How much is too little?

School hoursSome classes latched onto the idea of a thesis statement like a kid latches onto a new video game. Other classes approached understanding a thesis statement with all the wariness, trepidation, and uncertainty of a Paleolithic tribe handed a ringing smartphone. Mapping out a lesson (or series of lessons!) that introduced the thesis statement and the fundamentals of good expository writing was tricky at best because I could never guess what students’ reactions would be. Timing was difficult. Some years, I could have used a few ten-hour days in front of my classes. Other years, I was done in minutes. So I am puzzled by just what it means in this era of budget cutting when school systems are forced to shorten their school days and even trim the academic calendar. For a while, Hawaii went to a four-day week!

There’s a natural tendency among these bipeds we call human beings to adopt, adapt, and improve upon tools and circumstances with which they’re presented. A subset of these curious creatures, referred to as “teachers,” seem to be near-masters at the art of adopting, adapting, and improving. My inclination is to believe that teachers will react with gusto in districts where instruction time is being trimmed. The important core concepts in math, language arts, science, and social studies will still be delivered and implanted into the eager brains of a vast majority of students.

Yet despite everything you’ve heard about me, I am anything but an optimist. No, it’s true. I am a pessimist in cynic’s clothing, shaking my head in crotchety disapproval at hope springing eternal. So it is without any undue internal pressures that I also fear we’re reaching a breaking point in education; the trimming of the school day and the shrinking of the yearly academic calendar could be the duffel bag that breaks the mule’s spine—already loaded as it is with the pressure of testing, low public approval ratings, pushes to reform, and more.

You, gentle reader, are the soldier on the front line of this battle. You may be seeing this issue from another angle, or perhaps you’ve even been through multiple rounds of layoffs. Better yet, you may have a positive outlook on this that I am not aware of.

So slap this crotchety ol’ blog writer across the back of the head and tell me everything will be fine.

2 thoughts on “How much is too little?

  1. Due to state and federal funding decreases affecting IL public schools, many districts’ preschool programs for low-income, at-risk children are being cut; as well as speech-language therapy; middle school and high school fine arts and practical/vocational arts classes; etc. One small rural school district now has 1 teacher to teach all levels of general music for elementary, beginners band, and jr high band and chorus and hs band and chorus (plus prepare for programs!!!) How in the world can a program of any quality come out of one person being stretched that much? I could share hundreds of other unbelievable real school experiences, but the teachers keep putting up with horrible situations for the sake of the students. Lots of teachers are juggling 2 part-time teaching positions with neighboring districts. Others in the practical and fine arts disciplines are having to relocate to stay in the teaching profession. Sorry that I can’t share happy news on this topic.

  2. I see many of the same scenarios Ms. Sadler speaks of, however, being the eternal optimist, I do hope the cycle will swing the other way. Of course, the sooner the better. My daddy always said, “Nothing lasts forever – the good or the bad.” In the mean time, we professionals will do what we [personally and collectively] need to do to survive. Unfortunately, we are simply another profession that the economy has affected (just ask the auto, construction, and factory workers, the hospital staff, real estate salespeople,etc.).

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