Ms. Teacher's interview from her blog (http://middle-school-teacher.blogspot.com/) brings a perspective not only from the classroom but also from the teacher's association.
My background information is that I am in my tenth year of teaching, but am working as a full-time release president of my local association. When in the classroom, I taught 6th grade, mostly language arts & history.
How was actually teaching different than what you expected it to be when you went into teaching?
I remember being in awe of most of my teachers growing up. When I had kids of my own and they started school, I admired and deeply respected most of their teachers. I guess I expected that most everybody respected and liked teachers, so it's been a shock to find out how many people in the general public do not hold this same point of view. The routine disparagement & scapegoating of teachers that takes place in public discourse is very disappointing. I went into teaching to help kids. When people complain that teachers & their unions should not be in politics, the retort is, "then keep politics out of education." That's not gonna happen anytime soon.
What do people not know about schools or teaching that you wish they did?
I wish that people would understand that good teachers take their work very seriously & never stop to examine ways to make their craft better. During the 8 weeks off during the summer & over the holiday break, many teachers spend time planning for the upcoming months. Over the summer, I would often examine how I could make the next year better based on the previous year. Holiday break was often spent recalibrating my plans based on the needs of my students. Teachers work many hours beyond what they are contractually paid to do. Contractually, it may say that I work a 6.5 hour day, but for many teachers (myself included), I work way beyond that.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing educators today?
The deprofessionalization of teaching done by those who have never taught or have very little classroom experience. People listen to them because they have money or because they have backers who have money. Case in point, Michelle Rhee has a questionable background in teaching & in fact, has been recorded at public forum stating that they taped the mouths of her students shut. No one in the audience gasped when she told this story, instead they applauded her! She went on in her story that when the tape was peeled off, kids were bleeding as the tape peeled off their skin. Where is the outrage? Yet, she is held up as a STAR in the Education Reform movement because of her "take no prisoners" approach to education.
What is the best thing about teaching?
By far, the connection to students. It's the one thing I truly, truly miss about being in the classroom.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I'm really wrestling with this question right now. I've enjoyed my year and a half in my current position, but do miss working with kids. I plan on running for president again when my term is up in May, however, I'm contemplating what my next step should be.