Meet the Teacher Culpeper (copy)

Seventh-grade math instructor Carrie Mifsud talks with Dylan Clark about the coming school year during Meet the Teachers Day at Culpeper Middle School in August.

Over the years, more and more “paperwork” has been required of everyone in the school system. No hours have been added to the day and no days have been added to the contract year. Everyone has more to do than they can reasonably handle.

Students submit a lot of work on computers, but it still must be graded. That hasn’t changed. Data collection and additional requirements take up time that should be spent working directly with students.

Support personnel are critical to the successful operation of the school system. Many times these workers are taken for granted and taken advantage of.

The individuals in the guidance departments don’t simply schedule students. They deal with student melt-downs daily or students having difficulty academically. They help with applications for scholarships, college, and jobs. The secretaries who greet students in these offices are often given more tasks than they can reasonably handle. People seem to think that since they are sitting at a desk, they have time on their hands. They’re often expected to “pick up the slack.” They’re given tasks that don’t relate to their jobs at all.

Employees at the front desk of every school are the first line of defense. They could be the first individual to stop an intruder. They check in late students and make calls for students being picked up. They deal with the parents picking up students or meeting with a principal or counselor. They check in volunteers. They’re responsible for the phone, the mail and deliveries.

It may appear that these workers have time to do tasks that others don’t have time for. This is dangerous. When do these folks get a bathroom break? When do they get lunch? I’ve been in there when things get pretty hectic. There should always be two people at the front desk of each school to effectively manage the office and provide that initial security check.

Para-educators are an integral part of the educational process, especially at the elementary level. Little people often need more individual attention. They’re still learning how to interact with others as well as working to master the basics of their education. Paras are another set of eyes and ears for teachers. They’re able to calm an emotional student or provide addition support for a struggling student. In addition, they help teachers with paperwork. With the increased demands placed on teachers, every teacher should have a para-educator or an aide.

Attendance personnel are responsible for keeping track of attendance data. They have to prepare attendance reports, contact parents when students are chronically absent and assist with truancy cases. They, too, are often given tasks that are not part of their job description.

There are many other staff members who are in this situation. Piling additional duties on staff breeds resentment and frustration. People stay because they need the job or the insurance. However, they may be overwhelmed. School systems are unable to remove the mandates and expectations set upon them by the state and federal government. They need to hire enough staff to handle the tasks. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and dumping on those who are paid at a lower pay scale is poor management and disrespectful.

The entire system begins to unravel when additional work is required and everyone has less time with students. Students don’t get the attention they need, and employees feel unappreciated. Making sure that teachers and staff have time to do the job of educating and supporting children is what makes the difference in the progress of our students.

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Elizabeth Hutchins is a former educator and Culpeper County

School Board member.

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