Saturday, April 6, 2013

Clean your room.

Thankless jobs are everywhere. It comes with being a socially functional, contributing member of society. This is an ode to some of the people that I work with, with a quick note about my sister.

I have a little sister, and she is awesome. She is athletic, gets solid grades, and is good at the piano. There are some things wrong with her, as there are with any 14 year old girl-the biggest of which is that she can’t keep her room clean. Now, I remember when I was around her age, that I would be put on the rack if my room wasn’t clean. Did I do a good job of it? Hardly, but compared to the maelstrom that is generally the condition that I see my sister’s room in, my room when I was a kid was a surgical prep room.

So what? Occasionally, I would try to stress upon her that if she did a little bit to keep her room clean, then she would not get grief from our parents, and that keeping your room clean is a thankless job-if you do a good job of it, you will not receive much, if any praise, but if you do a poor job of it, then you will raked over the coals.

Let’s say that the message hasn’t sunk into my sister’s head yet. But she is 14, and she will have plenty of time to learn about thankless jobs.

For the first three years of my teaching career, I have had the opportunity to work with some awesome teachers. I would classify teaching as a similar activity to keeping your room clean. If you do a solid job of it, you get little to no recognition, but if you do a crappy job of it, then you hear about it from the students, who will only make your life more difficult, and from the parents and administration.

This is an ode to some of the teachers that I have worked with that are deserving of more praise.

A lot of teaching is done far removed from eyes of parents, students, and administrators. Some of the time and effort can be seen by family members, or coworkers, assuming that you are taking work home, or your coworkers are still at school when you are doing the work. These hours are spent planning, grading, responding to parent emails, dealing with whatever paperwork that needs to be done for various students for legal reasons. These hours add up quickly, that go far beyond whatever prep periods you have where you are not interacting directly with students.  These hours go unnoticed. You don’t get paid for them, there is little to no opportunity for advancement within the field, and there is no bonus check waiting for you at the end of the year for a job well done.  In the classroom, you must balance being demanding and understanding, dealing with requests from the students in your classroom, requests from other teachers, and finding a way to keep your sanity through all of it.

The teachers that deserve the most praise are the ones who are doing this, and are able to raise a family. Who are coming up with creative lesson plans, new laboratory activities, and still find the time to spend time with their family-cooking dinner, coaching their kid’s basketball team, making the soccer games, etc. I am in awe at times of how they do it. I struggle with keeping my head above water with my plans and coaching, and they are doing that plus dealing with family demands.

So to name names:
Emil Davis-he was my mentor at Bruton High School in Williamsburg, Virginia. He will get a more complete post later. He has three awesome daughters, teaches in a rough school, gets results and improves his students every day. He was a coach for the track team at William and Mary, and now coaches at the high school level. Some don’t like his methods. His methods work, and get work done. He does work.

 Molly Sandling-teaching AP US history, coaching the Jamestown High School Swim team, raising her son. She guided me through my first two seasons of coaching, and is a demanding teacher. She has incredible balance in her teaching and coaching. She can coax anything out of a student or athlete-a higher score, better writing, a faster swim, she can get it out of them.

Kristin Cosby-While things were crazy at Jamestown, she kept the science department solid. She was the reason why I made it through my first year of teaching-pretty much carrying me through the chemistry curriculum. I had no idea what it was to be a teacher-I had been carried on Emil’s shoulders for my student teaching. She had lessons, labs and everything I needed available. While she was making sure that I didn’t set off fire alarms with demos, she completely changed the AP Chem curriculum, was the department chair, and took care of her kids and family.

Shelley Seto, Marna Chamberlain. I had Shelley as a teacher when I went to Piedmont High. Back then, she was scary, primarily because I was a freshman, and she was intense. Marna and Shelley are both biology teachers at Piedmont who have been tasked with teaching the Physical Science class-an optional course for freshman. They are currently re-writing the curriculum so that the course can be more engaging-an incredibly time consuming task. In addition to those duties, they both teach engaging courses, care for their kids. Shelley has taken the place of Kristin as I switched schools-keeping my head above water in the biology curriculum. She has made sure that the course stays on pace, and is filled with engaging labs. Marna teaches AP Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology (imagine planning one course. Now do it three times.) She coaches her son’s basketball team.

There are a ton more that I could add to this list. With the exception of Shelley, I have not included any of my former teachers from when I was a student. But for the the two science departments that I have worked in, they have shown me how much work it takes to be a teacher.

This blog post will be expanded when I am not so tired. And probably edited too.

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