Next Monday is a professional day in my school district.
For anybody who doesn’t know what teachers do on professional days, let me assure you that the vast majority of us do, in fact, work. We just don’t work at teaching your kids, we do other stuff instead. As I usually explain to the elementary school-aged set, teachers go to school on those days to learn new things to do with the kids they teach. There is constant research on education and frequent changes to the provincial curriculum that we need to keep up with, as well as new resources with which to teach that curriculum. Our jobs are fairly mentally tiring, so sometimes we really benefit from a day on which we can concentrate on nothing more taxing than being introduced to a new math program that will be mandatory in our district next September. Yes, there are a lot of those types of workshops after school in every school district, but quite honestly, many of us simply don’t have the energy to really take in the information after teaching all day. And, new programs sometimes can’t be explained in a two-hour after-school session, they require an entire day.
Of course, professional days are more than just learning new teaching techniques or the latest research in some academic area: sometimes we attend workshops on topics that are relevant to us as people, not particularly to us as teachers. For example, if we’re near retirement, we may go to a seminar on how to prepare financially for that. Or if we are especially stressed by a difficult group of kids, we may take a yoga class. The idea is that a calm, relatively happy teacher is a better teacher – and really, that goes for every single job, don’t you think?
All propaganda aside, I only mention next Monday’s professional day because I am feeling a bit guilty. You see, two months ago, I booked a doctor’s appointment for next Wednesday, so I have to take a “sick” day to do that (which I am allowed to do, according to our contract). So that brings me down to actually teaching only three days next week. But then, this afternoon, I received an email inviting me, as an experienced French Immersion teacher, to come to an all-day meeting to explain to a group of newer teachers how I run my reading program and what materials I consider essential in my classroom. And when is this meeting scheduled? Next Tuesday. So I’m down to two days of actual teaching next week. Oh – almost forgot our school’s spring concert on Thursday afternoon. Now I’m at a day and a half.
It was already not good: tomorrow morning, I’m assessing the phonemic awareness of a group of kindergarten kids. On Friday, I’m at an all-day workshop for a special computer program that I run at my school for selected kids with reading difficulties. So this week, which started with the Victoria Day stat holiday, I am teaching only two and a half days.
Do the math: that’s four whole teaching days out of a possible ten in two weeks. That really doesn’t look very good. Not at all.
And that’s why I’m feeling somewhat guilty (and I’m not even Catholic!).
So I’m teaching the hell out of those four days! Those kids are gonna learn, learn, learn, whether they like it or not!