3 Reasons Why I’m a Teacher Who Makes Excuses

teecher1. I can love and guide but I can’t replace the parents who’ve failed my students.

And on our campus, there are plenty.

2. I’m human too.

Most of the time, I feel like a symphonic conductor while I’m teaching. I face a myriad of personalities and needs. My job is to pull all of those different sounds together and blend them into a beautiful harmony of learning.

Admittedly, on some days that’s easier said than done.

I’ve got at least one emotionally disturbed student in the room. I am very limited in the way I can interact with him in order to keep him balanced and learning and not causing a huge scene that distracts the other students. And his Behavior Specialists need documentation to be able to best support him. Every major issue requires me to take a few minutes to document the incident, what led up to it, my reflections on trends that I’m noticing, etc. This kid deserves the best education we can give him; it just takes a little more work on our part to give it to him.

But there are 25-30 more kids in the room. Follow me here… 12 of them qualify as Special Ed, meaning they have a documented learning disability or other impairment. So, of those 12, four need to be given a copy of any class notes we take. 10 need “preferential seating” which basically means their desks should be as close to the teacher as possible or away from as many distractions as possible. I’ve yet to create a seating arrangement that places 10+ desks on the front row. When you figure that out, please enlighten me. Four take a shortened version of tests, 5 have the tests read aloud to them, 3 only take tests in a small group setting, some get extra time to complete work and some get shortened assignments. doctor like a teacher

The needs go on and on… The documentation goes on and on…

If that’s what my students need to be successful, then I’ll readily provide it. But do you see the juggling act it takes?

Then, take into account that I teach middle school. And there is no shortage of drama in middle school. So now, the counselor has requested that this student be separated from that student to avoid stirring up emotions and problems.


I called 5 parents this week. Three because the students have forgotten that it’s not socially or morally acceptable to curse at me when I tell them to do their work.  I’ll need to contact the same parents again next week for a follow-up. If my child we’re misbehaving in his classroom, I’d appreciate that courtesy. On a brighter note, I did call two parents to brag on how well their student is doing in class. I get tickled because they’re always so surprised to get a positive call!

But alas, that stuff takes time.

And time is to teachers what the Hope diamond is to street beggars. We’ve all heard of it. We know it exists, but we have little hope of seeing it for ourselves.

“But you have a conference period for all that stuff.”

Well, yeah, of course. I have 48 minutes in the school day to complete the necessary documentation for 3 emotionally disturbed children and 31 special ed students. To make positive and negative contacts with parents. To create lessons, find resources, make copies, set up materials, make copies of class notes for selected students, grade assignments and give useful feedback. Then grade it again after students correct it to show they’ve mastered a concept.busy_calendar

Yeah, I’ve got a conference period.

And like most other teachers, I work for an hour or so after school too and still take stuff home when I have to.

Yeah, I’m also married to a basketball coach and go to his games to support him. October to March is pretty full.

Yeah, I’ve got kids too. 3 of them. And one is very young and teething right now. Sleep is for the weak, and that explains why I’m able to blog at 3:45 in the morning.

Teachers care enough about their students to do whatever it takes to make them successful, but good grief! We only have 2 hands, one exhausted brain, and thankfully, a huge heart.

3. Paradise Lost. Where’s Milton when you need him?

We’re at a time in history when the connotation of “School” must be protected.

Schools are no longer naturally the sanctuary they used to be. Every campus has to intentionally treat itself as such. Ours does. We intentionally teach the students in our building that school is supposed to be a special place. We try to teach the kids that the way they act and speak at school should be different than how they are at home and on the street. And to teach that idea is not nearly enough. We work daily to protect it.

We teach that school is a place to feel safe, to be fed, to keep warm, to let your guard from the streets down. A place where effort and knowing the answers in class are praised and encouraged, which does NOT come naturally to middle school students. Our school is not perfect, but it is in a lot of ways the only sanctuary many of our kids will know.

All around us schools are being violated. Students shooting teachers, strangers killing students, bullying leading to student suicide. Sometimes, the world of education has more in common with Call of Duty than classics like John Milton. Unless the grown-ups on American public school campuses are willing AND ABLE to make school the sanctuary it is supposed to be, we have a crisis on our hands. Is Paradise lost? Or are we willing to do whatever it takes to sanctify our campuses?schoolhouse%202

Ironically, I teach on a campus whose motto is “No Excuses!”

In reality, I’m no different than my colleagues– I  do my absolute best  because the kids in my classroom deserve it. Still… there are times when I feel frustrated by the things that I can’t control but that are demanded of me.

But then, some 14-year-old boy in my class will slip and accidentally call me Mom when he asks me something. He blushes, I laugh hysterically, and it keeps me coming back for more.


8 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why I’m a Teacher Who Makes Excuses

  1. Martha – I really enjoyed this. I always indentfy myself as a husband of a teacher, because I like the conversations that come up after it. Teachers work too hard and these youth are too precious a resource for education to fade into the background noise of our life. It should be talked about daily, both the good days and bad days so the general public knows what’s going on daily at school. Great post, even as a husband of a teacher I was surprised by the accommodations your making. #christ’swork

  2. Pingback: Are teachers afraid to change the way they do things? | ...I never thinked about rocks!

  3. “Schools are no longer naturally the sanctuary they used to be.”

    Congress pass the Gun Free School Zone Act to make sure that every crazy who wants to literally “go out with a bang” knows that schools are places where they can do their evil without much interference by good people with guns (at least until the police show up, but by that time they can rack up quite a lot of dead kids). It looks to me like some politicians decided to hold our children hostage to getting more repressive gun control laws.

    Make schools shooting ranges for crazies and try to make sure no good person is there to protect kids. Some people hate guns more than they love kids.

    When I was a kid in my first school in the 1950s some kids brought .22 rifles to school routinely and we didn’t have this problem and guns were a lot easier to get back then (you could order a surplus WWII battle rifle from an ad in the back of a comic by mail order if you had about $12).

    Something changed, but it wasn’t the easy availability of guns. One possibility is this, the plague of psychoactive drugs routinely prescribed to a huge number of young boys:

    Guns And Drugs

    There are two issues:

    1. Deciding to protect kids in schools with good people with guns.

    2. Trying to figure out what changed and try to fix that.

    But in the meantime we need to protect kids. In Harrold, Texas teachers can get a concealed carry license from the state and if approved by the principal on a case by case basis, carry a concealed handgun at school. My wife, who teaches very young and very vulnerable kids in Texas will get a license if her school district decides to approve it like Harrold.

    I guess we protect our money in banks with armed people. Ditto for politicians and important people. So are our kids less important than our money in banks so we can’t protect them with guns?



  4. Just wait until they call you Grandma. Hilarious. Your blog is so spot on of our campus. I am honored to be your colleague.

  5. I absolutely love this! These could be MY words. I’m in my 5th year teaching middle school, and I have the usual smattering of SpEds and GTs, as well as a VI student and 2 ESLs. Everyday is a new reality show, especially with 3 teenagers of my own at home. Of course, there are always the “non-believers” who envy our whopping “3 months off”. I wish! Four or five weeks would be more accurate. We all deserve so much more.

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