Give teachers a break!

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2008

I got a job at Auke Bay Elementary School about a 1½ years ago teaching violin. My first day, I did the "Let's get to know each other" thing and started them out pretty well.

But as I soon found out, once kids get used to you and the newness wears off, they start to get rowdy and stop being as focused.

That is when I found out that teaching was not what I expected it to be. I had no way to discipline the kids, and I ended up getting very frustrated, which reflected in the kids' playing and attitude.

After a whole year, the kids were not able to get all the way through "Twinkle Twinkle" and never got to play in a concert. At that point, I realized something: Teaching is hard work.

Over the summer, I went to a music camp and was taught by a man named Walter Schwede, a professor at Western Washington University. Every week I would get two lessons from him, and every week he would write out a practicing plan for me to follow. This method worked wonders for me. This enabled me to remember what I was supposed to practice and how to practice it. I started to think of ways on how to improve the education of the students that I would be teaching this year.

This is what teachers do. They get to know each student individually and modify their lessons to try and engage all students. They make lesson plans, read more about their subject area, bounce ideas off of other teachers, revise plans, plan assessments, grade, plan, e-mail parents and attend meetings. The best teachers change their lesson plans in between classes or even during class. I know many teachers who don't even go to the bathroom or eat lunch because they are running around the school copying handouts or are working with students.

Teaching is a demanding job and only the strong can teach. The old saying, "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach" is an insult to this profession. Teachers are asked to be counselors, social workers, bookkeepers, surrogate parents, friends and teach the Alaska State Standards.

Right now, high school teachers are supposed to be planning a new high school, communicating regularly with parents, dealing with the bureaucracy and politics of the system, grading papers, and they're still supposed to have time to teach students. Then, they get the e-mails from "concerned" parents who say the teacher is not giving enough attention to their perfect child and that their child is bored and not getting a good grade in the class because Little Johnny is not being challenged enough. But, in actuality, the student is texting in class, sleeping and not doing any of the homework.

We should look up to our teachers as great human beings who devote practically their whole lives to the enhancement of ours. Most people don't know the half of what these teachers give up for the kids. They work weekends, late nights and early mornings to get all the work done they are expected to get done. They work way beyond their contract hours, and many work in the summers because they can't live off of what they make solely as teachers. We should be grateful that we have these kind of people to teach and educate us, so that someday they can see us improve this world.

• Franz Felkl is a junior in Ali McKenna's Juneau-Douglas High School "Writing for Publication" class. He plays an active role in the Juneau Symphony and many community music groups.

From the Hallways is a column showcasing the thoughts and opinions of students in McKenna's high school journalism class and Sarah Brooks' Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School writing workshop.

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