Dear Mis-understanding Reporter

I just read your tweet about how upset you are that teachers are celebrating having a snow day, how teachers are celebrating NOT having to come in and teach YOUR children.

You’re right.

I am celebrating not teaching children right now.  Because, at this moment, of the nine tabs I have open on my computer right now, seven of them are school related.

I do most of my grading digitally now.  My county has distributed Google Chrome books to all high school students; therefore, all of my students’ essays are submitted to me through a Google Form which I call a “dropbox.”  From there, at any point, so long as I have electricity/WIFI, I can grade papers.

Especially at home.

When I am not working during my contract hours.

Which means that I am not being compensated for the hours that I spend grading papers and being away from my family.

When I am in my classroom teaching MY children (who, by the way, are not YOUR children, but I would be happy to teach YOUR children), I am actually doing that weird thing called teaching.  Which means that I am interacting with my students.  I try to coax out of them their ideas and thoughts on the literature that we are reading together.

By the way, I generally have to read the literature at home too…and I’m not compensated for that as well.  

And since I try to make the classroom and interactive experience during which my students are working and I am circulating among them, I am not able to sit at my desk and grade the papers.  Because it’s really hard to keep my computer charging if I’m circulating amongst my students while holding a laptop and reading and editing and typing all at the same time.

While paying attention to what my students are saying and responding to them if they have questions or praising them if they have intelligent ideas.

When I am at work, I do have a planning period.  During this time, I check my email.  Most of the emails are quick reads that do not require a response.  But, in the process of checking my email just to do a quick read and then a quick delete, I will give up at least five minutes of my time.

If I have to respond to an email, it will take at least another two minutes, likely longer.  Because when I respond to an email, I take the time to edit my writing (unlike when I am blogging) because I am an English teacher.  And it doesn’t look good for an English teacher to have grammar and spelling mistakes in her writing.  Additionally, I am a teacher which means that I have to be diplomatic about a child, even if that child has threatened me (it’s happened several times) or if that child has created such a huge classroom disturbance that I literally pray before and after every class that I have with that child because that child has put me into survival mode.

Yeah, that’s happened too.

You see, emails are tracking devices and stepping stones.  Enron was brought down because of emails.  Politicians have lost their positions because of emails.  I am not so foolish as to write something cruel and hurtful in an email, even if the child has deserved something biting to be said to him/her.  Because that child will not pay for my mortgage or my life insurance or the health insurance that my position guarantees to my family and me.

By the way, now my email “checking” time has gone from a minimum of five minutes to at least ten to fifteen.

I will likely have to photocopy.  About another ten minutes will be used by that.

I have to write up activities.  Goodbye to another ten minutes, possibly even an hour.

I will have to check my mailbox, possibly conference with my team-members, meet with students, answer questions.

And then read and grade, if I have time.  Which I usually don’t.

My planning period lasts for ninety minutes.  And, starting next week, half a planning period every-other-day will be spent doing door duty.  I will greet people as they enter the building, ask them where they need to go, help them find their destinations.  In all reality, if the worst should possibly happen and a gunman enter the building, I will be the first casualty.  I accept this reality because it is HIGHLY UNLIKELY to happen.  I am not afraid.  But I also know that door duty keeps me sufficiently distracted from being able to do a decent job grading papers.  Or reading.  And I can’t exactly photocopy when I’m on door duty.

I am an English teacher to 135 students, all of whom are writing multi-page papers.  I can’t just read the essays and slap a number on it and move on.  I edit and revise the essays, writing commentary that will justify the grade to the student and create a paper-trail of documentation in case anyone wants to question my practices.  Because that happens too.  It’s natural.

One class set of essays (about thirty) will take a minimum of ten hours to grade…if I don’t have anything interrupting me including biological functions such as eating, drinking, or going to the bathroom.  Oh, and sleeping.

