Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dear Teachers

After a month on the job in two different schools I am getting to know the faculty.  Seeing each class come into the library is an interesting observation in how the teachers relate to their respective classes.  I've seen some real gems and some real turds.  These are some of the things I want to say.  The positive ones I have or I will.  The negative ones.....well....you all get to be witness to those thoughts.  Names are changed to protect the innocent and even the guilty.

Dear Mr. A,
I love to see your class come through the door not because they are all perfect angels but because they are generally happy. After seeing the way you interact with them and getting to speak with you at lunch I can't help but think part of that is because of the climate you create in your classroom and the way you respect them.  You also expect them to demonstrate respect to you and to those around them and even their environs.  You've been in this school, which has a far less than stellar reputation, for most of your long career and you still say this is where you want to be with all your heart.  It shows.  Thank you.  You are an inspiration.

Dear Mrs B,
Please go visit Mr. A's class and take notes.  Your students all come into the library with looks of terror.  They all seem afraid to ask questions and apologetic if they work up the courage to do so.  When you ripped into a boy who respectfully challenged me about a book I thought he owed the library I understood why.  He may only be a little kid but sometimes kids are right and adults are wrong.  That day I discovered I was wrong when I double checked my records and I told you and your student so.  Your verbal attacks were upsetting to both your student and to me because they were personal, vicious, and unprofessional.  Please chill the hell out or retire before you damage any more developing psyches.

Dear Ms. C,
You demonstrate a wonderful ease with your class.  They respect you and yet they have fun with you.  They feel free to ask you about things they don't understand or just share some wild imaginings. You listen and you explain things to them well.  You have a wonderful sense of humor.  Oh, and we are kindred spirits with regard to curiosity and love of words.  Out of two schools you are the only teacher who seemed to really dig that I taught the classes the word bibliophile and you alone asked your class if they remembered the word.  Thank you for 1) not feeling threatened by an uppity paraprofessional who didn't know her place, 2) not thinking I was out of my mind to teach it to 6 year olds, and 3) for celebrating logophilia!  You rock as a teacher and as a colleague.

Dear Miss D,
I know it's the end of the day and you're tired when your class comes to the library but get the hell up off your lazy ass already.  I will help as many as I possibly can but between checking in all the books they return and then checking out all their new ones in the 20 minutes while your class is here I only have so much time to help your group of first graders find things....or keep them from tearing half the books off the shelves.  I'm also limited by the laws of physics and have yet to figure out how to be in two places at once. You sitting in the corner farthest from the shelves and shouting at them is really not helpful.  Get up.  Go into the stacks.  Make yourself useful as more than a paperweight.

Dear Mr. E and Mrs. F and your respective paras,
You each have small groups of autistic students with high needs.  You do a wonderful job with them. One of you is gentle and affirming.  The other is more firm but also has a silly side.  You and your paras have a thankless job that is often overlooked by other faculty and the administration.  I see what you all do and you do it well.  I'm so glad you bring your kids to the library and I am so glad to help them.

Ms. G,
If Mr E and Mrs. F can manage to bring their students to the library each week there is no defensible reason why you cannot bring your class of typically developing students to the library.  Your refusal to let them have any library privileges at all for the entire year makes no sense.  Your job is to impart knowledge and inspire the natural curiosity the children have.  Denying them books runs counter to that in every way.

Mrs. H,
Wow!  You are a force to be reckoned with.  Just wow!  What you have overcome to continue doing your job is just mind-boggling.  Mere mortals would have just been glad to be alive and called it a day but not you.  You came back with a vengeance.  You deal with massive amounts of garbage from the powers over you too and yet you adapt and move on....but you also give hell to anyone who gets in your way.  I'm sure some people are scared to death of you because you do not suffer fools gladly.  Personally, I am in awe of you.

Mrs I,
Would you please gain some degree of control over your class.  I'd really appreciate it.  I don't expect silence in the library but my minimal request is that it not be regarded as a second gym class.  Climbing the shelves, over the tables, running all over the place, and everyone shouting to be heard  are a bit much.

Mrs. J and Miss K,
Thank you so much for taking the time to give me some kind words and let me know you appreciate that I am here.  Thank you for telling me you think I do a great job with the kids.  Thank you for not seeing me as "just a para" but for seeing that I have some skills and that I really care about the job I do regardless of the title I have.  I appreciate the affirmation and the support.


Stephen Hayes said...

