Teaching is not for the faint of heart. The amount of pressure that we are under when it comes to standardized testing, to the issues that we have to deal with when it comes to our students and their various backgrounds and home lives, is daunting and often causes teachers to leave the profession.
To begin, let’s talk about actually being a teacher and what all that entails. I can only speak from teaching in low-income communities, being that for the past 3 years, I have taught in Title 1 schools.
- Parent involvement is next to nonexistent, especially when it comes to black students. You do have some parent involvement, but not as much as you would see with the Hispanic students. This creates a huge barrier when trying to implement behavior management in the classroom when students aren’t used to consequences for poor behavior, and when parents don’t work with you. Too often have I had parents who dismissed their child’s behavior, behavior that affects not only their academics, but the academics and livelihood of the other students. Also with lack of parental involvement, students will lack motivation. If their parents don’t care about their academics, then how can we expect the student to? No matter how much you are in their corner, if the reinforcement is not a home, what you do in the classroom won’t make as big a difference, if any. Also, some parents pretend to care only to appease the teacher. They will seem concerned about their child’s academics or behavior, but we all know kids tell it all, so they will tell what their parents did or didn’t do when they got home. Even if you establish some sort of relationship with the parents at the beginning of the school year, in low-income schools, parent involvement is often times not there.
1B. The other part of lack of parent involvement is single parent homes where the parent is always at work to make ends meet; grandparents who do not have transportation; foster parents who are just trying to get a check (not always the case, but I have experienced this); and parents who give fake numbers and won’t give their child their number (this has also happened with some students and this is dangerous. If there is an emergency, who are we to call as point of contact?)
2. Lack of academic resources. Most, not all, Title 1 schools lack funding for resources such as paras, aides, academic programs, tangible resources for students, extra support for teacher and students, G/T programs, SPED programs, etc. Basically most help that teachers need.
3. Academically challenged students are one of the other biggest issues due to lack of resources and parental support. Also, without the aid of aides and resource classes, it is left to the teacher to get the students on level. With these academic challenges comes behavior problems. Students who struggle are more likely to act out because that is all that they know how to do. This is where the school to prison pipeline comes in. Without programs like ISS, detention, behavioral specialists, there’s no outlet for the teachers, so these problem students have to stay in class, disrupting the learning environment, which is not fair to the students who want to learn.
4. Students who perform on one or two grade levels above their current grade, are not given the option to skip grades. They are labeled G/T, however, like I mentioned above, often times these schools do not have a separate G/T program, so it is left to the teacher to challenge them.
5. Planning time happens in the blink of an eye. Students go to ancillary, specials, or whatever you call PE, art, music, computer, library, etc., and it’s like they are already coming back. This time is for you to lesson plan and collaborate with your team (if you are departmentalized), and with having to accommodate those who are 504, SPED, G/T, etc., lesson planning becomes extensive and requires a great deal of time, research, and gathering materials and resources. Add to it grading papers, following deadlines, meeting with appraisers, meeting with parents, often times you won’t see a planning period. Also note that these types of schools tend to be short staffed, so when a number of teachers are out and there aren’t enough subs, ancillary teachers and aides are pulled, leaving you with no help and no planning period.
6. Field trips can be rather small given that many of these students and their families are pressed for money, so field trips that require little to no money are ideal, but sometimes it is hard to find those.
7. ‘Ah ha’ moments are monumental. Many of these kids will not have the same background or experiences as you, but they do have experiences, so in order to get through to them, you have to teach based off their experiences and what they know. Trust me, when you see that lightbulb go off in their head, it’ll bring you to tears. Given their experiences, coupled with what is currently going on at home, many kids shut down. This can go for anyone really, but even more so with these kids. Many lack foundational skills, so to have that breakthrough that’s on the path to bridging that academic gap, will last you a lifetime, and it will take that child far.
I have more but this post was getting longer than anticipated. I’ll be adding a follow up post, so stay tuned.