I still believe in teaching, a note from the trenches

My friends and I used to talk about how many kids we will have taught when we finally retire, how many of those kids we really had a personal connection with, how many of those kids we perhaps also impacted their families. We used to talk about perfecting our craft, what we did last year, what we want to do better.

Sometimes we would talk about our perfect classrooms. The furniture, the books, the assignments, the schedule. We would laugh and start sentences with “When I am in charge….” knowing that we would never be in charge because in charge meant you don’t get to be in the classroom anymore and who would want to do that? Being a teacher was exhausting, but worth it. We were fed by it. We were good at it.

We still are good at it, the teaching part anyway. We are good at connecting with the kids, and communicating with the parents. We are good at coming up with creative assignments, and getting kids to really think about our subject and the world, about themselves and what they think.

But those are not the things that we are being asked to do. That is no longer what being a teacher is about. Those things that we are good at, that fed us, those are now things we do if we can squeeze it in.

There are emails to respond to and tests to be built, in a certain format in a certain program that we need to use. This year lecture is out of fashion it isn’t “student centered” enough, even if the data they are currently asking for shows the students learn well when I lecture.

So I have to figure out how to deliver information that is in my head, that needs to be in my student’s head into those heads without telling them. Youtube, readings, anything but lecture, even if I have spent the last 6 years perfecting the jokes in my “intro to Shakespeare” slideshow that also has all the information the state includes on the test.

I’m not opposed to oversight. I get why people would want to make sure that teachers are doing a good job. I think education is really important. That is after all, why I became a teacher. I just wish I still liked my job. I wish it made sense, the things that are being mandated. I wish I believed in the system still. I still believe in education. I still believe in teaching. I just wish I still was doing that.

7 thoughts on “I still believe in teaching, a note from the trenches

  1. My daughters are teachers and it is discouraging to see them discouraged with all the add ons that they are required to do that does not add value. Sometimes I don’t know what the goal is in regard to all of the mandates. I do know we can not give up on education but how do we take it back to where it needs to be; where learning is the objective not fitting everyone into a box. I do know my daughters continue to hack at the roots and continue trying to impact lives in all the ways only teachers can.

  2. Two personal experiences: 1) our offspring taught (high school, mathematics, Governor’s school) for two years and when grades had to go out we saw him work “all-nighters” and
    2) eleven years I worked in tech support at a Theological Seminary during which time a “course management” system was introduced. From a technical support view, this was something that seemed very much to get in the way of teaching / learning, even though one or two faculty members had been the instigators. Before my eleven years ended, that “course management” system was being replaced by another. The truth is, I am glad this did not exist and was not required when I was in Saminary (1966 – 1969) and University (1962 – 1966).

    • “used to talk about how many kids we will have taught” – in 1949 we did not have kindergarten in public school rural NC: however, I remember my teachers: Hall (1 and 2), Petree (3), Touchstone (4), Knight (5), Quakenbush (6), Thomas (7), Roberts (8) – then 2 years at Eli Whitney High School until Southern was created (1960-61 and 1961-62) then off to university.

  3. You said it sister. I completely agree. Please don’t be too quick to trash your finely tuned “lectures”. You know your kids, you’ve honed them and they sound engaging. I bet a Youtube video,for the sake of integrating media wouldn’t be as engaging as a personal touch with dialogue and small group follow ups with them taking it from there. I’m rule follower and have tried to do everything asked of me (impossible by the way). After about 3 years of telling myself to shut my door, do what is best and do what is right I think I’m finally ready to really do it. My kids need my love, belief in them and belief in God more than anything! It’s just so hard to remember that when we get sidetracked with education which really isn’t educational. Hang in there. I’m trying to if for no other reason than there won’t be any of us who really care left.

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