Do Teachers Do Too Much?

Are teachers required to do too much these days? I was a student in the 90s. I am not testifying that it was the best era to be a student. But as I reflect, I think about what my teachers had to do in those days. The report cards were written by pen. There were no strict guidelines in terms of exactly what you could or should write about. I remember getting report cards that spoke about my attention span, or lack thereof. I remember my mom reading it to my dad while I, James Bond-like, determined the quickest way to my bedroom so that I could layer up with a few pairs of pants just in case the impending parent feedback portion of that report card was taken out on me physically instead of in written form. What I do not ever remember them complaining about was how the teacher arrived at her anecdotal discoveries or decisions.


I remember teachers doling out multiplication sheets day after day until almost every student knew their times tables like they knew the back of their own hand. We learned how to write in cursive in school and also got a few days suspension if we decided to curse in said school. Two decades ago, school seemed to derive from two main things: academic excellence and punishment. And for students, the way to navigate throughout it seemed pretty black and white. The rewards and reprimands were pretty straightforward.


But in today’s world of education, times have changed. If a student is struggling, it is not up to you as the teacher to sit down and get to the root of the problem anymore. Kid fails a one-size-fits-all test that either you or the newest teacher resource created, fill out an IEP and send him for extra help in a classroom with the other slow but really not-so-slow kids. Student tells you to “f**k off” and she comes back a mere 40 minutes later with a written apology feeling “awfully remorseful” that she snapped on an authority figure. Young fella tells you he’s nervous about his impending report card (should be, since he hasn’t done shit all school year), give him a few D’s and some C’s and he comes back a few days later happy that he “earned” a brand new PS4 because “at least he didn’t fail”. This is what teachers in this day and age have to deal with.


I am not saying that the good ol’ days have left us. Well, in fact, I may be slightly suggesting that. I know, students don’t need to learn how to handwrite anymore especially because the most successful (a trope that really means ‘popular’ these days) people scribe 140 characters and “it is a skill” to get your point across without using any vowels and we also shouldn’t expect them to know their times tables when they all have iPods or phones equipped with calculators…I’ll let you marinate on those two proposed “facts” espoused in our current educational model for just one second…


I lost my train of thought but hey creativity is king anyways, so actually I am Jackson Pollack-ing the heck out of this piece right now. But, back to the point.


Public school teachers that work in educational institutions in the age of Kim Kardashian and Lil’ Whoever are caught in a epistemological-slash-pedagogical dilemma that really forces one to truly meditate on why they got in this job in the first place. I like to think I am half part old school half part new. But when I am in the school faced with the reality that a mere dodgeball game may lead to a lawsuit and calling upon a student in front of a class may lead to cyber-bullying, I forget about all the added intangibles that the teacher slash “classroom manager” has to endure with this post-millennial style of education that we are supposed to embody. Funny part is, I am only thirty. I can only imagine what “Ms.” (please don’t call her miss because that is an infringement of her personal marital status) feels having actually taught since the 90s. There is a lot that our current educators must bear in order to properly execute their job. Ironically, I haven’t really touched on any of that! There is still a lot that we must do simply to teach in today’s world. So maybe we need to reconvene and have a discussion regarding whether or not teachers do too much.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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