Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. I Will; You WILL

 

I just started my 24th year as an elementary school teacher. A little over half of that time, I no longer had my own children living at home. I didn’t begin this teaching career until my “baby” was in eighth grade, so I’ve lived a different life than many of my younger co-workers. But, since I don’t have to take care of my family of little children after I spend my day in the classroom, I’ve grown quite fond of my off-duty life.

Which brings me to the topic for this month’s Ricochet group writing project — “will.” During the break in the summer, and whenever there is a school holiday, I get to exercise a great deal of free will. If I want to sleep late, I will. If I want to drive out to the coast and see the ocean for a few days, I will. Whenever I have the opportunity to go visit my grandchildren, or brothers and sisters in another state, I will. My life is mine for the choosing. But, once that calendar page turns to the beginning of the school year, “my will” is turned into “you WILL.”

In our district, the high school teachers lobbied to start the school year earlier in the summer to enable the first term to be finished before the Christmas break. They wanted to have their students’ final exams done while the teaching/learning was a fresh topic, not after a two-week holiday break. Did anyone ask the elementary teachers if starting the little kids the second week of August, in our desert climate, was desirable? Of course not — you WILL report back to school while the temperatures are in the triple digits. If those young children have shade and a drinking fountain, they’ll be okay at recess. You WILL not whine about it.

When I began my teaching career, there were a couple of days of meetings for the teachers to learn new procedures, to build community within our ranks, to set up our classrooms, and in general, get ready for the new term. Two decades later, there are 14 district training videos you WILL watch by October 1st, on your own time. You WILL check off a list of 21 items that MUST be done: i.e., set up your grade book, turn in the paperwork from parents, get a security code from the office manager, read the school handbook, meet with your team, sign up for a committee, etc., etc., etc. Initial that paper and check off these things and turn it in by two weeks or you WILL be in big trouble.

About those videos … they range from Bloodborne Pathogens Protection, to Embracing Diversity, to School Security Procedures, to Child Abuse and Neglect. They vary in length from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the topic. Yes, 14 of them! It’s the lawyers, I’m sure, but, watch them you WILL.

The entire school year is filled with this sort of thing. Report card comments due for the admin to check over before you put them in the system. Pre-test and post-test results sent to admin. Arrive before the bell at the playground for your duty; pick up your class from the music teacher on the minute; send out those progress reports every three weeks. You WILL, you WILL, you WILL.

I’m not whining, mind you. I actually love being a teacher in elementary school. I love watching my students change and grow. When they “get” something, it’s such a fine thing. But the amazing contrast between work and home is pretty vivid. I WILL keep loving my life.

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  1. Arahant Member

    Cow Girl: But the amazing contrast between work and home is pretty vivid. I WILL keep loving my life.

    The contrast is indeed something to behold. It’s easier for an intelligent married man. It’s consistent:

    You want me to do what? Yes, dear.


    This conversation is part of our ongoing Group Writing Series under August’s theme of Will. We still have the 24th and 31st available, if you want to write about your own adventures with will, WILL, or just plain Will. Those are both Fridays. Wouldn’t writing about will be a great lead-in to the weekend?

    Or, in September, we have the theme of Order. We have plenty of dates available for that month and theme.

    • #1
    • August 19, 2018, at 1:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Randy Webster Member

    Sounds pretty much like a regular job. If your boss tells you to do something, your only choices are to comply or quit.

    • #2
    • August 19, 2018, at 3:33 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Sounds pretty much like a regular job. If your boss tells you to do something, your only choices are to comply or quit.

    3rd choice: You can appeal to his better judgment. But you have to be prepared for it to come down to the two choices you listed. 

    • #3
    • August 19, 2018, at 5:06 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Jules PA Member

    Cow Girl: YOU WILL check off a list of 21 items that MUST be done: ie: set

    I like checklists. And deadlines. But not being treated like I’m some sort of a loaf.

    Sadly, there are people in charge of classrooms who skate by the most basic things. I’m often embarrassed by the “all” emails that address the most basic professional responsibilities.

    As for picking up the kids from “special” on time, wow, I think that goes without saying, since 1 group needs to exit, and the other be seated. 

    How embarrassing when the music teacher has to figure out what to do with 50-60 kids because someone lost track of time? And how to change the lesson plan because someone shows up late?

    I know the elementary world is somewhat different, but I use our HS admin deadlines for grades as the source of my deadlines.

