I work at a charter school in Los Angeles. The student to teacher ratio, in each class period, is 32:1. (Considering I once taught a class of 40 at another school, this is great.) With block scheduling and stationed classes, I only teach 16 students per hour in one class period. The other 16 are using technology or doing an independent assignment until we switch. This is awesome, for the most part, except for the whole doing everything twice thing. That last part is almost the entire reason for this blog post. I’m exhausted. I’d love a nap. Instead, I’m grading, planning, scheduling parent conferences, tutoring, attending professional development, attending leadership meetings, or whatever other task that has been thrown at me.
Due to our strange schedule, teachers at my school only lesson plan for three days per week. Before everyone else starts wondering how this can be problematic, chill out. If you don’t know nothing about teacher exhaustion, you gon’ learn today (*in my Kevin Hart voice*).
First of all, a charter school is “an independently run public school granted greater flexibility in its operations, in return for greater accountability for performance. The “charter” establishing each school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, students served, performance goals, and methods of assessment” (Uncommon Schools). In layman’s terms, a charter school is similar to a public school, except it is more flexible in how it is operated, but its goals and assessments differ from a typical public school. In their “charter,” the school must outline, demonstrate, and prove how it will meet performance goals. If these goals aren’t met, the school can be shut down.
With all of the school’s pressure to meet goals, guess whom the demand falls on. If you guessed teachers, you are correct!
Secondly, in addition to maintaining performance goals, teachers at a charter school are not provided with a specific curriculum or pacing guide. We create it. Our unit plans are submitted to our administration, who then verifies that our standards are aligned with our daily activities, and we are assessing our students appropriately so we can meet our performance goals. Imagine how stressful this is, if this is your first year as a teacher. **LMU, you da real MVP for making me do this during my TPAs!
I have a love-hate relationship with this whole unit planning system. On one hand, I love creating my own curriculum. On the other hand, it’s time-consuming and stressful, planning every lesson for the duration of the unit.
Way more details go into this, but I’m just summarizing the basics.
Thirdly, charter schools also differ in the availability of extracurricular activities. Many public schools offer a wide variety of elective classes and sports and clubs on campus because they hire an outside person. Teachers can offer to stay for tutoring hours, but it’s not required. At a charter school, the teacher handles all of the things that are typically handled by someone else. On top of planning and grading, teachers must also hold mandatory tutoring sessions after school, host a club, possibly teach an additional elective, attend weekly professional development meetings and are still expected to maintain their sanity.
It’s difficult. Even when you think you’re done, you’re never done!
I love every part of my job, but I am a strong proponent for teacher naps. Who’s with me?