So, I find myself back in front of a science classroom, with 150 sleepy high school students and a killer lab set up courtesy of school funding circa 1950. They really knew how to set a teacher up back then…but I am getting ahead of myself. Full disclosure, I haven’t been a full-blown teacher since 2004 – when I was working with middle school students that the state really didn’t care what I did with them (accountability speaking) so long as they loved science and didn’t harm themselves, or others, in the process.
That isn’t to say I haven’t been working in schools, I have. I’ve been evaluating teachers, working on state and local accountability measures, investigating referral worthy issues, absorbing body blows from a sometimes-irritated stakeholder, generating funds for all that is no longer covered in a shrinking school budget and planning for the best version of whatever educational institution I am working in. I think I have been productive and have used my time well, but I can’t lie – I’ve never been this tired before.
This teacher-tired is bone deep (and I don’t think it is related to my age or lack of mobility). This is a level of tired that I don’t remember from back in the day. After a few weeks of this new gig, I offer these observations as a veteran teacher/administrator/whatever I am now….
- Those who are warriors, Teach.
Teaching is harder than it has ever been. Period. This is not up for debate. I’ve done it then and now…Pre-NCLB, NCLB, and whatever alphabet soup we have as of today. I have more tricks and knowledge in my back pocket than I did when I started, and I am telling you – today’s teachers are Optimus Prime/JJ Watt/John Cena level warriors.
Yes, kids are the same as they ever were. Yes, they want to learn and yes they want to have someone who cares. AND….they have phones, and brains, two jobs, extra-curricular responsibilities and no stomach for busy work. They have real world concerns, like will they be deported? Will their parents be deported? Will they get a job that helps them buy a home? Will they be able to afford college? Will the plans they set out for themselves in their freshman year develop for them by graduation?
I do my best to meet them halfway, but I must tell you – this is a lot more than I had to deal with when I was that age – and far more than what I helped my kids navigate through in 1995 when I started.
Now dump accountability for performance, scientific measures of teacher effectiveness, restricted resources due to constrained budgets, and competition for enrollment on top of that and we should be worship people who want to take this on as a career.
All of them.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this teacher’s reflection!