We expect a lot of teachers and we expect it to come at the sacrifice of their personal life, family, and sanity. With the changes in science education we want them to teach in a phenomena based format, with students driving the process. We want them to create clear connected sequences of learning for every standard of multiple preps. We have always wanted them to collaborate with their teams. We want them to create common formative assessments. We want them to evaluate student learning data from those assessments and identify students needing intervention or enrichment. We want them to create and provide options for these students they have just identified as needing intervention or enrichment. We want them to provide individualized instruction to those needing it. We want them to keep all students moving towards the performance expectation. We want them to create online organized learning management systems [LMS] for all their classes. We want them to incorporate technology. We want them to grade student work quickly and correctly. We want them to give timely feedback to every student. We want them to communicate frequently with their parents. We want them to run bus duty. We want them to run school teams. We want them to take a productivity to lower class sizes. We want them to run committees. We want them to raise money for programs. We hold them responsible for all of this and so much more. Then we give them at most an hour and half a day to make it happen. Usually it is less than this due to science teachers taking on productivity (extra class period in place of prep) in an attempt to lower class sizes. The rest of the time they are focused on students which is why they got into this in the first place. My point is we all want the current changes in science education. We know and the teachers know it is better for our students, the community, and the world, but right now are teachers plates are full.
Teachers should not have to do it all. They should have lessons, assessments, digital tools, LMS organization, and multiple different teaching sequences for every performance expectation. Along with the ability to change these supports based on their collaborative team work, personal creativity, and student outcomes. We put too much of the burden on teachers and what they are expected to create. With the time they are given in their contract they should NOT have to create any of these things but should have it available to use in ways that supports student learning, intervention, and enrichment. They should have an assessment system to create formative checks along with the flexibility to change it and adjust it. They should have multiple options for storylines that all lead to the performance expectation, so they have choice and can be creative. They should also have access to a LMS template they can adjust to save time and make them more organized.
I believe creating all of this stuff is not their job even though over time it has been placed on their shoulders, it is our job. It is the job of the support staff. All of us that work day in and day out to make the education machine work. The system is failing teachers by expecting things of them that is not reasonable given the current educational system and our teachers reality. For example one of my friends who teaches Jr. high science has a contract start time for the day of 7:45am and their classes start at 8:05. So he has 20 minutes in the morning where he is not teaching. Which is typically used to work with some of his 250 students or get ready for the day. From 8:05-2:55 he is working with students and teaching. His contract time ends at 3:15pm so he has another 20 minutes after school that is once again usually used on working with students and answering questions. He is on productivity like many science teachers which means he takes a few bucks and looses his prep period to teach another section. Some teachers choose not to do this so they get a prep period that is typical 45-55 minutes. So, he has at the most an hour and half to do all of things I mentioned above and more for 250 students. Usually he is so worn out by the end of the day that just staring at the wall and relaxing his brain is worthy of his time. Elementary teachers have between 25-36 students but they have to grade and support them in science, math, language arts, art, and social studies. I bring this up to paint a picture for how the expectation does not match the reality of their job. Their job is to interact with students, support them, teach them, remediate them, and help them grow. Their job is not to do all of that plus create all the other stuff, however we expect it of them regardless.
We want teachers to do all of these amazing things and then we do not support them with the foundation needed to make it happen. So, naturally they get stuck in survival mode and revert to what is available or what they have always done, regardless of their training on better methods. Many teachers make it happen despite the challenges and they push through and struggle. We see these teachers at all of our professional developments and events and we celebrate them. What about the others, the majority, the ones struggling for survival? The ones leaving the profession or the ones that have seen this struggle and choose to never travel the road. Every grade and every content area should have a fully developed flexible foundation curriculum, with an assessment system, and LMS structure to support their work. Then they can not only survive but thrive. They can focus on working with their collaborative team, helping kids succeed, providing feedback when they don’t, putting time into bettering their teaching, and leave to be with their own families at contract time. Support fuels growth and growth fuels stable, inspired, amazing teachers.
I have been so frustrated with all of the talk across the country saying that change cannot happen without the teacher struggling through the process and creating everything themselves. Yes, they need to learn the model and work on improving their teaching but we should make it as comfortable of a transition as possible to get as many of our teachers moving to a student centered, phenomena based, three dimensional classroom as possible. This only happens by supporting them with a foundation, with something to fall back on. This is the reasoning for the SEEdstorylines site and the Utah Science Curriculum Consortium. We have been so frustrated with how society blames the teacher for everything and puts such a large burden on their shoulders when the system is set up where they are doomed to fail either the students or their own families in order to meet its expectations. They need time and resources and supports and they need us to work for them. They need us to change the materials based on their feedback and student data. They need help, they need respect, and they need us to understand their situation.