The governor makes one, kind of smart decision

I’m not generally a fan of most educational mandates. They usually come from governing bodies made up of people who haven’t stepped foot in an actual school since they were actually students some 20-60 years ago. Even those who had some sort of educational background, gave it up years ago to pursue politics and as a result are fairly out of touch with what teachers face these days.

It seems our new superintendent of schools is going to be a by the books kinda guy. I get the impressions that the rules will be followed exactly. I may be wrong here, but he appears to be far more letter of the law instead of spirit of the law. I get that rules are needed and need to be enforced, but any good teacher knows you look at things on a case by case basis. There are times that breaking the rules is the only sane and compassionate thing to do. I’m not sure our new superintendent of schools will share my beliefs.

One of his first decisions, which is already sparking lots of conversation, is to enforce the 180 day rule for schools. This rule has been on the books for awhile and the DOE clearly outlines the current policy on their website. However, up until recently, schools have been able to apply for a waiver if an emergency situation caused for lengthy school closings (blizzards, floods, district wide power outages, etc). According to the official policy, as long as high school students are in school for at least 6 hours, the day counts as a full day. However, in practice, schools have been able to count in their 180 days any day students attend classes for at least three hours. Now, this couldn’t be done every day, but once every month or so and the DOE looked the other way.

The governor and the new superintendent aren’t having any more of it though. They are insisting schools meet all 180 days and have at least six hours of instructional time. Any days lost to bad weather or other disasters (natural or man made) must be made up, even if schools end up spending most of the summer in session. This year alone some schools in the state lost close to 20 instructional days due to flooding, so instead of wrapping things up at the start of May, their years would continue on until the end of June.

While I am not at all fond of the prospect of going to school in June and I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you take away nearly a month in the summer all you are going to get is resentful students who don’t want to learn and even more resentful teachers who don’t want to teach, I am thrilled with one aspect of the enforcement of this policy: no more parent-teacher conferences.

Sure, I can see the need for these when the kids are little, but once they hit high school, these conferences are a pointless, waist of time. At our last round of conferences, I left for work at 6:30 in the morning and did not get home until 8:45 that night. Granted, some of that was my commute, but I was at school and working for 12 hours and 45 minutes. I only taught for three of those hours. I had an hour long conference with one AP student who actually sacrificed his time to review for the test (in May) and the other 8 hours was divided between 8 conferences (10 minutes each), a little grading (I was pretty much all caught up) and a lot of cleaning (granted, my desk really needed it). My last conference ended at 6:50, yet I had to stay at school until 8. I had a stretch between 3:30 and 6:10 where not a single conference was scheduled, yet I had to be there.

What’s worse is that some teachers only had two conferences the entire evening, and yet spent 12 hours at the school–for twenty minutes. To add insult to injury, the only time I got to see my son was when I dropped him off at the sitters. He was in bed 15 minutes before I could even leave school.

I know I’ll be cursing the governor and all his toadies when the snow starts falling next winter, but for now, I’m just glad to see conferences go

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The governor makes one, kind of smart decision

  1. missanthropy

    At some point in many of our moves during my childhood, my sister and I attended a semi-experimental year-round school. I actually really enjoyed it. You’d go for a month or so, then get a week off. Something like that. I never understood the people who freaked out about make-up days when you’d get, like, two or three snow days. It’s not like we weren’t off for months in the summer. Of course, that’s coming from someone who’s never been a teacher.

  2. beetqueen

    My sister did year round school one year too. I’m actually not opposed to it. I’ve learned to be flexible and can work on any schedule.

    As for the make up days, true, teachers get those days off too, but unless they miraculously come right at the change of a semester (and they never seem to), we use those days to get caught up on grading. Then, we have to restructure lesson plans to make sure everything will still work–like changing deadlines since kids probably don’t have materials with them, or in the case of one of my schools where we were out for a week due to weather, re-teaching concepts because kids had forgotten what we’d done before school let out (in all fairness, some of those kids were still without power and hadn’t even been able to take a real shower).

    Plus, teachers really look forward to our breaks (as does everyone, I know). I’m not trying to play the martyr here, but I work 8 hours each day, then come home to do at least two more hours each night and usually 5-10 on the weekends. That’s a 55-60 hour week, without any additional pay. All of our “breaks” include grading and lesson planning. Even during my summer “vacation,” I have to attend a workshop over our new computer system (for four days), plan an entirely new course and revamp my three other courses in order to fully utilize the computers since we got a grant and have to be able to show we use them in every class.

    Most other jobs compensate for all this extra work either by paying salaried employees really well, or paying overtime. Teachers get neither, so we get very, VERY testy when people a) mess with our time off and b) make snide comments about how much free time we have (and I know you weren’t doing this–but I get it all the time from people and it makes me sort of want to hurt them).

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