My last post edges toward whiny at times. “We all have meetings,” I am sure many readers are thinking. We all do. Almost all professional positions today come with a load of baggage, including those many meetings.
I’m going to stand on my whining, though. I perceive a larger problem in my culture at the moment. When the number of hours that Americans worked passed the number of hours the Japanese worked, giving the United States the longest work week in the world, we should not have behaved as passively as we did. We have built this work week, added responsibility by added responsibility. Why?
I had an interesting conversation with a cabbie in Toronto a couple of days ago. The cabbie was telling me about his work in Canada. He gets two weeks vacation a year. He missed Germany. In Germany he got three weeks vacation and his workday ended after eight hours. In Canada, he often has to work overtime. He is paid for those overtime hours, but he lamented the loss of a much better work regime from his past. “I come to Canada to be with my family, but I never have time to see my family,” he said.
Yet he gets more time with that family than many Americans get with their own families. To meet my full data requirements, my full meeting requirements, and my various other professional responsibilities – on top of getting ready to actually teach my classes- I would have worked every hour of every day. I was triaging, throwing out the “least useful” expectations in my bucket of a to-do list, “least useful” as defined by me, which was not necessarily “least useful” as described by the administration. I skipped data in favor of class preparation, for example, an extremely poor political move that no young teacher could afford to make. But I had not written my tests or chosen my curriculum and my students were always failing those tests. I didn’t need that data. I’d like to think administration was smart enough to understand that if my data was a sea of red for the first half the year, it continued to be a sea of red, given that no one was making any real accommodations for my students lack of English or for the fact that they were years behind the materials I was obliged to present. I was making the best accommodations I could, but since I had to give the same test that all the regular teachers were giving at the same time, my bilingual students were only surviving due to Saturday tutoring, for the most part, along with explicit effort to teach directly to the test.
Unions have been getting a bad rap lately, but I have changed my personal view on unions. I think America needs to unionize again, as we did in the time of the 14-hour day. Many of us again are working that 14-hour day. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart, and I don’t understand why we have let ourselves be led into this place.
Eduhonesty: Maybe we are like the frogs. Degree by degree, the temperature in the pot has been rising. If you throw a frog into a pot of hot water, the frog will immediately try to jump out, but if the water temperature rises gradually, the poor thing will just hunker down inside the pot, waiting to be cooked.
Degree by degree, we have been cooking ourselves. Maybe we should try to take a flying leap out of the pot instead.