But because I am human, in ten hours, I might grade twenty papers.  Because I am human and I am a mother to two beautiful children who have asked me to take a day off of work.  And they didn’t mean during my contract hours.  They meant the work that I do after school, after contract hours.  Because, on average, I put in an additional four + hours per day, after my contract hours have expired, working.  If the county actually reimbursed me for the extra hours I have donated to finishing my work, I would be given a check probably worth in the tens of thousands.

But I will never receive this check and I accept that reality.

But when you smear in my face that I am celebrating not teaching, that I am joyful about not going to my classroom, well, then I want that check.  I want to be reimbursed.

Because, in the two snow days I have enjoyed, I have graded 105 sets of questions related to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and 105 vocabulary quizzes (in all fairness, Flubaroo graded the quiz, but I still had to input the grades).  This was work that was completed last week.

I have also graded over fifty papers.  And have about another fifty to grade.  I could have graded them during Winter Break.  But I was doing this weird thing called resting and being with MY family and spending time with MY parents.

So, no, today I don’t want to teach YOUR children or even MY children.  Today, I want to grade MY essays.  Because, next week when we are back in school, I will not have to grade anything because I will finally be caught up.  However, the week after, another 135 essays will be turned into me.  And the cycle will resume.  I will spend hours and weekends on my computer reading and grading.  I will wake up, like this morning, with a migraine from having read so much and will have no other option but to drink a lot of coffee and water and wear my reading glasses with the hopes that I can overcome the pain and get the work done.

Do not begrudge me the joy of a snow day.  It was nice waking up at six o’clock this morning to let out the cat and then nap for another two hours.  It was nice getting my coffee and breakfast and watching the news before I started grading and reading.  It was nice, yesterday, when my daughter played with my hair while I graded papers.  I miss being with my children.  Because a lot of my time is spent helping other kids, like YOUR children.

By the way, something else you should know.  My hours are also taken up reading and editing the college entry essays that were written by my students.  These are essays that are not being graded but are intended to help them get into their dream universities.  And, when that is done, I am writing letters of recommendation for these students to be accepted into their dream schools.  And then I write letters of recommendation for scholarships.

So, yeah. I like snow days.  Just like I love being in the classroom and doing all the wonderful things that happen in my classroom.  But I don’t like it when people who are outside of my world point their fingers and judge me.

So, judge me all you want.  In the end, I’m still enjoying my snow day.  My students are still getting their grades.  And, tonight, I just might watch a movie with my kids.  And I hope to God that my phone rings in the next couple of hours with the news that tomorrow I will have another day off.  Because I still need to finish grading.

and writing lesson plans

and reading

and writing letters of recommendation


By the way, don’t let the snowball hit you on the way out….



14 thoughts on “Dear Mis-understanding Reporter

      • I just found out my principal has sent my blog post to the reporter…or to someone who will read it and send it on to her. Wow. I’m kind of honored.
        By the way, may I have permission to photocopy some of your poetry and teach it to my students? You will receive (naturally) full credit. I will completely understand if you say no as I cannot pay you a reasonable stipend or gratuity.

      • That’s wonderful. I’ve been aghast at how very little people know about the work that teachers do. I would be honored to have my poetry taught in your classroom. And if I can participate in any way (answer student questions, etc.), please let me know.

      • You are awesome!!! Holy crow that is awesome. I need to find a way to email you without making information public. My school is google-fied and I could set up a google video chat session.

  1. I’m not an idiot. I. Going to blame this on my kindle. Or maybe my typing, not to mention my thoughts, is jumbled because I got to school at 7 and left at 5:30 and have two parent conferences via phone at 8pm. I did eat supper and am reading and answering blogs and comments to relax for a bit. I’m totally with you on this.

      • In the suburbs of NYC, teachers are paid more money than our counterparts in more rural areas. So we are über-scrutinized because the taxes are so high for the taxpayers. I HATE the kind of comment that reporter made. I would say shallow and ignorant, but as a reporter, there should be a more reasoned response.

      • I think the woman was doing a typical knee-jerk response. I guess she was surprised that so many teachers would be so happy over a snow day. I’ve also learned that people outside the profession have no idea what it means to be a teacher. I just needed to take a moment and set things straight.

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