Making a list

A lot of people make wish lists this time of year. While working in my classroom, I find that I’ve been creating a mental wish list since the day that I started teaching. I’d like to think that my wish list is more of a common sense wish list than a luxury list! The students are working as hard as they can and they’re really a good group of kids, but there are a few things that never seem to change in our school system, no matter how much I wish that they would. In fact, if I were granted five wishes right now, here’s what I would wish for:

1.     A stapler that doesn’t jam each time that I use it.

At the start of each school year, I order a new stapler. No matter what stapler is provided, it never seems to staple more than once without needing to be opened, unjammed, and put back together again. I’ve often heard the phrase, “You get what you pay for.” Maybe my actual wish is that our school district’s bidding rules allowed for a minimum level of quality in addition to the lowest price.

2.      A way to take attendance that doesn’t require me to sit behind my desk.

I like classes where the students and I can get on task immediately. Our school’s policy is that the attendance has to be on the computer within the first ten minutes of every class, so I can’t simply take attendance by hand while I’m moving from desk to desk. I’m sure that there is some little technological tool that would interface with the computer at my desk that would let me take care of attendance, dean referrals, and in-school communication while I’m “out there” with the students instead of hiding behind the desktop computer. A simple tricorder sort of tool would take care of such issues. Beam me up, Scotty!

3.      A textbook with a readability level that matches my students’ grade level.

Whether I’ve taught science or social studies, I’m always reminded that the textbook used by my middle school students is really a high school textbook. If that is so, then why are we using it in a middle school? I’ve been told that we chose the higher level textbooks to challenge the students, to keep our programs rigorous.  I think that more of my students could learn to value textbooks if the books were at an age and grade-appropriate level.

4.      My very own thermostat in the classroom.

About ten years ago, the school district disabled the thermostats in our classrooms. The room temperature is controlled at a remote location, based on school district recommendations for settings that will save energy. Since that time, it seems that the air conditioning and heating units are always in need of repairs. All of our classrooms are either freezing in the summer or boiling in the winter. I know that I could save our school district hundreds of dollars if they would allow me the freedom to adjust the temperature to reasonable levels in my classroom.

5.      An answer to why I need to provide a new set of fingerprints to the state each time that I renew my license.

This is a new item on my wish list. As of January 2012, each time a teacher in Nevada renews his or her license, the state requires a new set of fingerprints to complete a background check. I understand the need to run periodic background checks on personnel who are working with children, but I can’t understand what the state has done with the fingerprints that I provided them when I initially applied for my teaching license. The time that I will spend getting my fingerprints made could be spent repairing my staplers or knitting scarves for students who are shivering while trying to read their lofty textbooks.

Perhaps my wish list is a silly one. The focus of what I do is on helping my students achieve each day, not on dreaming up complaints against the school system. Yet the seemingly little distractions take time away from meeting the needs of the students. Just as effectiveness is expected of our profession, I wish for effective tools and conditions that support our efforts.

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