Years ago doctors took blood pressure, drew blood, and administered medicine. Today, medical assistants perform these duties.
Years ago teachers took attendance, collected parent forms, and tutored students. Today, teachers still perform these duties.
The teacher remains the sole adult in the classroom working with students even though the job has grown increasingly more challenging over the decades.
Oh sure, there are adult aides in special education classes, and up until a few years ago GUSD used to provide ed assistants in English Language Development classes, but for the vast majority of the country’s three million public school teachers, they go it alone.
Ideally, a new para-educator position should be created, an aide who would assist teachers with the tasks that don’t necessitate five years of college. One para-educator could serve several teachers, so while it would cost additional money to pay them, it wouldn’t be astronomical.
A less expensive and more realistic alternative would be to restructure the clerks already in place at a school, assigning one to be the sole teacher secretary.
Administrators, the smallest employee group on campus, usually have at least two secretaries, the counselors, the next smallest, have one, yet teachers, the largest group of workers with the most student contact, have none.
Here are some things that a clerk could do for teachers that would go a long way towards making the profession more efficient.
Taking attendance, uploading homework and grades. Nowadays parents expect their children’s assignments and grades to be posted online. Such a task requires hours of work, time outside the teaching day. How helpful it would be to email a secretary this information.
Arranging field trips. Teachers are required to do all the work involved with organizing field trips, including filling out forms, calling the bus company, collecting money from students to pay for the bus, and beseeching parents to go as chaperones. With a dedicated teacher secretary, more kids would have enriching experiences beyond the four-walled classroom.
Making photocopies. Up until two years ago, my workplace had a clerk who would make photocopies for teachers. Now, teachers are on their own to take paper to a copy machine, punch in a code, and then remove the paper. Think of the time wasted for a teacher to do this instead of helping a student in his classroom.
The other day I needed to make 24 copies, an amount that normally would take a few minutes at most. However, by the time I went downstairs to the copy machine, inputted my code (yes, we have a quota) and loaded my paper, a misfeed occurred. After removing the crumbled piece of paper, the machine never reset.
Not wanting to leave the machine in that condition, I told a secretary nearest the room about the misfeed. She told me she wasn’t the correct person to contact and for me to find the clerk in charge of photocopying.
Meanwhile, my 15-minute morning break was now down to 8—and I still hadn’t used the restroom. Sometimes those who don’t work in classrooms forget that those of us who do cannot leave our rooms while students are in them.
Dejected, I returned upstairs without a single copy made. Imagine a school principal or a district administrator using his time in this fashion.
With creative restructuring of the current clerks on hand, even a single employee that serves only teachers would relieve the burden upon educators’ shoulders. However for this to happen would require a rethinking of the teacher’s placement on the education hierarchy, more of a challenge than assigning a secretary to help teachers.
In the meantime, teachers continue to be the ultimate DIYers in the professional world.