Your post reminds me of how much I miss libraries. I used to go to libraries all the time but now that time is spent on the computer. I think I'm missing something.

Leave It To Davis said...

There is nothing in the world more vauluable than a GREAT teacher. I love all your descriptions...we have all known some of each kind, whether by being a student, or a parent of a student, or a school employee. I have been all three and have known some wonderful, kind, patient teachers...also some that were not so patient or kind, but who were great at teaching, just the same...and then there were those who were overpaid babysitters...and the ones who wouldn't even qualify for that title.

Bijoux said...

I'm just wondering how Mrs. G gets away with that? Isn't there a state mandate about library time? Just ridiculous.
But fun to read your insights.

Sailor said...

I could recognize a couple of teachers I had, way back then, in your descriptions, thanks for sharing this & making me think of how much I owe the good ones. (Okay, so I "saw" more of the bad, but thankfully I did have one good).

Anonymous said...

Huh, seems like some of your teachers work in my office, where I'm the "para".

Beach Bum said...

Great post!

God bless teachers, while my kids have had a few bad ones most of them are the best examples of our society.

Daryl said...

i wish all the losers could read this

Uncle Skip, said...

The good ones will only aspire to be better.
The others probably won't recognize themselves.

Pearl said...

I love all the things you must see in a day!


Craver Vii said...

I missed Library one day when I was little. It was a punishment for being too slow to do my math problems. The teacher left me alone in the classroom, and I had no one available to give me permission to go to the bathroom. By the time the class returned, I did not need to do #1 any more. It was terribly embarrassing. To this day, I enjoy going to the library, but I'm still really slow at math. I should have ignored the bathroom rules and ventured out when I needed to go, but I didn't have a rebellious bone in my body. (sigh) I just needed to let that off my chest. How much do I owe you, Doc?

Kat said...

Great teachers are absolutely priceless. I feel this even more so this year with Joey's AWESOME teacher. She really gets kids, and wants to foster who they are. I just love her so much.
And yes, there are those who shouldn't even be teaching. Much less teaching young kids. Bah. Infuriating.
Love the letters! :)

Suldog said...

Teachers are able to make such a huge difference, one way or the other. I had a handful of teachers I truly loved. They made their classes a joy to attend. Even if it was a subject for which I didn't care, or one I wasn't very good at, I still liked going because they respected me, made me laugh, or something that made it possible I might actually learn that day. Unfortunately, there were way more of the other kind, and that's why, overall, I detested school and couldn't wait to get out of it as soon as I was legally able.

Hilary said...

I wonder how the less than stellar teachers would feel to know how transparent they are to the "para" and ultimately to most others including the kidlets. When my kids were in elementary school (a place I spent much of my week as a volunteer) they had a librarian for a while who was much like Miss D. She didn't like her job. She didn't like the kids. She didn't belong. If only the kids had you. I'm glad you're doing what you do.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I din't know teachers were even allowed to refuse to let their kids go to the library. I wonder if the principal/superintendant is aware?

Dave said...

Thanks for presenting these comments Michelle. You are an excellent communicator and this blog shows it. Well done and thanks for the knowledge of your work environment - Dave

Anonymous said...

The most eye opening thing I ever did was program reviews of different high schools throughout the state of Rhode Island.

Of the dozens of classes I visited and reviewed, and the teachers and students I came away realizing that a good teacher is worth their weight in gold.

But two cases stand out in my mind. One teacher in a rural school district. He was gung-ho about making sure his kids knew the material. I even ended up on his advisory board.

Another one in a suburban school - was teaching the kids the Microsoft Access suite. They were working with Excel that day, doing a payroll spreadsheet. To get the tax info they had to consult a cheat sheet.

So I asked a few of the kids and the teacher if they knew about VBA and if they had any intention of integrating that into the curriculum.

The teacher looked at me and said "To program a computer you need to take advanced math." My incredulity was probably evident. In my report I wrote that the highest level of math one probably needed was pre-algebra. If you understood the basic functions and precedence and maybe knew Hexadecimal and Binary you could program the hell out of any computer or app.

Now here's the other part, I have a B.Sc in Information Science. Yes - and I'm toying with getting a masters in Info Sci and Library Science. Plus my background in the I.T. field - I'd end up as a systems librarian.

I believe EVERY kid should be taught how to code. It's not that complex. Some of the theory yeah - but it has heavy applications in the mathematical and physical sciences.