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Welcome to The Educator’s Room advice column for teachers! Today we’re helping a teacher who’s less than excited about teaching a former student. We’re also helping a teacher who is trying to support trans and gender non-conforming students at her Christian school. See what our writers have to say, then share your own advice in the comments! You can read a couple of our previous editions of Ask The Educator’s Room here and here.
Dear The Educator’s Room,
I teach 5th grade. I had a situation where a parent of a student in another class reported that a student in my class was sending sexually explicit text messages to her son.
Is this just the state of fifth grade now, or am I experiencing an anomaly?
Shocked in Elementary School
Regardless of political or religious affiliation, parents and teachers are all concerned about the ways the internet, social media, and technology in the hands of pre-teens continue to influence and affect our children and students. The continued early onset of puberty in many girls adds another layer to how we discuss sex, sexuality, and technology use with young people who are still very much children.
What you are experiencing is both an anomaly and the state of fifth grade now. It’s an anomaly because it is not most fifth graders, but it is the state of fifth grade because they have access to information their parents never had.
So what do you do about it?
As the concerned mom of a fifth grader and a high school teacher who has sat through several assemblies about internet safety, I wish I had easy answers. This type of situation should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis at this age. Still, it is worth talking to your administration about offering community education. Parents need information about internet safety. Students can benefit from age-appropriate presentations on how to use technology responsibly and avoid bullying and sexually explicit material.
This won’t put an end to the trend, but it might help parents, teachers, and administrators manage it as the situation arises.
– Sarah Styf
Ask The Educator’s Room: Sexting in Elementary School and Unreasonable Administrators Click To Tweet
Dear The Educator’s Room,
I’m so frustrated right now. I met with my administration today and commented on the struggle to keep up with the workload. An administrator told me you just have to find the time. I asked when that time is supposed to be, and he said sometimes you have to get it done at home. I said that was unreasonable, and he said it was ridiculous for me to think as a teacher, I won’t have to work at home. I told him when I’m home, that’s time for my family and my life. I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years. I’m not a new teacher, and I’m not inexperienced. The workload is just too much. How do you all deal with administrators like this?
Fed Up Veteran
Dear Fed Up,
You are not alone. Teachers have always been expected to work outside of “contractual hours.” For most of us, there aren’t enough hours in the school day to get our work done, or at least the work that we expect of ourselves and that others expect of us.
Admittedly, I have found myself on both ends of the spectrum. While my early years were spent grading until all hours of the night, I have worked very hard to limit my work at home to the bare minimum. Right now, that is one to two hours a week. Part of that is due to experience (I also have 20 years under my belt.) Part of that is due to changing teaching positions and moving to different schools. Part of that is me just making the decision that my family and personal life deserved more from me than a woman stuck behind a computer or pile of papers.
Short of finding a new teaching position (which might be something you seriously consider before next school year), there are steps that you can and should take for your personal health and your family:
- Take your school email off of your phone. You can still check messages on your computer, but you do not need to deal with those messages when you are not in the building.
- Only send work emails from school unless there is an emergency.
- Take a careful look at what you are teaching and having students do during the day. Determine if there is work you can either eliminate or not grade. There is so much pressure for us to do more when we should focus on what is the most meaningful.
- Give yourself permission to leave work at school.
Yes, I know that is easier said than done, but do that at least twice a week. It might help give you the distance you need to determine what you must assign and grade and what your students could do without.
I wish you the best of luck. Just remember that doing more doesn’t make you a better teacher. Maybe doing more with less will be what is best for you and your students.
About the Advisor
Sarah Styf is a 19-year high school English teacher. She lives in the Indianapolis area with her husband and two children. She is passionate about education reform and civic engagement. She can be found on Instagram @sarah.styf and Twitter @sarahstyf.
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