Because life is a series of edits

Thinking Teaching

In Education, Westminster on August 13, 2008 at 7:42 am

School officially starts tomorrow and I’ve got my back against the wall getting ready. Despite what today (and tonight) looks like, I’m excited to get back in the classroom.

My friend, Ken, is a teacher and, while his situation in the public school is a little different from mine in a Christian school, I couldn’t help but resonate with much of what he posted on his Facebook page about teaching. Like any good teacher desperate for time, I copy it word for word here (though I always attribute). Enjoy.

“Teaching is a great gig, and I can’t think of anything that has more lasting significance than what I do everyday, BUT there are some things that prospective teachers need to hear and understand:

1. If you slide into teaching, you’ll slide back out. Decide to teach, don’t do it for lack of anything else; it’s too frustrating otherwise and you won’t last.

2. If you plan on supporting a family with the salary you get, it will be a long time before you’re comfortable. You will be living within slender means, and likely lack any cutting-edge tech for a while. If yours is the only income, things will be quite tight for years.

3. You are held to a higher standard of behavior in your personal life than is any other profession of which I can think (aside from kiddie show host and clergy).

4. Right now, the pendulum is swinging toward the assessment/standards/govermental interference and it IS a pain in the keister. It’s the difference between true education and plain schooling. It will swing back eventually, but if you see teaching as more of an art than a science, EXPECT to be stymied a while until it does.

5. You don’t ACTUALLY get paid for summer break (or any vacations, for that matter); you are unemployed with a pending contract.

6. Though all other professions spring from it, you can expect disdain from the ‘those who can’t, teach’ thinkers. You will be expected to do more than that for which you are contracted or compensated.

7. Our culture of kid-centric (not just child-oriented) parenting has created situations in which the scholar (even red-handed) can do no wrong, the parents can advocate to the point of insult, the scholars who need to work the hardest and overcome the most are enabled to fail and train themselves to mediocrity by those closest to them, and excellence is too often measured by the distance from the lowest common denominator rather than a true paragon of thought and effort (and teachers are tempted towards run-on sentences). It may change and improve, it may not. To a degree you will need to rebel against this trend and stand up for what’s really right and not what’s accepted by convention. To another degree you will need to accept this situation and work within it. Doing so can be really exhausting to your emotions and your principles, but it’s the way it is.

8. People who aren’t in the classroom and don’t know jack will pontificate on your faults and failings and legislate ways to make your job more difficult.

9. You will be held accountable for the flawed behavior patterns, attitudes of entitlement and clogging apathy that some parents allow (even instill) in their kids, and you’ll swim upstream against a media culture that encourages the scholars to devalue anything that doesn’t entertain them.

10. A tax accountant’s busy season is from January to April 15th. A teacher’s is from August to June. You will live, eat and breathe the work in that time. You’ll dream it.

And yet on the other hand….

1. You’ll get to meet/know/mentor/enjoy REALLY cool people before they even know they’re cool.

2. You’ll become a minor (very minor) celebrity around the town in which you teach.

3. You have the chance to ensure that young people either have the same great experience you did, or avoid the hell you endured.

4. No day is EVER the same; there’s never a dull moment.

5. You gain a certain extent of immortality or infamy in the minds of your scholars and their children/grandchildren for which they will be grateful or glad to have survived.

6. Your profession is seasonal; it has a definite beginning and a definite end. It fosters self-reflection and optimism. You will be challenged to improve and hone your skills with brand new crowds of folks all the time. It’s a dynamic job.

7. Some days you’ll be so glad you chose it, you’ll want to stay in the building overnight, just so you don’t lose your groove.”

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