Recently, a non-teacher friend told me that he would like to have teacher hours. I asked him to explain. “Well, you know. You go to work at 7:00 and leave at 3:00.” My fingers started twitching as they moved ever so slightly toward his throat. Then, I smiled through gritted teeth and asked him to explain what made him think that teachers only work between 7 and 3. His answer was simple—”Those are the hours you have kids. The kids walk in…you walk in behind them with your cup of hot coffee, you tell them a bunch of stuff, and then they leave. How hard is that?”
“How hard is that?” I thought. I had a million comments I could have made, but “Yes, officer, I understand my rights” wasn’t one I wanted to choose…and so, I locked my fingers behind my back and walked away.
“How hard is that?” Hmmm! We’ll I’ve give you an earful of how hard that is.
- Trying to get 36 students into their seat all at one time is sort of like trying to herd cats.
- Making a seating chart: 9 kids have to sit near the teacher (who, by the way, moves around the room for student engagement purpose…so, therefore, these students must have desks on wheels), 4 more won’t wear their glasses, so need to sit in the front of the room so they can see the board and the projector, 12 students need to be placed in the back or on the outside because they need to “hang” in their seats rather than sit, 2 EBD students and their full-time Para need to sit out of pencil-javelin toss distance, one has a hearing problem and needs to be near the sound system, one child in a wheelchair needs to be able to get in and out of the door quickly, two children need a locale in which they have room to crawl under their desk and roll around on the floor whenever the spirit moves them, 4 are blurters, 1 has Tourette’s (and not the kind where she just makes bird noises), and no one, and I mean no one, is allowed to sit next to Billy–per 35 parent phone calls. PLUS, 22 of your 36 came to you labeled as excessive talkers. If my classroom was the size of a football field, we might be able to make this seating arrangement work.
- Keeping 36 students, who would rather be almost anywhere else, quiet while someone is talking…not just the teacher, but anyone, ranks right up there with trying to wrestle a greased pig.
- Try to create an engaging lesson plan is which all 36 students are involved and learning—one that hits on every learning style–has difficulties of its own. It must include movement, music, individual work time, group work time, problem solving, vocabulary, spending time outside, and some sort of an art challenge.
- The lesson must have a hook and some sort of closure—and must start the minute students walk in the door. (Go, Madeline Hunter!)
- Teaching to auditory learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners is another challenge. In other words, in every lesson I prepare, I must say, show, and allow the kids to experiment with new information. (This is a problem when you are teaching about the atomic bomb!)
- Above all, you have to be nice—24/7. Teachers are required to grin through puke on their shoes, sneezes in his/her face, squeezing oneself into the middle of a fist fight between two boulder-sized kids (Only three times have I gotten a little too close to a fist…and only once did I actually lay on the floor writhing in a puddle of blood and pain), and having a gun pulled on him/her (Twice now…well, twice in school…that cop incident wasn’t really my fault).
- Don’t forget to keep them safe–no matter what! Making sure they feel loved, respected, and valued—always! Spence Rogers always tells teachers to focus on the color of their socks if you can’t find anything else good about them.
- Provide them water…all day long. And remember, what goes in, must come out…so reteach everything they missed while they were touring the inside of a bathroom stall.
- Play music…200 beats a minute to get their hearts moving and brain activated. Slow, reflective music to suck ’em back off the ceiling.
- Provide snacks…because no one can learn on an empty stomach. (I eat all the “almost outdated” snacks—someone has to. It explains the whole Fat/Phat Teacher thing.)
- Build movement into every lesson so information is logged into both sides of the brain. (Two-Two-Two brains in one!)
BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL:
- Correct papers, make comments, and enter grades into a system that goes out more often than I do.
- Create those lesson plans that take an army and/or a miracle to pull off.
- Attend concerts, recitals, sporting events, etc… all in an effort to build relationships with your students.
- Make parent phone calls and send emails. (Note: Those calls can be sent during your 13.7 minute lunch break—but make them fast. That time is also used to eat your Laughing Cow Cheese and crackers, visit the bathroom, and work with the students who are in your room for lunch detention.)
I could go on and on…but I won’t. But just so this friend knows, I don’t have time to go get coffee. Heck, I hardly have time to pee without someone pounding on the staff bathroom door yelling, “Hey, we need you!”
Teaching is not easy. THERE ARE NO TEACHER HOURS. Some nights I work until 10, and then I fall into bed. Other nights I never make it to bed at all; I wake up with computer key indentations pressed into my cheek and 12, 345 pages of the letter L in a word document.
So, my advice to you is this: the next time someone tells you that they wish they had teachers’ hours…you have two choices—however, I wouldn’t pick the assault and battery choice. It’s hard to get a teaching job once that’s on your record. 🙂 Rather, invite them in to observe what you do. Until they see it, they won’t believe it!
The Fat/Phat Teacher,
P.S. The most time I ever had in the bathroom without someone pounding on the door was when I got locked in. I pounded on the door for five minutes before anyone realized I needed help. Finally, I heard a student yell, “Hey, someone’s locked in the bathroom! Go get Mrs. P. She’ll know what to do.” I slid a paper towel under the door on which I had written, “This is Mrs. P. I’m locked in the bathroom.” The paper towel came back with new words scratched into it. “What should we do?” Obviously, I had not done a very good job of teaching them how to problem solve. It took ten minutes for the custodian to free my from the bathroom, and the only thought that ran through my mind was, “Wow! That was the first paid vacation I’ve ever gotten as a teacher.”