Thursday, November 13, 2008

Helping Students or Hurting the Profession?

This is an ugly side of teaching. Especially when being asked to differentiate instruction and target the needs of students. When or how do we find the time to help the group we targeted?

In haste I opened a classroom up on the 5th floor during my lunch break. There, selected students, were afforded the opportunity to receive extra help. Lunch has evolved into something where upperclass students aid freshmen with math and writing.

Today I realized this does not solve the problem. Sure it is a "band-aide" for those few students. But the system of over burdened teachers does not shift or change. Ironically I became a cog in a system of educational neglect. School budgets do not have to allocate funds for teachers to help students one-on-one, because teachers are doing it for free. Why buy a cow when they are getting the milk for free?

Students who need more time, more one-on-one time to understand a concept, need the opportunity.

My haste apparently caused undo stress for my fellow UFT colleagues. I hope they understand this was never a goal of mine. Rather working toward fixing the problem I facilitated a broken system.


  1. Tell students the lunch time has been discontinued and sit in on the professional conversations in the faculty room?

  2. Continue to be of assistance to the peer mentors during lunch and ignore the discontent of my colleagues?

I'm genuinely distraught over this issue. I don't want to de-value the teaching profession. I also want to help the students I am currently charged with. I never thought these two would be at odds.

I welcome any opinions or suggestions.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me you already know what you want to do. Aren't we all in this profession to help all of our students succede? How is you giving up your lunch period to help students hurting other UFT memebers. I salute you for this. Great job, and usually I am in diagreement with your views.

Lori said...

Ha! I love the person that wrote that he or she is usually in disagreement with your views!

First, if that was a slam about the "professional" conversations in the faculty room, Brown, give it a rest. Few teachers in the world have as many professional conversations a week as we do, and if we have to talk about the interesting placement of an octopus tatoo at lunch, so be it. Some of us need down time.

That said, I think that some of us have the old school union mentality where nobody should do anything more than anybody else or admin will look to the rest of us, and say why aren't you doing that, etc. If we're going to enjoy the luxury of working for people that don't play those old admin games with the "gotcha" mentality (just in case you're missing the pre-election jargon), then we can also change our way of thinking. I have never felt pressured to give up my lunch for tutoring. And I know that the minute someone made me feel pressured, my colleagues would stop tutoring in a show of solidarity. Seems a bit far -fetched at QHST.

As far as you facilitating a broken system rather than fixing it…are you nuts? How are you planning to fix it? Will you be able to fix it before Breyonna’s freshmen year is over? You are doing what people do in a broken system—compensate for the reality. If you stop tutoring because you think you are doing something that hurts us more than it helps them, you’re crazy. If you stop tutoring to make a point, you’re wasting your time. And if you eat lunch in the faculty room everyday, you’re going to force the rest of us to start tutoring!


D. O'Neill said...

Is your lunch time "tutoring" really tutoring or is 502 a place where students can get away from a nosy cafeteria, help some younger students along the way, work on available computers, listen to music or any number of other things that needs to get done? Does real tutoring...the kind with mini lessons and worksheets that one should be compensated for, really accomplished during lunch?? Is it really one on one tutoring that the school system should be providing? Is it regents prep? Or is the tutoring done really about clarifying questions a student may have about an assignment or concept covered in class? This, of course, is the best type of "tutoring" since misconceptions can be cleared up when they happen. I say you are lucky to have a room with computers that you can actually put into use and not give over to an incoming DEAR class.
That said I have a number of questions to put forth to my colleagues who may take issue with lunchtime tutoring since I'm a strong advocate of such. Since when is providing students with opportunities to grow devaluing each other as professionals? Since when is teaching about closing doors instead of opening them? Since when should a teacher have to explain why they give up their lunch to assist students or for providing them a place to get away from the noise? Since when should we be questioned by each other about what we do for our students during lunch unless it involved inappropriate behavior? And very importantly, since when does our contract stop us from doing what we think is best for our students during the school day?
Should I start questioning my colleagues about their actions and pedagogy as well if I don't agree with what they do and how they act? I think not.
The administration has never asked anyone to give up lunch to be with students. It is purely a teacher's choice.
Let me close by stating this...No one will ever convince me that I should not work with students during lunch if that is what I deem necessary. I was a chapter chair in my last school and do not believe it is worthy of a UFT member to throw the contract in our way to discourage those of us who want to give a little extra help during the school day simply
because they themselves do not want to do the same.

deirdre said...

