True confession: I don’t love teaching as much as I did when I first started in this profession. It pains me to admit this, but I don’t think I am alone. In conversations with other teachers, I am hearing the same complaints. Teachers are increasingly overwhelmed, overworked, and unappreciated.
Why are we overwhelmed? Because instead of being able to teach children to love learning, we are now in the business of teaching them how to take tests. Those of you who have moved to standards-based report cards know what I am talking about. In our district, we have created three formative assessments for each standard we cover in a trimester. We are required to administer these tests at the beginning, sometime during, and at the end of the trimester for each standard. The goal is to show improvement towards mastering each concept. After each test, we intervene with those who are not grasping the concept in a variety of ways before testing again. This is all above and beyond the normal testing that has always occurred in a classroom. Is this what I signed up for when I became a teacher? Is this how you pictured yourself making a difference in your students’ lives? Is this really the way to get children excited about learning?
I am in my thirtieth year of teaching, and most people probably think that means I am coasting along doing less than I did when I started out. But I am working harder and longer hours with each passing year because so much more is demanded of teachers than ever before. Now, I don’t mind working harder if I feel I am working smarter. But I contend that we are losing sight of simple truths. Like the fact that repetitive testing is turning our kids off. And that teachers need to believe in and love what they are doing in order to be effective in the classroom. And that I can assess a student’s progress in a variety of ways, and testing is just one way. And that working harder doesn’t always mean working better.
And I feel unappreciated. No one will ever realize the additional hours I put in to try to meet my districts’ and state’s expectation that somehow I can get every student in my classroom to pass a test that has no real significance to them. We have even heard students voice the opinion (that they obviously have heard at home) that the tests are really to see how well the teacher is doing, not how well they are doing. When my students do score well, does anyone congratulate me on a job well done?
Again, I am working harder, enjoying it less, and not even recognized for the extra efforts I make. So, sadly, I find myself thinking more and more of retirement because my job is gradually become more work than it is a labor of love.