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JG is taking me away on a surprise birthday weekend getaway.  (Surprise as in, I don’t know where we are going – I do know that it is my birthday and we are going somewhere hehe).

What I also know is:

(1) We are driving and not flying;
(2) I need to pack as if we are going to Big Sur, aka hiking shoes and clothes, comfy jeans and an assortment of snacks and sandwich making materials;
(3) We aren’t bringing our bikes;
(4) We will be gone from about 12:30 PM tomorrow through Monday afternoon; and
(5) I am very, very excited.

This has been a busy week.  I’ve been getting organized within the school in which I will be working.  I’ve been learning my surroundings – the layout of the hallways, the native species of the teaching variety and the location of the candy and sticker jars.  Candy and stickers are very important in the elementary school environment.  (Apparently, bribery is alive and well).

As I’ve been working, I’ve been basically a fly on the wall.  Listening to all the teacher-talk as they prepare for the coming year and the additional district mandates and standards and new techniques and required tests and … the list goes on.  There appears to be a lot to this whole teaching thing.  Much more than I ever realized.  Teachers these days are taught that they are 100% responsible for the success of their students, that 100% of students should be able to function at grade level and that racial, cultural and socioeconomic factors, to name a few, are not legitimate elements excusing performance that fails to live up to 100%.

The problem I have with 100% of the emphasis being placed on the teacher and their superhuman abilities is where does that leave the student?  What percentage is left over in the expectation department for the students themselves?  Does anyone believe that the student must take ownership over their education and learn discipline and work ethic in order to augment basic classroom instruction?  Is there not a point where the student herself must do more than be simply present in the classroom?  I anticipate getting deeper into these issues over the course of the coming school year.

Additionally, there is much rah rah rah going on in the days and weeks leading up to the start of school.  The general message being told is: “Teachers, you are powerful; renew your passion; get out there and teach; make a difference” (*small print: while adhering to all district testing schedules, new standards for performance, general expectations and less than stellar paychecks and bathroom breaks throughout the day).  By the way…all of that required district testing at various times throughout the year ends up accounting for 1/3 of the school year.  That’s 333% of the school year devoted to test taking and not classroom instruction…

Yet, teachers are amazing.  And amazingly wacky in order to be able to get through the day without having a mental breakdown (more on that later).  They are asked to do so much.  It will be interesting to see what happens when required expectations meet the reality of teaching.  And the candy bowl runs out.