    While I think it is ridiculous that admin reviews report card comments before distribution, their deadline makes student assignment deadlines hard and fast. I tell my HS students that the real world has deadlines. I also let them know that I have as many constraints as they do, they are simply invisible to the student.

    All that said, I’m with you, the non-work time is glorious, and the autonomy is delightful. I’ll be wearing does all day pretty soon. 

    • #4
    • August 19, 2018, at 5:48 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    Cow Girl, my middle niece is a newly-minted elementary librarian. Love of reading – and introducing students to it – are her passions. Sitting through days of seminars on the latest educational fad is driving her batty…Empathies, all ’round.

    • #5
    • August 19, 2018, at 12:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Jules PA (View Comment):
    How embarrassing when the music teacher has to figure out what to do with 50-60 kids because someone lost track of time? And how to change the lesson plan because someone shows up late?

    I am totally faithful to these time schedules, because I realize that some days, the students are stacking up in the halls. I don’t resent the To-The-Minute of my work life. I just find it so drastically different from the rest of my life at this point, that the contrast is sharp.

    One other thing I’ve come to realize over the years is that, for some of my students, our organized, timely school day is the only order they have in their lives. At school, they know that a)they will get a meal and b)the meal will occur at the same time every day. Also, the lights will always turn on, the toilets will always flush. And, when the adults say that something will happen at this time or that time, it’s going to happen. I didn’t realize how much chaos was the norm for some of my students when I first started teaching. I’d learned from my mother how to be a consistent parent, and found, as a teacher, that many families have no such model.

    • #6
    • August 19, 2018, at 12:55 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. George Townsend Inactive

    First of all, Cow Girl, thanks for a nice post, and for being such a conscientious teacher. We need people like you.

    My next thought is that being a schoolteacher today must be something like being a doctor: Because of the voluminous paperwork you have to contend with, your time with your charges has been limited. In your case, it is children; in the doctor’s case, it is patients. The more administrative the State becomes, the easier it is to forget that the State is in the business of facilitating the caring of these charges. To my mind, they have been failing in this duty for the years.

    • #7
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:16 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Pony Convertible Member

    No sympathy from me. Sounds like most jobs. 

    I am an engineer. I used to design stuff, and develop new processes. Now I fill most of my time doing government mandated paperwork.

    We The People have asked for more government in our lives, and we got it. Don’t expect the government to be concerned with productivity. Government is more interested in getting the right forms filled out, and implementing rules to be followed. Assuming you work for a government school, your story isn’t surprising.

    • #8
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Suspira Member

    My daughter teaches Kindergarten. I’m amazed at how much red tape she has to deal with, and the lack of flexibility she has to meet needs. 

    • #9
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:52 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Al Sparks Thatcher

    Cow Girl: I’m not whining, mind you. I actually love being a teacher in elementary school.

    You’re whining. That’s ok, but you are.

    Cow Girl: Did anyone ask the elementary teachers if starting the little kids the second week of August, in our desert climate, was desirable?

    I’ve never worked in a school system, but I’ve heard other teachers say that the opinions of high school teachers seem to be prioritized more than elementary school teachers. They’re better at whining. You need more practice.

    Cow Girl: About those videos … they range from Bloodborne Pathogens Protection, to Embracing Diversity, to School Security Procedures, to Child Abuse and Neglect. They vary in length from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the topic. Yes, 14 of them!

    That’s less than 7 hours a year. You’re not the only trade / profession that has to go through that. I work at an electric utility, and I watched many of those videos on my own time too. Actually I’ve watched videos covering all the subjects you’ve mentioned above.

    Cow Girl: During the break in the summer, and whenever there is a school holiday, I get to exercise a great deal of free will.

    I don’t work a seasonal job like you do. I do have a generous vacation package, though I don’t get as much time off as you do. I do have more flexibility as to when I take time off, though it’s actually harder during the summer when we’re busiest. As for non-teaching seasonal jobs, the vast majority of them are spring/summer/fall jobs with time taken off during the winter. Teaching is the only seasonal job I know that gets the longest time off during the summer.

    Cow Girl: Arrive before the bell at the playground for your duty;

    They should have teacher’s aides doing that. Especially given the administrative duties they require of teachers.

    Every job has its good points and bad points. A few things have changed since you first signed up 21 years ago, but overall, I doubt your hour by hour workday has changed all that much.

