Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tough Couple of Weeks

I'm afraid I've fallen into a rut. With Spring Break just a week-and-a-half away, motivation has been very hard to come by lately. Teaching is hard!! This isn't a revelation, I knew it was going to be hard, but man, this is exhausting.

The Sunday headline in the Honolulu Advertiser was "Hawaii Teachers Average 15.5 Work Hours Per Day." This was ridiculous for a couple of reasons. The first: it is partially true. As anyone who knows a teacher can attest, we work much more than the typical 40-hour work week. Courtney, being a much better teacher than I, regularly puts in 60 hours per week on school-related matter. This boils down to about 10 hours per day during the week (including time spent after school prepping for the next day) and 8-10 hours on the weekend lesson planning. We can chalk some of this up to the natural inefficiencies of a first-year teacher having to create everything from scratch, but it is still a hauntingly long work week. (I used Courtney as an example because my week is slightly shorter, as my school has implemented a scripted curriculum, thus less planning on my part).

The second reason why this Sunday story was ridiculous is that 60-hour weeks are significantly shorter than 77.5-hour work weeks! The data apparently came from a "study" commissioned by the Hawaii State Teacher's Union, and the HSTA placed a lot of the blame on the data collection required by No Child Left Behind. This is absurd! Courtney and I, inefficient first-year teachers, log an average of 60 hours/week.

This, however largely exaggerated it was, came as no surprise from an organization that couldn't care less about the quality of education our students receive. They care more about the number of recess duties we have to complete each week than the fact that at schools like mine, a majority of students aren't entering the next grade prepared. The HSTA has negotiated such a sweet contract for teachers that we get tenure here in Hawaii after just two years on the job. After that, performance matters very little, which is why only one class at my school had more than 50% proficiency last year in reading(the next highest was 36%), and only 15% of sixth graders finished the year proficient in math (according to statewide standards).

The problems are huge and incredibly frustrating, which has been part of my recent malaise. At the end of the day I am physically exhausted. My students are amazing, and so eager to learn, but I feel like they've got walls closing in around them. All I can do right now is make sure that I'm doing as much as I can for them during their time with me, but what happens next? They've got the worst high school in the state to look forward to (3% of last year's 10th graders were proficient in math).

Thanks to HSTA, I have 18 vacation days (on top of holidays and school breaks). I'll have tenure after teaching for 2 years and 1 day. My school can't require me to stay later than 2:45 on any given day (not even for parent-teacher conferences, so we end school early for those). Thanks to HSTA, I've got a stellar contract.

But who's representing my students?


Courtney said...

Couldn't have said it better!

Rob S said...

Great, great, great, great post.