Okay, I know I already posted once tonight, but it is writing weather. It has been raining all evening, and that never happens here. All I can here is the sound of the rain on my skylight and the click of my keys on my keyboard.
Okay, I know I just resolved to write less about education and more on other topics, but I've been provoked. I have been watching this show called Teach. Have you seen it? It is a show where Tony Danza becomes a teacher in a high school in Philadelphia. I liked it, and not just because I used to watch reruns of Whose the Boss on Nick at Night. There were some aspects of it that were unrealistic, but watching it, I could see him living the experience of an American public school teacher. It was actually very moving because usually when teachers are portrayed in the media at all they get the experience of being a teacher all wrong. At one point Tony was talking to his mentor, and his mentor asks him, "Have you cried today?" Well, it's enough to completely set him off. I just have never seen a portrayal so accurate of the emotional toll the job can take on you.
All of this show got me to thinking about why what it is really like to be a teacher is such a secret to most of the world. Why? Because we have to be professionals (which is a good thing, but maybe part of the reason crazy politicians do not take our opinions seriously about how to run the field we are experts in). I think I mentioned before that my roommate's boyfriend works for a local news station. Last year, during all of the crisis with the budget and the teacher layoffs out here, he asked me about interviewing with the news channel. I couldn't even think about doing something like that (and actually speaking frankly) because of the increased jeopardy that would put my job in. Every time a parent has pointed out to me a problem, I have to handle it without hinting at how bad the system really is. I've glossed over issues of budgetary shortcomings, special education, crazy legislation, overcrowded classrooms, and politics, politics, politics. So, I thought I would interview myself on my blog and be frank and I would also interview anyone who is listening. So, below you will find my interview with myself. If you are an educator, I encourage you to comment and answer one or more of my questions. If you have a blog, I encourage you to steal the whole interview and answer frankly on your own blog. Tell me that you answered on your blog and I'll post your interview here.
My background information is that I am in my fourth year of teaching in an urban/suburban school in the southwest. I taught fifth grade for two years and this is my second year in third grade.
How was actually teaching different than what you expected it to be when you went into teaching?
I've been most surprised by the guilt that comes with the territory. I never expected to feel like I wasn't enough. I really expected that hard work and a caring spirit would help me reach every student. My first two years of teaching taught me that spirit doesn't compensate for lack of skill. My second two years of teaching have taught me that no amount of skills, hard work, and caring spirit have a 100% success rate. So, I've had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes I am not enough. Sometimes someone else would have been, but I was who was there. Sometimes no one would have been enough, but the thing that will really get to you is when a student fails at something and no one is there to pick up the pieces. You will be left with the feeling that you were not enough to reach that student. It is rare, but in certain cases that is a reality I have had to face. Movies are going to come out like "waiting for Superman" and you realize that these kids sometimes need Superman. When you can't be Superman, you are a disappointment. I had no idea that I would have to deal with anything like that before I started teaching.
What do people not know about schools or teaching that you wish they did?
I wish that people knew that teaching isn't just presenting. I have had people see the giant curriculum binder that I have for third grade, and say, "Well, you have a whole year." I wish that they understood I don't have to just present a binder full of standards, I've got to coach a room full of kids who bring every issue you can think of to the table into mastery of those standards.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing educators today?
I think the biggest problem facing American educators is that as a whole this culture views education as a right without any accompanying responsibility. People want their children to be given a good education. You can't be given a good education. The only thing that you can be given is an opportunity for a good education. If parents don't teach the value of hard work and students don't put effort in, I can't give you a good education. Do I think that every child in this country has an opportunity for a good education? No, I know there are situations where that is not true, but I do think that when we give students an opportunity for a good education we've done our jobs. Education is a two way street and that is oft forgotten.
What is the best thing about teaching?
That is a hard question because there are a lot of great things about teaching, but I think the best is working with the dedicated professionals I work with. The who of teaching is a great crowd. Almost everyone I know who is attracted to this profession did it because they care about others--specifically children. I do this job for the kids, but the greatest perk is the people I work side by side with.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I don't see myself in the classroom, honestly. There's an expiration date on how long I can work like this. I see myself working in the field of education, but hopefully doing something a little less demanding. Maybe writing curriculum or working at a university...