Classroom Caboodle is all about honesty. And being honest means sharing everything with you – especially the things that you won't read in a brochure for an education degree.
On this page I discussed the nature of the education “system.” I highly recommend you read it to learn the role you will be expected to play in it (whether you want to or not). This page is all about the day-to-day challenges.
Ready for some reality? Read on!
Personal time investment
On your next available weekend, I invite you to drive by the parking lots of three or four schools in your city. In every one of those parking lots, you will see cars. And that means there are teachers inside the buildings working on the weekend to get ready for the coming week.
You can take the same drive in July or August, and you’ll see teachers working during summer break in order to prepare for the coming year.
You will find yourself doing exactly the same thing, no matter how much you commit to not doing it. That's because there are way more tasks to accomplish during the school day or school week than can possibly be accomplished given the time available.
So, what gets squeezed out of the school day and into your weekend is prep and planning.
You see, in our modern system, teachers are expected to teach so many things that there is literally not enough time to teach it all, which is why you will end up donating fairly large portions of your personal time to your career.
Don't ever fool yourself – or let your friends tell you – that teachers work part-time jobs and get all kinds of time off. Yes, it is nice to get those long holidays and summer breaks. But you're not getting paid for those breaks, and you are still going to be working during them.
With time and experience – often a few years – this time commitment will moderate. If your curriculum remains stable, you will become an expert in efficiently preparing to teach it. But all bets are off when new standards or new curricula are rolled out! Inevitably, you will see your time spent on preparation rise.
You will be amazed at how many tests your children are expected to take – it can literally be five tests within the first three days of school. And it never relents after that.
School systems across the country have suddenly discovered data. After many decades of essentially ignoring data or failing to collect it in an accurate fashion, they have jumped wholeheartedly on board with the trends you see in every other business in America. Results matter, and, in order to understand whether results are being achieved, you must measure.
The testing, of course, has two purposes. The first is to make an attempt at ensuring that students are actually making progress. The second is to hold teachers accountable for this student progress.
It will likely take many years before the education system becomes experienced enough with data collection to do it in a sophisticated manner that is not applied like a hammer to our young students. In the meantime, you will need to brace yourself for the reality of testing and, in spite of any personal feelings you may develop, not take it out on your children.
All of these tests are based on standards…
Standards, standards, and more standards
Standards in some form are here to stay. Many people have very strong opinions regarding the Common Core State Standards. I personally am a proponent, and nearly all of my products are closely correlated with them. For example, these Common Core guidebooks.
Common Core has gotten a lot of bad press for the consequences (testing) that it causes and some of the ill-conceived curricula that publishers have produced. But the standards themselves are a pretty comprehensive effort to gather in one spot everything a child should know from kindergarten through twelfth grade in reading, writing, and math.
Still, I’ll grant that reasonable minds can disagree. However, disagree or not, you’ll find that you have no choice whatsoever in implementing them or other some other set of standards adopted by your state.
As I said above, standards in some form are here to stay, if for no other reason than the common-sense notion that ten-year-olds across the country should be learning generally the same thing at the same time – and, frankly, should be learning at the same or higher level than ten-year-olds in other countries.
Change will be your constant companion throughout your teaching career. It's been a long time since a teacher could pull out her well-worn lesson plans and repeat the same thing she had done for years.
It is highly likely that you will be experiencing a moderate level of change in curriculum, methodology, or priorities every single year and a significant amount of change at least once every three years.
My biggest recommendation is to make the commitment that you won't be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way! Change is inevitable, and getting on board as quickly as possible will lessen the stress on you.
If it's any consolation, you can discuss the rate of change with your friends who work for profit-making corporations. Be warned, however, that they will not have much sympathy for you!
You will need to become very comfortable with technology integration. Having worked many years as a technology facilitator, I can tell you that this is probably one of the biggest difficulties teachers have.
This isn’t exclusive to teachers who have been around for a few decades; even new teachers have difficulties fully integrating interactive, engaging technology into their daily teaching and learning.
The issue is that most teachers are pretty good with what I call “easy” technology, such as updating their status on their smartphones. But being good at basic consumer technology does not prepare you for navigating complex, interactive websites (or facilitating your students to do so) or creating engaging, interactive whiteboard lesson plans.
These skills must be learned, and it doesn't help that some of the platforms are not all that user-friendly.
Technology is an incredible education multiplier, which is why it is being increasingly integrated into absolutely everything. My advice? Embrace it. Your students do! I'll talk about it more in the lesson-planning chapters.
Don't get disillusioned!
Okay… well! This has not been a very motivational article, has it? But it’s been necessary, I think. My allegiance is to you, the new teacher, and not the system. And you deserve to know everything about teaching, warts and all.
Need to recharge your motivation? Read some of these teaching quotes!