the lounge to get coffee before the bell rang in the morning, it was always gone. And yes we bought it and made it ourselves.

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