    A good 15-20 years ago, i was at an outside party held by someone who happened to be a elementary school teacher with a good 20 years in, and he included many coworker teachers in the invitation. I listened to them whine, saying much the same thing you are, including how things had changed since they started (or more accurately, how bad things had gotten). The timing of that party would have been close to when you started your career.

    Circle of life.

    • #10
    • August 20, 2018, at 1:26 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Front Seat Cat Member

    I not only like this post, I love it. I love it because you are a teacher. My cousin was a teacher. I can remember very few teachers, but a few come to mind. They were caring, and loved what they did – you could tell. It’s a different world than when I was in grade school, where a Christmas tree and candy canes were the norm, the Easter bunny was on display, and valentines inserted into homemade shoe-boxes with heart candies handed out was a day of fun. We had a flag in the front of every classroom and we said the Pledge before it every day – do they still do that? We brought the teacher apples and treats – do they still do that?

    I was at a local church that has an incredible sanctuary, as well as a “lunch room” called Destiny Worship Center in Destin, FL. This “sanctuary houses performances by the Pensacola Harmonic and have amazing concerts, which have included the grand-children from the Von-Trapp family from The Sound of Music, which we saw. The acoustics attract regular steller performances. Yes that family, who survived WWII and the Nazis.

    They have a breakfast and lunch area that is incredible – the food is created by a real chef – they serve all the locals with the freshest food and delicious sandwiches for $6.00 which includes a drink. Many contractors, and local workforce including my husband are daily visitors. They have a pianist who plays gospel music during lunch, and a daycare center. I overheard a group meeting for lunch discussing the abused children in the local school system. They were trying to compose a plan to help the abused and neglected children who start the school year in pain. It is common, but breaks your heart.

    This is something that does not go unnoticed, by teachers, clergy and others. Teaching goes well beyond in our modern day – God bless you Cow Girl.

    • #11
    • August 20, 2018, at 2:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    We had a flag in the front of every classroom and we said the Pledge before it every day – do they still do that? We brought the teacher apples and treats – do they still do that?

    Yes, we do say the Pledge every day–altogether up on the playground, lined up before we head downstairs to our rooms. On Fridays, we have a special flag ceremony, with the state flag and the US flag marched forward, posted, and then the pledge. At that point, the national anthem is sung by whichever soloist or ensemble was chosen by the music teacher for that week, after they auditioned. Then, we have other information/awards, etc. before we go downstairs to get to work. I like that the students say that pledge.

    Also, one of my lessons each year is about the origins of the “Star Spangled Banner” song. We read about it, watch a video, and learn what the vocabulary means. I want my students to know why it was chosen, and under what circumstances it was written. They all write an essay after our lessons to give their opinion of whether it should still remain our national anthem, and why. Or, if they prefer a different song, tell what that is, and give your reasons. I teach writing…It’s a great assignment, and they are quite articulate about their reasoning, and the majority choose the current anthem, now that they know its history. But, a few students always make a thoughtful argument for a different song, and I respect that, too.

    I get LOADS of treats—the students are adorable in their affection. I love them back, too.

    • #12
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Arahant Member

    But don’t forget that it was also set to an old drinking song that is nearly impossible to sing well sober.

    • #13
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Judge Mental Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    But don’t forget that it was also set to an old drinking song that is nearly impossible to sing well sober.

    That’s why they have beer at baseball games.

    • #14
    • August 20, 2018, at 5:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Randy Webster Member

    I always thought “Play ball” was part of the lyrics.

    • #15
    • August 20, 2018, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    We don’t often get to hear the whole thing.

    • #16
    • August 20, 2018, at 6:30 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. George Townsend Inactive

    Nanda Pajama-Tantrum (View Comment):

    We don’t often get to hear the whole thing.

    that was beautiful. Thanks, Nanda!

    • #17
    • August 20, 2018, at 7:28 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    I always thought “Play ball” was part of the lyrics.

    You should go to Fort McHenry in Baltimore some time. When we lived in Maryland, we took our fourth graders there for field trips several times. One of our teachers was an accomplished soprano. We’d stand around the flag pole in the courtyard of the fort, look up at the replica 15 stripes/15 stars flag that flies there, and she sang to us the National Anthem. I get chills even now remembering it. Wow. It is a good way to teach kids respect for their country.

    • #18
    • August 20, 2018, at 10:33 PM PDT
    • 3 likes

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