28 August 2007

ten split

I would rather focus on the positive than negative, but there is the dual concept of balancing opposites--the yin and yang of all things. Thus, I have split my "ten" for the week into two "fives."

Five peaks about my job:

  • Learning the code that unlocks the door to the brick wall that some children put up around them. That wall is their protection, their safety from something that has happened or is happening around them. But that wall also keeps them from learning, from being a child, from enjoying new ideas and skills. When I can show these children that my classroom is safe and solid, that learning can be exciting, there is a change in their perception of the world.
  • Sharing the joy of words, the world of books, the magic of numbers with children. I think that if teachers don't have a love of these things, if they are frightened by them, they shouldn't be teachers. A teacher's enthusiasm for learning is catching.
  • Discovering a new facet each year about the same curriculum. I keep notes about what worked/what didn't work on lesson plans. This helps me look at the curriculum differently to see how it can be tweaked or augmented to allow all the children to be able to access the material.
  • Learning new things by continuing to take classes and workshops. This is a requirement for teachers in California. Every five years, teachers have to renew their credential for teaching and show that they are on top of the latest teaching methods as well as keeping current on curriculum topics. I would be doing this anyway, since classes and learning is fun for me. It's a bonus I get "credit" for doing it.
  • Being part of a community. That community is the school, with the students and faculty, as well as the parents and extended family.
Five valleys about my job:
  • The separation and distrust among some teachers, both within grade levels, as well as the division between primary (kinder through third grades) and intermediate (fourth through sixth grades). At any school there is always a teacher or two who should wear a t-shirt that states: "Does Not Play/Work Well With Others".
  • Politicians and government (both state and federal) seem to relay the message that all of society's woes and ills are on the backs of teachers and their seeming inability to teach. This is one of several messy subjects surrounding my job. I just have to say, I am with my students for about six and a half hours a day (out of twenty four), five days a week, for about nine months a year. I don't go home with them, see that they eat a balanced dinner (and breakfast), see that they have a quiet, focused place to do homework, see that they have a loving home, see that they get to bed at a decent time to get the rest they need, see that their clothes are clean, see that there are positive role models in the home. That's not to say there are not any poorly equipped teachers out there...sure there are some who should not be in this profession, some who should never have chosen teaching, some who have been teaching for too long and have lost the "spark" inside. But, as a teacher, I see so little of these children in the coarse of a year's time, and am asked to perform as if in a bubble. Children and their families are dynamic, not static.
  • The constant assessment of students making it difficult to actually teach. Assessments are needed, and should be used by teachers to compare to what their objectives were for the lessons. Did the children learn what you needed/wanted them to learn? Was the "big idea" retained so it can be built onto? But too many formal assessments over the year put a strain not only on the teachers, who sometimes feel like their job depends on how well the children perform (see previous "valley"), but also on the students and families.
  • Having to teach something that most students are not physiologically and/or cognitively ready to learn. My degree is Child Development, where (I know--surprise) I learned about the growth and development of children's bodies and brains. Did you know that a humans brain continues to develop and mature until you are about 25? Humm...yet we are forcing children to learn some concepts of reading and mathematics earlier and earlier in their little lives. Wondering why they don't get it? Wonder why you had difficulty with (especially math) concepts growing up and then, somewhere along the way during college (for some, after college) the "light" turned on and it all became clear? The brain matures at the rate the body wants it to. Those synapses (connections between nerve cells) are being developed through learning, as well as over time. Can't rush it.
  • Having to buy many of the materials needed for the classroom out of my own "pocket." Parents are usually good about helping out their children at the first of the year, but remember there are nine months of school. Supplies don't replenish themselves. Pencils, pens, erasers, notebook paper, notebooks, Kleenex...these items are easier to find and stock. Art supplies for projects to help all the children access and get a deeper, richer understanding of a topic are more difficult to acquire, and more expensive. A classroom library, for the children to read above and beyond the language arts books/textbooks, is very expensive to stock and build. My classroom library is used for pleasure reading, research, literature groups, and more.


Patois said...

In case you don't hear it often enough from us parents: thank you, thank you, thank you. I love teachers. I give my children to you, and you do an admirable job. I love how you focused on your positive first. That's a great philosophy. Thanks again.

marta said...

These are such important points and consistent in Colorado, as well. When I moved last month, everyone was shocked to see the volume of children's book I had collected. Most made comments regarding how my children were "past" them then surprised when I told them teachers supply those books students read in the classroom. There are vehicles which make it easier, like Scholastic Books (Thank God), but most of those books belong to the teacher and not the school.
The politics I observed while interning and student teaching were unexpected. I knew, having worked in a downtown office for 15 years, politics are everywhere. Schools have a whole new breed of adult interaction...nuff said.
Thanks so much for articulating the real world of teaching complete with it's joys and sorrows so very well.

pjd said...

I have many teachers in my family (including my wife, who taught elementary school in California for 5 years before switching to SAHM, but who is planning on returning to the classroom full time in the next year or two). I know it is a job I could never do... just not something I'd excel at, but as every good teacher knows, people need to find their strengths.

I agree with all your points, particular the ones about the politicians and the school community. I volunteer as crossing guard at our school, and I love having met and knowing so many people now. It's a different experience when you know everyone.

emicat said...

I also would like to thank you for being a teacher. I know it's not an easy job to do at times, but I hope the "peaks" in your job continue to outweight the valleys. I was one of the shy kids at school and I can still recall some of those teachers who took the time to help me come out of my shell and enjoy school and to tell me that it's cool to be a bookworm :)

CathyCate said...

Teaching is truly a profession rather than a job; meaning among other things (as YOU know) that it's not an 8-5 thing, and takes dedication and caring to do well. I honor and respect teachers, as I trust my children to them. My children have been blessed with some amazing teachers to date, and more to come, I'm sure. Thank you and your colleagues for all you do.