Wednesday, June 3, 2015

As the school year ends, advocacy is on my mind

It's over! Year 8 as a middle school English teacher is in the books.

So as any good teacher would do whenever something ends, be it a project, semester, or school year, it's time for a little reflection.

While there are certain aspects of my situation that frustrated me, overall I am extremely happy with how my first year went teaching part-time at my alma mater. Teaching part-time taught me a few things though, mainly that part-time is really what I would consider a reasonable full-time load. I had three classes, 51 students total, and even then, occasionally, the amount of grading overwhelmed me. But only occasionally. I can deal with that. What I can't deal with is a never-ending sense of dread I used to often feel because the paper load consumed me when I was teaching full-time.

I think about the loads that full-time teachers are frequently given: sometimes close to 200 students a day, and I wonder how any teacher could POSSIBLY be reaching every student with that many papers to grade, report cards to comment on, souls to touch.

Having the luxury of a light load this year (though the word luxury is not what I would use to describe my paycheck), I've been able to reflect on how powerful it would be if every teacher had the opportunity to teach fewer classes with fewer students.

Did you know that the National Council of Teachers of English has held a firm position since 1960 that teachers should have no more than 100 students per day? If you did know that, are you sharing that with administrators and politicians? If you didn't, are you going to now?

I go back to the words of Ernest Morrell in his 2014 NCTE presidential address when he said,

It's not about making the case for advocacy. It's about making the case for you as advocates.

We as teachers need to start seeing ourselves as advocates for our profession. Rather than waiting for someone else to make the necessary changes to see that smaller class loads and class sizes along with fewer standardized tests make for happier, more productive, more effective teachers and students, we the people doing the hard work of educating the children need to start making that case to the people who need to hear it.

Read more about what you can do to take action on NCTE's website.
Also check out the advocacy posts on the NCTE blog.

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