Instruction & Curriculum

A WIN for Teachers

Guest Writer: Charlotte Walker 
A few years ago under new school leadership, our school instituted WIN Time. WIN is an acronym for “What I need” and is a 30 minute, four days a week reading intervention block. 
For the first time in the 20 years I had worked for the district, our classroom para-educators were pulled from our classrooms and instead, their sole purpose became boosting the reading scores of any student deemed below grade level on both district and classroom assessments by giving them what they needed in terms of reading intervention. 
Although we did see our para-educators for another two or so hours a week in our classrooms when they came in to provide “push-in” support for below grade level math students, it was a very difficult transition for the teachers to make. Used to having para-educators assist Title one kids in any subject are we felt they needed, help was now whittled down to just two subject areas. 
Not only did this cause an adjustment to our teacher workload, for me it also sadly ended the “work marriage” my para-educator and I had developed over all of our years working together. We joke that we are now separated and she continues to ask me for alimony because she only makes minimum wage… I haven’t paid up yet. 
WIN time aka “What I Need” got me thinking about what I need as a teacher. For the past decade, at a local level, I feel our public school system has been increasingly focused on making sure parents and their students get exactly what they need in order to make them happy. Parents threaten to pull their students from the school if they don’t get exactly as they wish and administration bends over backward to placate as they are afraid of losing per-pupil funding. 
A precedence has been set in which parents bend or break the rules because they know they can and the needs of both parents and their students come first at the expense of “What the teacher needs.” 
There has also been a shift at the state and now the federal level from what the teacher needs over the past decade or so. It has been an era of increased control, scrutinizing, continuous demands and proof we are doing our jobs correctly. Nobody cares what we need because we were apparently doing everything wrong and therefore must be punished. I’m still trying to figure out why we’re grounded. Any ideas? 
So, just in case anybody wants to ask and even if they don’t, let’s talk about “What the teacher needs”. I work in a building with exceptional, tireless, hard-working educators as I’m sure many of you do. We give, give and give some more of our time, talents, money, love, patience and souls. 
Our main job is to provide quality education and a safe classroom learning environment but we all know, in reality, we do so much more than that on a daily basis. The current educational climate demands us to tend to the social, emotional and sometimes physical well-being of the whole child. 
We increasingly wear so many hats throughout the day while also making sure the parents of our students are informed, involved and content as well. Click To Tweet
We increasingly wear so many hats throughout the day while also making sure the parents of our students are informed, involved and content as well.  We spend a lot much time attending to the needs of our clientele, yet I don’t feel enough attention is given to our needs. Yes, I am aware it is my responsibility to make sure I take care of my social, emotional and physical needs in and outside of the classroom, just as anyone in any career should do outside of their workday. A lot can be said however for a professional culture that puts the needs of its employees first. 
Let’s face it, right now public education is under attack and has been for quite some time. It’s hard to feel valued as an educator when you’re not a priority at the federal, state, and in some cases, local level. What’s currently happening in schools across the country is a complex mixture of many issues caused mainly by a trickle-down effect from the top. So, just in case a WIN time for teachers is in the works, here’s what would be on the list. 
First and foremost, we need our professional expertise to be recognized and valued. Being a public school student at one point in time or simply sending your child to school does not make one an expert in the field of education. Please listen to our opinions and advice. We are in this business to help kids, not hurt them. Our degrees are not expensive works of fanciful fiction. 
Educational policies and decisions are being made at the top for teachers, not by teachers. Listen to the voices of the ones in the actual trenches. If you have never set foot in a classroom, or haven’t in a while, I have a strong suspicion you really don’t know what you are talking about. 
We need more time to develop connections to form deeper relationships with our students. A strong bond between teacher and student forms a foundation of mutual respect in which all classroom learning and behavior are driven. 
Too much time is spent proving how standards and benchmarks are being taught, writing learning targets on boards, collecting data, learning an ever-changing curriculum, filling out paperwork and testing, testing and testing some more instead of digging deeper into student relations. We shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to focus on the whole child instead of just the scores they output. 
We need to be a priority again. Public education and educators need to be invested in. We are continuously asked to do more and more with less and less. We need enough resources for supplies, curriculum, and enough bodies to do the job right. For the past two years, we’ve had a paper shortage in my building. There’s an actual sign in one of the staff bathrooms that says “If you survived the paper shortage of 2019, you can survive anything” Good times. 
Our instructional time needs to be respected as well. It amazes me I get any teaching done during the school day. I expect the interruptions that come from working with young children all day but I do believe the outside interruptions could be lessened. Most of these interruptions are due to the current parenting climate of a helicopter and now lawnmower parents who do not want their child to suffer consequences or pain in any way. 
 I don’t think it’s necessary to have the office bring down planners, homework, water bottles or snacks left at home. The kids will survive and even be okay. I have seen proof of this. People have forgotten how adaptable and resilient children are.  I’m fond of telling my students to their great horror, of how I never had one snack break let alone two during my school day. We also…gasp! Drank from drinking fountains! 
Outside of emergencies, classroom phones should not be ringing in the middle of instructional time. Student engagement is a bit difficult to sustain when the teacher is on the phone answering a question that could have been answered at a more convenient time. Intercom announcements, unless of upmost importance can be regulated to the same time every day at the end of the day. I hope your school already does a great job protecting instructional time. If so, I’m jealous and if not, I’m sure you can feel my pain. 
The list of what teachers need is quite possibly endless, but I think we can all agree on at least starting somewhere. Until teacher’s needs are listened to, respected and met we will continue to feel as if our needs come last, if at all.  Sadly, this will result in more and more excellent teachers deciding what they need most of all is to leave the profession and the current teacher shortage will only worsen. 

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