I distributed report cards to my students on Friday. And although I didn’t keep track of how long it took me to write report cards, it wasn’t a quick and dirty activity. In fact, writing report cards begins weeks before they are actually due. And, I’m referring to the act of writing comments and/or determining student marks on the various descriptors for all the elementary subjects that I teach – English and Spanish language arts, science, math, social studies, health, and art. And, for the last two years we have had to report on three “ends statements” – character in learning, citizenship in learning, and personal development through learning. So, that’s seven marks and seven comments this marking period. I have 24 students, which means I wrote 168 distinctly, meaningful comments (or at least I was supposed to) and gave 168 marks. That boggles my mind!
Before I go any further, though, I need to confess that while I have wanted to write this blog post since November 2011, I have hesitated numerous times because I feel nervous about going public on this topic; it is a touchy issue at our school. I finally decided I needed to say something because I need to get some perspective on this issue from the readers of this blog. Maybe I’m making too much out of this and I should just buckle down and do what I’m told. But, that’s where the buck stops for me. I don’t do well at just doing what I’m told. I need to speak up, and I do, about what I see as incredibly extreme and unrealistic demands on teachers’ time; our workload has increased greatly this year and report cards have become a burden. Teachers try their best to do a good job because we are compliant teachers in much the same way we were compliant students. And, for the most part, teachers don’t speak up when they need to: at a staff meeting rather than in the staff room. So, sometimes it appears as if I’m the only one and then I think of John Lennon’s song and everything’s all right.
So, I guess my question has to do with whether or not I am making a big deal out of nothing? Should I be writing comments on a grade 2 child’s report card about every subject listed there? Of course, this begs the comment of the way that we are compartmentalizing learning by doing this rather than integrating it across a child’s day. Commenting on every subject in the classroom for every child denies the reality of elementary classrooms: subjects are fluid things that are difficult to pin down as only social studies or only language arts. For example, my students write journal entries, twice a week, about a story that one of their classmates shares. Three children get to share each time and then the class votes on which story they are going to all write about in their journals. This process has evolved into conversations about what’s fair, secret voting, attentive listening, asking appropriate questions and making purposeful comments, among others. This activity crosses over into many areas of the curriculum. This kind of learning event is regular fare in my classroom yet reporting to parents is supposed to be disconnected rather than integrated. At least that is how I see it.
So, back to the title of this post – Recess…for teachers. Teachers are expected to do more with less time and fewer resources. We are expected to use all of our “free” time (can I even call it that?) before and after school and during prep periods to plan alone and with other teachers, mark student work, meet with parents, fill out the endless ream of paperwork we are required to do, and the list is endless. It seems to me that teachers are trusted less and less to manage their own time and instead our time is being managed for us as it gets filled with meetings and busy work. What is wrong with time for teachers to gather their thoughts about what went on during the week? What is wrong with some time to reflect, alone or with a colleague – and that would be up to each individual teacher – on what is happening in your classroom? What is wrong with down time for teachers to use as they see fit? A kind of recess for teachers?
I would love to read your comments and feedback.