That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control


That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

One thing that I’ve heard from students and parents alike, as well as random people in the world, are that teachers don’t do enough or we don’t do our jobs. For the first year of my teaching job, I thought the number of people who hated us was very small, but it’s not. It’s an extremely large number and after reading several Takes on G@G, I see the trend is still continuing. Now, I don’t speak for every state or district because each place has a different set of teachers, different contracts, different laws, and various union powers. But these are some things that I, as I start my 4th year at an urban district on August 16th, have no control over that most people think I do.

1. Bell and Class Schedules
That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

Teachers have no say over the bell schedules of a building. I’m not really sure where the myth comes from that we do. In fact, as of today, August 13th, we don’t even have a master schedule written so I have no clue what students will be in my room on Tuesday. A huge complaint among students that I have had is the lack of time between classes to get anything done. Last year, students had 5 minutes, which I thought was a fair amount of time.

However, students this year now only have 3. And the teachers were not asked for any input. In fact, I’ve never been asked what I thought about the schedules (that in my building have been changed 5 times since I started working there) and the amount of time students spend in a classroom. And from what I’ve heard from teacher friends in other districts and states, they have not had a different experience.

2. Student and Building Rules
That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

Again, we have zero say in the rules for the building. Sure, we get to make signs that say ‘Be respectful’ or ‘Keep your hands to yourself’ for our rooms, but as far as hall passes, bathroom passes, and cell phones, we usually don’t have a say in how that works. I used to allow students to listen to music in my room with their own headphones or look up information online with their phones for classwork due to the lack of computers available, as did other teachers.

That is, until several administrators told me we are a ‘no cell phone’ school and docked me points on an evaluation, a policy that was never relayed to me when I started working there and is not in the Student Code of Conduct. It was quite literally an ‘unwritten rule’. I then had to tell my students that if they used their phone, I had to confiscate it and give it to the Principal. I told them why and was then told by administration that I shouldn’t have told them the administration instructed me to do so. Why? According to them, it negatively effects how the students view and respect them and it was my fault for not following the rule in the first place (that very same rule that wasn’t communicated to me nor written down anywhere in a rule book).

It then became policy that teachers cannot tell students if the administration is responsible for a rule change unless the administration gives permission to do so. Several friends I graduated with have reported their schools did the same thing to them with the 'unwritten rules'. So if your teacher does something out of the ordinary or something really dumb, 8/10 times, it was probably the administrations idea and you just didn’t know it. And, no, that cell phone 'rule' was never added to the Student Code of Conduct or Employee Handbook.

3. Student and Building Consequences

That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

At most, a teacher can assign a detention. That’s the most I can do. I can’t do anything beyond that. For example, the high school I teach in had a rule last year that if you had ‘3 strikes’ for the day, you went home the rest of the day and it was documented as a suspension. The student was permitted to come back the first day. Stupid, right? Yeah, don’t look at teachers for rules like that. If there’s ever a stupid rule, there’s always a stupid consequence that follows, and I promise you, teachers had little say in it.

Also, some students have something called an IEP, which means they are a part of the special education program and they therefore get a different consequence because it’s a law. Yes, a law. Most students that have an IEP cannot be suspended for more than 3 days unless they do something extremely stupid like bring a knife to school. That means that Johnny can be suspended 10 days, but Jack only 3 if they got in a fight simply because Jack as an IEP. Doesn’t matter who started it.

4. Standardized Tests

That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

I teach sophomores. Here are the tests my sophomores will be taking this year: MAP, Achieve3000, STARS, AIR, SLO, ACT End of Course, ALEKS, ACT Prep, Common Core… There’s probably more, but I don’t feel like searching through my email to find out because I already have enough of a headache. Only one of these tests (AIR) is mandated by the state for graduation requirements, but our district has opted for more, and some of these programs, like Achieve3000, has to be implemented once a week throughout the year.

The means at least one day a week, I’m given a lesson plan by the program to teach and the students must test on the lesson immediately afterwards and show a certain percentage of growth. These tests require computers that we simply do not have and I don’t even make the questions. In fact, the only test listed that I make the questions for is SLO. That means, with just one program, my students will take between 30-35 tests during the year in my room alone. And these same programs are implemented in every classroom. 6 classes multiplied by 30 tests is 180 tests and that’s not including the rest listed.

And, once again, no one asked the teachers. Here’s the worst part: Our district doesn’t even offer the most tests, not by a long shot. And most tests require the district to pay the programs to use them.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Achieve3000 and SLO are the only tests the directly impact the student’s grade.

5. Snow Days

That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control

I hate this one so much. It sounds funny, but it’s actually really stupid. Students and parents have asked me why the teachers decided to have school with dangerous road conditions due to snow, ice, and weather. One day, we went to school when the temperature was -10 degrees with a wind chill of -32 (will never forget it because students complained all day about it) and they blamed the teachers because we didn’t want to have extra work days at the end of the year so we could ‘start enjoying our vacations’.

Newsflash: We didn’t want to be there, either. The only people who have to go in on a snow day are administrators. Teachers and students have a free day off. I mean, come on, common sense should tell you teachers do not control whether or not a district closes for the day. I mean, think about it: Who the f*** turns down a paid day off? No one, I tell you, NO ONE.

So…if you guys could stop blaming teachers for AT LEAST some of these things…that would be great.

That Teacher Life: 5 Things I Can't Control
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