Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Exhaustion of The Longest School Day

I received this blog post from a special educator currently working in the Chicago Public Schools.   The writer wished to remain anonymous, understandably.  I have heard similar stories from far too many teachers out there.  Rahm and his politically-motivated Longer School Day are going to drive away all our very best educators.  This particular teacher is an absolutely phenomenal teacher and this story absolutely breaks my heart.

Chicago Public Schools defines the "Full School Day" as…
A richer school day… one that provides additional instructional time in both elementary and high schools.  This means more time on task in reading, math, history and science.  In addition, it provides time for a real recess so kids can exercise and refresh.   The Full School Day provides students with the time they need for quality instruction in the classroom with their teachers, as well as new opportunities for creative learning and extracurricular activities that were not available even just last year.  (
My students don’t spend the “Full School Day” with creative learning, enrichment, or exercise.  Instead, they spend a longer day in a classroom with substitutes, waiting in line to “play” at recess, being bombarded with data, all the while struggling to interact with their peers.  They are spending a longer day in a classroom where the windows don’t open, the heat doesn’t work, paint is falling off the ceiling in dangerous chunks, and where there is not adequate technology.  My students are exhausted, frustrated, and are having more behavior problems, because of the “Full School Day.”
Walking down the hallways of my school used to be one of my favorite things to do.  I would pass by classrooms and see all of the fun and creative things students were doing.  Bulletin boards were filled with colorful and imaginative displays of student mastery.  Since the implementation of Rahms “Full School Day,” the creativity has been sucked out of our classrooms.  Teachers are being forced to become robot while teaching.  We must say key words at certain times and must integrate a teaching strategy into our lessons whether or not it pertains to our teaching or will work for our students.  While new teaching strategies can be good, what is being lost, being sacrificed? 
My students have yet to see any of the enrichment promised to them.  My school has had three FSD positions go unfilled all school year.  These positions were created to give the students enrichment resource classes.  Instead, my students spent all of second quarter with a different substitute every day.  I spent my own time and money planning and creating activities to keep my students occupied.  My students deserve more than busy work to occupy their time!  Now in the third quarter my students have another resource class with another substitute.  I feel like my hands are tied.  I try to provide my students with some meaningful work to do, but I can’t keep spending my time, to plan for another hour of my student’s day when I am not supposed to.
Recess is another thing.  While technically students have 25 minutes of recess, day in and day out my students complain that they don’t get to play at recess.  They spend 1/3 of their recess time in lines.  We have two recess coordinators (who are doing the best they can), but logistically to think about two people supervising nearly 200 students at one time.  It’s no wonder they spend a lot of their recess time in line waiting for instructions!  Recess should be a time when students can enjoy the fresh air outside, and have the freedom to let off some energy.  But without any true planning or thought about recess from CPS, students are not getting all of the benefits they should from recess.
Student morale and attitude is at an all-time low, I have never seen the students at my school struggle to function through the school day before.  What the FSD is not addressing is the social/emotional needs of our students.  We are spending hour after hour throwing information and them and making demands of their reading and writing skills.  We are not being given the time to teach them how to get along with others, solve problems without fights, or even how to advocate for themselves.  I have been sneaking behind the closed door of my classroom, teaching my students character development.  I will pause academic instruction, and address the social/emotional needs of my students.  I have been lucky that I haven’t been “caught” yet by my administration, but I do know if they walk into my room and I am not doing exactly what is on my lesson plan, I will have a lot of explaining to do!
The mandates and expectations are no longer just affecting me; my students are feeling the pressure too.  Earlier this school year my classroom was subject to five different walk throughs and observations in just a couple weeks.  We had visits from our ILT, other school’s ILTs, the network, administration and from central office.  The central office visit really stands out the most to me, because of the experience of two of my students.  My students were working independently on their task, when the central office person came over to ask them questions.  I noticed that the questions kept coming, and my students were becoming more and more frustrated.  Finally one of the student’s starts saying loudly “This is a nonfiction text, and we are taking notes on it,” the student is pointing at the article she is reading with her partners.  The student continues, “That is how I know I am doing what the objective says on the board.”  I always try to prep my students for when we will have visitors, but I know that my students have become frustrated with the process.  They will always ask, “Why are they coming again?”
I am in just my fourth year of teaching, and I am starting to question if teaching is really the place for me.  I know that I am a great teacher, and can really make a difference in the lives of my students.  However, with the way this school year has gone, I know that mentally, and physically I can’t keep up this pace forever.  The Full School Day is not at all what Rahm and CPS promised it to be, things are worse for my students now than they were in years past.

So very sad...

How is the longest school day going in your school?  Please tell your stories.


  1. Child abuse is the new reform and managerial apathy is the new benchmark. I attended a meeting of our state level union NYSUT the other night where a special ed teacher detailed the agony of her kids in tears hating themselves because of testing. The NYSUT rep assured us she has spoken to the Board of Regents about such torture and the charter loving, test crazed Regents answered that they would "look at it." Shame on them and on her too for doing nothing for her constituents or our students. We were supposed to be outraged by the behavior of the Regents but I found her trite smug response equally troubling.

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