student communication

Caught in the Middle: A Teacher's Time

"That's not my problem" she exclaims as we watch the boys run down the basketball court.

I’m somewhat confused by what my friend and fellow parent means.  After shouting, “rebound” to our team, I try to argue my colleague’s case.  "Well, in her mind she doesn't feel she should have to look at or answer emails after her 'work day' late at night or on the weekends"

I am attending the game as a parent but often I end up fielding questions as a teacher, as is the case right now.  We clap and cheer some more as my friend continues, “Well, that’s a teacher’s job.  That’s what she signed up for."

I turn my eyes to the court to mask that fact that I'm stunned to realize during this staccato exchange that some parents expect teachers to be available 24/7, to respond to every email regardless of when it was sent.

 My colleague had approached me about this very situation earlier in the week.  She had told her students in class that she would postpone the test and allow them more time to prepare for the exam if they communicated this need to her.  She claims to have told the students they needed to decide that day.  Well, the next night a student wrote her at 9:30 p.m. asking for an extension.  She read the email the next morning only an hour before the scheduled test. She felt the request had been made unreasonably late.  She felt it wasn’t fair to postpone for this one student while the others sat the exam.  She also realized it would require writing a second test on short notice.  She was torn but in the end decided to not grant the student an extension.  Though I probably would have made a different decision, I understood her view. 

 As I listen to this parent’s plea during the basketball game, I also see her point.  However, I am a little "put out" at the expectation that teachers are expected to dedicate their entire lives to their jobs.  It’s one thing that we already do that by default.  We care about the students, we try to plan engaging and well thought out lessons, we seek fair assessment, and we want to be up-to-date.  As a result, we spend a ridiculous amount of non-work hours at our jobs.  I do so because I enjoy what I do and I sincerely care about the quality of education I deliver.  My income does not reflect my education level, the thought I give, nor the time I sacrifice. Suddenly, it feels different, even painful to think that what I do is expected.  I think if it is expected, then it should be compensated for.  Would this parent be willing to pay double the tuition for her child to attend the school?  In the States, would taxpayers be willing to pay higher taxes to have their teachers paid according to what they really give to the educational system?  Somehow, I think not.

 In any case, I’m glad that I have the clause clearly written on my website “I am happy to answer all of your questions.  Remember if you have a question, someone else might have a similar concern.  I will answer emails as quickly as possible, however it could take me up to 24 hours to respond, due to my duties.”  I feel like I should have the option of not checking my emails when I am involved with my family at home or attending to my personal needs and wants in the evenings and weekends.  It has been confirmed to me that for sure as teachers we have to be exceedingly clear in our communications and expectations.  We must leave no room for interpretation for students or parents.