By Julie Rine, Minerva Local Education Association
As the holiday break nears, I find myself wishing that everything was as easy to give a teacher as a plate filled with homemade cookies wrapped in Saran Wrap or a World’s Best Teacher mug filled with candy canes. Those gifts are always appreciated and any gesture of gratitude is welcomed. Having said that, if I had a direct line to the North Pole, here is the list I would give Santa for what every teacher deserves this year.
- A never-ending supply of hand sanitizer, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, paper, tissues, and books: basically any material needed in our classrooms that always runs low and that we usually replenish using our own money.
- Technology that helps rather than hinders, a server that never goes down, a fast internet connection that works all the time, and tech aides that are always available and happy to help.
- Colleagues who collaborate with you, who share their best plans and laugh at the flops, who keep a positive attitude, who will cover your class while you dash to the bathroom, and who know when your level of frustration crosses over the line between needing a hug and needing a beer.
- Administration who are supportive of all aspects of your teaching, who never hold meetings when an email would suffice, who respect your efforts and your time and your talents, and who understand the very basic fact that treating employees with value and respect will make for a positive workplace and a productive staff.
- A school board who never looks at teachers as the enemy, who is responsible with the district’s finances and who gets creative during negotiations to do everything in its power to meet the needs of the staff both financially and otherwise.
- Legislators who consider teachers professionals, who trust our judgment and our skills and our motives, who believe that we know what is best when it comes to educational practice. A government that will quit changing policies and practices every other year and making us jump through hoops that take away time from our students, and politicians who are driven by improving the lives of our students rather than by making more money for themselves.
- Parents who communicate with us just the right amount, who don’t hover over their kids and question our every move, but who work with us as partners in helping their children develop and learn lessons, even if some are learned the hard way.
- No more high-stakes testing for kids or teachers, no more changing required tests every year, no more days out of the classroom to learn what’s on the tests or how to administer the tests, and no more kids crying, sleeping, sighing, or otherwise shutting down during tests that do little to measure their true knowledge or growth.
- Students who have plenty to eat and who come to school every day, who have a stable home life with at least one adult who encourages and praises them but holds them accountable for their actions, who have a thirst for knowledge, who see the importance of our lessons, who follow directions the first time, who believe in themselves, who put forth a full effort, and who treat us and each other with respect.
- Family and friends who are quiet when you need to work at home and who drag you away from the pile of papers and plans when you need to stop working and start living.
- A medical kit in your classroom that becomes dusty from non-use, a run-hide-fight plan that becomes obsolete, a day when we don’t have to think about what could be used as weapons in our classroom and where we could hide children, because a classroom should have learning tools, not weapons, and children who flourish rather than cower.
- A society filled with people who believe we should be richly supported and compensated for the very important work we do, and who never, EVER say “It must be nice to have summers off.”
- A full day (okay, a week, since this is a fantasy list, after all) without hearing any of the following right in the middle of a lesson: “Can I go to the bathroom?”, “Can I get a drink?”, “Is this going to be on the test?”, “I was absent yesterday, did I miss anything?”, “What page are we on?”, “Can I borrow a pencil?”, “How do we do this again?”, or “How many points is this worth?”
- Shoes that are stylish yet comfortable, room temperatures to accommodate your hot flashes and cold spells, 75% off sales when you need school clothes, weekly full-body massages, money in the budget to attend professional conferences that renew your passion and reinvigorate your practice, sick days when your lesson plans are already sub-compatible, snow days when you most need a day off, routine when you need comfort and change when you need refreshed.
- And because none of the above is likely to happen, most of all I wish for patience, energy, and love, in unparalleled amounts and in constant supply. Without these, this job is nearly impossible to do well, and most of us would sacrifice all the actual gifts we will receive this season if we could make the lives of our students such that their dreams become a reality.
Enjoy your break. You’ve earned it.