Topics on Topics
The frustrating aspect about blogging--one that I did not anticipate--was deciding what I would write about. I want to do a follow-up on my daughter's math test disaster but the conversation with her teacher deflated that bubble. My baby actually gets math. She's even in the top math group in her class (and I have no idea how that happened). Apparently, she's pretty good at the subject and she seems to be an awesome reader and writer, too. The teacher, being all proactive, just wanted to conference with me to make sure Nayeli stays on track. So my three-part series inspired by my baby's math test has simply fizzled and I'm left with topics heading in other directions. Like:
Lately, I've been reviewing my decision to become a teacher. I don't know if it was a decision, really. It was more of an accidental undertaking that I fell into because I needed a paying job that required little skills. Interestingly, that turned out to be teaching. I was (mostly) fresh out of graduate school, traumatized after a horrible experience at University of Florida, and sort of looking for work. Honestly, I didn't seriously seek a teaching position until a principal called me for a phone interview. Surprisingly, I wasn't offered that position because he had the nerve to want a more experienced teacher (those were the days). That got me thinking, though. What if I actually searched for a teaching position? What if I actually became a teacher?
I think this is one of those moments when I could have done with some angelic intervention, you know. I mean, God spent the whole Bible sending down angels to keep believers from making horrific mistakes. Why couldn't He have sent me an angel to--oh, I don't know--warn me about the teaching profession? Don't get me wrong, of course. There are many, many days when I love the teaching profession. I'm about to enter into five of them during spring break. But there are times when I have to question my choice.
For instance, teaching is the one profession where people from many other professions believe that being a student qualifies them to speak on teaching. If that sort of thinking governed all walks of life, then imagine the chaos that what would be happening in operating rooms and courtrooms. Being a student does NOT a teacher make. This factor alone makes me want to leave the teaching profession. If anyone can teach, then why did I need degrees and professional development and student loans to get me my own classroom?
These insults, though, only add to the frustrations that I face every single day. In my classroom, I teach students to hold meaningful discussions, to listen to each other, to express themselves through poetry or rap or video, to collaborate on projects, to create PowerPoints or Prezis, and to present information to their classmates. Because, according to my state education department, this is what I am supposed to teach them. And then in June, they take a three-hour exam that tests their ability to read and write. Read and write. I am supposed to teach them to fly so that they can be tested on their ability to crawl? Is it no wonder I have reached the end of my teaching rope?
Honestly, though, I have to also acknowledge that the struggle in the classroom is real. I love when I have a student that enters class eager to learn. There is no greater feeling for an educator than when a student excels. But then you get those few students that, quite simply, have decided to stop you from teaching. Their mission in life is to disrupt the teaching process from the beginning of the period to the end. That could involve all manner of disruptions: outbursts, talking to other students, disobeying class and school rules, taking out their cell phones, complaining about you (the teacher), complaining about the class, having more outbursts. These students are not many. They are often less than five but their disruptions can cloud your entire day.
Usually, these students can be found in the same class because, of course, the programmer at your school has this wonderful knack of placing these students in the same classes. All. Day. Long. Some teachers prefer these students in large doses--all in one class so you can get them over with. Some teachers prefer that the love be spread out. I'm often torn on this idea. Either way, one tough student can make you flee the teaching profession.
For me, narrowing what I can teach in the classroom isn't a deal breaker because I will always teach in ways that allow me to engage the greatest number of students. I can even live with the disrespect that our profession is so often subjected to although it drives me absolutely crazy. I don't even think it's the disruptive students that have brought me to this crossroads in my life. But my reasons are a topic for another day.