So I did Something Kind of Bad at Work Today . . . ?

If you have a job you hate, or a job you really hate, you’re not alone.

I USED to have a job I hate. My degree is in Education, and so I became a teacher. No matter what your job, after college you figure after all the time you’ve put into learning how to do the job, you’d better go and do it so you can pay off your loans that you took out for learning how to do the job. But anyway, being a teacher sucks generally. I’ve mentioned it before, and there’s no amount of therapy that will render anything close to why it sucks, but I can tell you it boils down to a few very specific things. Here they are in a nutshell (good word for it):

1. Administration

I once worked at a school where a highly placed administrator had managed, over the course of his career, to embezzle several thousand dollars from the school system. At that same school, they were getting tons of government money and not really using it as efficiently as they could’ve (of course, that is my opinion – I was a lowly, first-year teacher, so I could’ve been wrong about that.) Terrible Administrators are not about keeping the teachers or the kids happy; they are looking out for themselves under the guise of looking out for the kids and parents and teachers.

2. Kids

Notice I don’t say “students” here, because very few of them are actually students. The kids come to the school expecting to get good grades, and not doing much – if anything – to earn them. Students earn their grades. Kids expect them to be given out, like I’m freaking Santa Claus every day, and I get to decide if the kids are “good” they will get them, or if they are “bad” they will not. And if they are angry about not getting the grade they wanted, I am left to deal with:

3. Parents

I have parents tell me that it’s my job to teach their kids. It is, I’ll agree to that. But it is not my job to make them learn. I can’t make anyone learn, and certainly not in today’s society. If teachers could make students learn, I imagine that the next torture report we’ll read about in the news has similar methods, and I’m sure parents would have something to say to that. I can’t even properly shame kids in the system. Somehow ‘failing’ the students has become an insult to kids, when it is merely an assessment of how well they have learned a particular topic.

Of course, there are other problems, and I find myself at fault for things at times, too, but the overall problem just seems to be that everyone wants something, and no one wants to work as hard as we could or should for it. Some people even want to just benefit from others’ pain and work. Those people are evil, and more often than not, they’re the ones running the show. Don’t believe me? Look at all the bad politicians.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now, I work in a private school, and I have much more freedom. The kids are there by their choice much more than their compulsory attendance requirement, and their parents, seeing the benefits of smaller schools, smaller classrooms, and a system intricately in tune with the staff, are much happier. And if there are problems, they are much, much easier to address.

So why – and what – did I do that was so terrible today?

I have three classes, and their final exams are scheduled for next week. I handed out a review sheet today, and told them to get to work on it; it was a study guide prepping them for the final exam. When their class was over, I told them to write their names on it, along with the date, and also the words “Final Exam” at the top.

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So I had lied. I had given them the test. Some of the reactions I had were funny at first. There was a lot of “I can’t believe you did this to me!” and “Ugh” followed by some gapping jaws. But them I told them why I did it, and most of them, really, most of them, even up thanking me.

Here are my reasons:

1. To shame the crammers. I can tell you as perpetual crammer of old this will NOT help you. I can also say as a teacher, it tells me who has been studying throughout the semester and who was counting on having the weekend to study.

2. To let them know what they need to study. Pretty self-explanatory on this one.

3. Fear. Did you know that test anxiety is real? You can easily forget something you know very well if you are afraid. And to students, there is nothing more dreaded than hearing the words, or reading the words, “exam” or “test.” By telling my student they were “reviewing” I was able to get them to relax and ultimately, perform better.

4. Tests. The tests that really matter in life do not come with a grade. They don’t ever come with a test date, either. These are the tests that define us and reveal our legacies.

I have to say, I think I am a good teacher, and I certainly work for it. But I don’t think the student me would like having me for a teacher. And I know I could never get away with something like that in the public school system. Because when it boils down to it, the hardest test that a teacher in the public school system faces, is whether or not she or he is trusted. And there is too much deception and confusion for trust to have a real role in our public schools.

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