Back to School...not
Television commercials and radio jingles remind us that another school year is upon us. Parents everywhere feel relieved knowing that soon they can put the burden, I mean the joy of child-care, also known as glorified babysitting, on unsuspecting teachers everywhere. Teachers may not have come off the stress ceiling until August and are only starting to take a breath without thoughts of children, parents, admin., rules, or living in a fishbowl before they are reminded that school is only days away… even though the commercials start in July.
And yet, time is running out, and that old familiar knot of anxiety begins to build in preparation for September. Even now, some teachers must jump the hoops of professional development during their holiday or spend hours in the classroom preparing. Do they know that Worker’s Compensation does not cover any injury received at school during the summer because, technically, their contract is from September to June?
That knot of anxiety has already begun to build, and I can feel that sense of uneasiness. After twenty-five years, it is well-established and has become a part of the psyche. Another school year with new clients (that is the actual term used to describe children in the system) will begin. It brings to mind the expression that the client is always right, which is a misnomer built on the fear that you are afraid to disagree with your client or, in this case, parents/admin. Teachers are still the scapegoats for anything that goes wrong in or out of the classroom. Unfortunately, many teachers buy into that mentality and, because of the fear of criticism, rumors, or the threat of investigations, let the stress build, and that is not even considering the day-to-day wear and tear of client/teacher interaction. If anything, a teacher wants to have the freedom to teach. It is those brief moments when a child engages in the classroom to explore new possibilities, those unforgettable moments when a child understands a new concept and gets excited at their new-found skill(s), that make a teacher accept the sometimes-inappropriate behaviours from the non-teachers around them.
Unfortunately, while running the school system like a business, it has not, like many financial businesses, progressed to realize that the client is not always right and that its employees are hired for the skills and expertise they bring to the job. If other places have a teaching degree that requires five years of study, like British Columbia, then that is a lot of expertise brought into the job, and with time, one wing of a school with four or five teachers can have over one hundred years of combined experience. Teachers deserve respect and recognition for what their expertise brings to the classroom.
Here I sit two weeks before school with that familiar knot building inside. My body has not yet realized that this year is different. This year, I will not be returning to the classroom. I have renewed my teaching licence for another year in case I change my mind, but, at the moment, come September, I will not be waiting in the classroom for my new students...clients to appear. I look forward to the day when my brain tells my body that it can let go of the tension.