Monday, May 3, 2010

Diet Pills and Overworked Teachers

A recent article in the New York Times covered the “invisible” burden of family doctors. People seem to oftentimes complain that doctors are paid quite a lot and in spite of that only really see them for a handful of minutes whenever they go in for a check-up. I think a common misconception is that doctors don’t work that much more than the time we see them, which is also a very common misconception of teachers.

The impression most adults have of the classroom is based on what they saw when they were going through school. Indeed teachers themselves are often guilty of falling back on their many years as a student and complaining about how teachers must have had it easier back then. Though I cannot speak to how much work was actually done by my own teachers, it was clearly more than what we saw of them in class. As with doctors, it seems as though what most people believe teachers do is simply stand in front of a class and deliver instruction and aside from that they might grade a few papers here and there, but life is easy once the students are gone.

Wrong and wrong. The article in the NY Times describes just how much family doctors are responsible for in addition to seeing 18 patients per day:
  • 24 telephone calls
  • Write 12 prescriptions
  • Read 20 lab/14 consultative reports
  • Review 11 x-rays
  • Send 17 emails
That does seem like quite a lot- certainly more than what the average patient might expect. While I cannot say how many hours it takes to complete all of those tasks, I’m sure it’s more than the semi-mythical forty-hour American work week.

How much do teachers do behind the scenes? It might vary widely, but here are things I am responsible for outside of classroom instruction (seeing 80 “patients”, in my case) on an average day:
  • Send ten emails per day
  • 4 telephone calls to parents
  • Writing out between four and ten detention slips
  • Making necessary copies for the day (in spite of using computers nearly every day, back-up copies are necessary for various reasons)
  • Grading 80 pieces of student work
  • Lesson Planning = research on the topic to be covered the following day, creating//finalizing/uploading a PowerPoint presentation and creating a new webpage for each day’s lesson (which will hopefully turn into simply updating those pages next year)/figuring out a way to differentiate instruction for students who cannot read and write and those who can better than most of the students in our high school.
  • One 45-minute meeting, generally centering on teacher collaboration
  • Sweeping of my classroom in the middle of the day after its use by another teacher
  • One hour of punitive duty (paperwork for detention documentation, holding detention, etc.)
  • Completion of at least one form necessary to support students with IEPs, to continue receiving breakfast for the students I have early in the morning, paperwork necessary for payroll, etc.
  • Meeting with one to five students during my lunch or after school hours to help them catch up or give them extra support
The program being set up for doctors is meant to pay them extra for improving preventative medicine within their practice. It’s meant to recognize that these doctors work an incredible amount to keep their patients healthy, but also that they will produce healthier citizens if they can ensure there are no ailments to treat. Personally, I think its a great idea and hopefully it will shift people's attention to healthy living rather than medical cures for ailments they probably brought upon themselves in one way or another.

I’m of the opinion that many of the issues in medicine mirror issues in education. Perhaps preventative medicine can be likened to solid teaching practices, as preventative medicine keeps you healthy and keeps you on track to stay that way, while sound educational practice keeps students on track to learn the skills they need be successful later in life (reading, writing, critical thinking, etc.). To take the analogy further, test-prep curricula might be likened to a diet pill. Both might get the results you want initially, but they generally cannot sustain a healthy way of doing things in the long term.

Like most of America, I have a lot of respect for the field of medicine. It’s one of the world’s oldest professions and is one in which the professionals have devoted their lives to helping others. In that way, and in many others, the field is like education. The best doctors and the best teachers work endless hours tirelessly to provide support to their fellow community members, hoping to provide them with what they need to be healthy and successful. Perhaps one day we'll figure out a way to pay teachers for their extra efforts in developing and maintaining solid teaching practices for students rather than simply looking at which teachers hand their students diet pills to tease results out of standardized tests.

Today's Wine: JP Azeitao Tinto. This one is under ten dollars and was a great deal. It was a bit fruity, but not a fruit bomb and was smooth all the way through. I give four stars out of five.

1 comment:

  1. I have great respect for doctors and begrudge them nothing. I'm glad they haven't got media vilifying them round the clock, as they do teachers. One of the only things clearly more important than the education of children is their health.