Teachers on the brink…

Christine Marsh Education, Education Policy

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Last week, someone asked me if I could gather a bunch of teachers to participate in a political action/event. It’s an important cause, and it would be worth my time to rally teachers and worth their time to participate.

But I said, “No.”

Most teachers are already in survival mode. They’re already doing an impossible job.

Seriously. It’s an impossible job.

How can a teacher meet the individual needs of 170ish students, who have varying degrees of skill and knowledge, who may have behavioral or mental issues that even their own parents struggle to handle, and who have vastly different needs? Some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, some kinesthetic….you get the idea.

How can a teacher possibly keep up with SIP, 504’s, RTI, PLC’s, FERPA (I could go on and on and on and on. And on), while still planning, grading and meeting with students who need individual help?

Try this on for size: a teacher who has 170 students and assigns just two assignments a week, on which he spends four minutes grading each assignment will have spent over 22 hours a week JUST GRADING STUDENTS’ WORK.

22 hours. Just. on. grading.

It’s impossible. Don’t ask me how I do it, because I have no idea. Don’t ask me why we don’t have an even greater teacher shortage than we currently do, because I have no idea.

So when people ask me if I can rally teachers for an event, I usually say No, because I know that most teachers will see the four hours that they would devote to such-and-such political event as four hours that they are not devoting to their students. I respect that: There’s nobility in the desire to devote every possible moment to their students.

The fact that teachers now have to consider getting politically active in order to advocate for their students and their profession is just criminal. It’s already an impossible job, and most people in power seem intent on making it even harder.

People in power are trying to “fix” teachers and “fix” schools. Teachers have somehow become the bad guys that legislators think they need to legislate.

What teachers really need is help. We need our jobs to be made possible, rather than IMpossible. And that is possible, because I have taught when it was a possible job.

We need people to vote on behalf of teachers and students. Why does that seem so impossible?

Or go ahead and drive out the teachers. Break them down. Force them to quit (which is already happening).

But when that happens, who’s going to do this impossible job?

Good luck with that one.

And I mean “good luck” in all sincerity, because our children and their future are at stake.


Christine Porter Marsh

Scottsdale, Arizona

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the lights go on in students’ eyes, watching them getting passionate about traditionally boring things like reading and writing well. This is why I keep coming back. I am in my 24th year of teaching in the same high school from which I graduated, and I still feel like it’s the best job in the world.

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  • Treva Jenkins

    Hi Christine. Your post really hits home, especially as a teacher leader. We have all felt the pressures of trying to juggle it all while being an advocate for our profession. The focus must always come back to being an advocate for our students. Advocacy, however, must be a shared responsibility; this allows us to unite our voices with other stakeholders in order to have a greater impact as we continue to make our profession better.

  • Angela Buzan

    Thank you for your post, Christine. This sentence really hit home: “The fact that teachers now have to consider getting politically active in order to advocate for their students and their profession is just criminal.”

    I think you’ve really hit home on a common fallacy, which usually follows a formula like this: “If teachers would only _________, they would be better paid.” These blanks are filled in with anything from “attend more board meetings”, to “spend more time in the community”, or even “be more professional”.

    We’re limited in our tendencies to err as human, but we thrive in our determination to conquer the impossible, which we do.

  • Jennifer Robinson

    Hi Christine
    Thank you for your very real post about teachers on the brink. And thank you for saying, no. Too often we don’t stop to think about saying no as an option and in turn put our teachers into positions where they are on the brink of falling or stuck in the middle making hard choices.

  • Angelia

    The part of your blog about how long grading can take is a very real situation. It often felt to me as teachers had two jobs. The jobs we do to get and stay on track (paperwork) and the jobs that rightfully consume every minute of our day while students are present (teaching). I was always a little envious of my husband who did his job…at his job. Of course he stresses and works late and worries about things, but he doesn’t have to get there 2 hours early and stay two hours late just to be prepared for his day. Education is still my passion and my joy and I hope that we can find solutions to present concerns. We must make the education profession possible for our upcoming teachers.

  • Donnie Lee

    I love how you showed how much work we do out of the classroom. I had to answer questions last week about what made me a great teacher. Many of my answers were things I was doing outside of the classroom. Only a couple of my answers included examples inside my classroom.. It is hard for teachers to give up their own time to do more outside the classroom after they have already poured out so much. However, that seems like what is expected out of us.

  • Alaina Adams

    It is unfortunate that we have to feel guilty about saying “no” to working outside of our contracted work hours – because our profession so desperately needs to see the faces of more teachers / hear their positive stories to help spin the negative narrative that has saturated the media. Thanks for all that you do.