Oh Lori,
The octopus conversation was great! Can't wait for more.
And while I am sure Wally that you only have only the most professional, intelligently stimulating conversations up in 502some of us are just not there yet.

Wally said...

Did I state somewhere that the faculty room conversation was unprofessional? Please refer me to where I wrote that.

Anonymous said...

We all have to do what we need to do to help our students succeed.

MANY OF US are out of compliance with our "contract" because we need to work around budget cuts, completly ridiculous and poor programming, educational philosophies that don't foster students interests etc. So we focus on what we are here to do, help students succeed. If that means helping students during lunch so be it.

I have my fair share of students coming to me during their numerous "frees" for extra help. Are colleagues upset with me?....Don't really care, fact of the matter is we need to help our kids.

Also I agree with Lori, there is no solidarity here as far as the union goes anyway, so what are you worried about? Its people like you that our system needs more of, willing to do what you have to do to help students succeed.

We have a faculty room?

teacher said...

In response to the solidarity of the union at QHST; frankly, there has yet to be an issue that we have needed to become united around. I think I understood Lori as saying that if need be we would however be united. Fortunately this has yet to be a concern.

I have no doubt that if the chapter chair needed the troops to rally around something, involving the well being of the staff, we would all be there in support.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff said...

We all want to help students. We want them to succede (is this the correct spelling?). Bottom line: we have to know how students think. See "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better" on amazon.

Anonymous said...

Isn't your lunch period a time when you can choose to do as you wish? Then, if one wishes to be with students doing what one loves to do - that is, teach - why can't others let it be! That teacher is making a choice to do what he/she prefers during his/her time; and no one should feel that they are being "one-upped" (is that a real word?). You can't force "down time" on people. Thank God for Mr. Aroughetti who got me through Algebra and Trig during his and my lunch period back in 1969 & '73!!!
Rose Marie

Usman said...

The fundamental question is what's more important sitting in on the professional conversations in the faculty room or help the students that deserve one-on-one time?

Just continue helping the students. As you said "need the opportunity" as long as the students are given that opportunity and are thriving under the opportunity. Ignore the disconent of your colleagues.

After seeing the system you had set up I never thought it would conflict with other colleagues.

You have been doing for atleast 2 years or more and why is there opposition to the idea now?

But aren't their two or three teachers inside the classroom assisting students on understanding the concepts on different subjects?

I beg you to not mull this any further and continue helping as you want too. Other colleagues don't have to do this it's their choice. You're doing a great job teaching extra and meeting the needs of students.

Anonymous said...

Brown stop being so sensitive!!!! Many of us have to use other allocated times to help students. Lets face it, we don't have the most conducive schedule to service our kids.

Currently I am taking three seniors out of DEAR to work on their art portfolios. Why you might ask? It is because they do not have enough seat time in my class and need the extra time in the art studio. They also come during my preps and if I didn't have to share the art studio during lunch, I would be holding pastels in one hand and a sandwich in another.

At the end of the day we have to live with ourselves and feel as though we did everything we could have to make our students succeed. Who cares if others have a problem with your lunch period? Like the other person stated, if it wasn't for my art teacher the lovely Ms. Troiano helping me during lunch or on my extra time I wouldn't be who I am today.

Also both of us who have mentioned teachers from the past have (I am sure always will), will remember them for their help.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Even undocumented workers in this nation get a "duty free lunch" period. The UFT contract exists for a reason. Yes we shold go above and beyond the call of duty to help our charges but without a contract I fear what can be done to workers. You should see what abuse is done by principals even with a contract and a wealthy union.

Ruber Room inmate

Anonymous said...

Make it a 6R assignment, let the teacher take lunch another period, and there is no issue.

Seems like lunchtime tutorial or quiet study room or peer tutoring center, whatever it is, could be handled easily within the contract, without alienating anyone at all. We have such an assignment at my school.

Sometimes it's worth expending some effort to try to find a way of getting things done without generating friction.


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute!!!!!

Who is getting tattoos? I want in!! LOL