Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Somedays I m reminded why I teach

I received something today that brought tears to my eyes and that I so desperately needed. I have always believed in signs and that God sends you messages if you're just willing to open eyes and ears to Him.

As some know, this has been the most exhausting, morally defeating year of my career as a teacher. I have been in the classroom a decade and have never been this miserable. I have strongly considered leaving teaching and making a career change. I work in a "challenging" school, which probably isn't much different than most urban like communties (I don't consider it surburban compared to my Midwest defintion of surburban)  and unfortunately the negativity that surrounds our profession from the way students behave or misbehave is more like it, to the way society perceives education and its educators, and to the entitlement issue that is quickly overtaking this generation, has really not just taken its toll on me; it's taken its toll on the whole educational community. We have no voice; our own students do not even give us respect because somewhere out there it has become acceptable to question authority, to argue, to feel that something is owed them with no offering in return. They come to class unprepared and want to know why we don't provide them with paper and pencil; we challenge them to think and instead of accepting the challenge and helping themselves grow intellectually it has become more important to appear to be something they're not on paper and receive the highest grade even if that must be achieved through cheating. We came into this profession to make a difference, to help them see their potential, to prepare them for the real world. But we have been left with no voice, no authority because some parents think it's "helping" their child to helicopter parent and argue for every little missed point on an assignment or every missed second on the playing field instead of just letting them learn and grow from their own mistakes and weaknesses. Some parents either think it's our problem when their student misbehaves constantly or worse some make it feel like you need an attorney present to just discipline a student for misbehavior. It all makes me sad. Sad that this is what has become of a profession I wanted to do since I was a little kid; sad that teachers feel unloved and disrespected; sad that I want to leave.

So today, sick of the same old read, graphic organizer, write routine of the curriculum guide, I took our reading of today, Sojourner Truth "Ain't I a Woman" and turned it into a feminist debate, which as I mentioned once before with the defintion of an American debate we had in class, some of my classes really get into these discussions. And by really I mean I need one of those judge gavel things so I can bang it on the desk when they all start talking at once, jumping out of their seats in excitement, trying to be louder than the one they disagree with. Think next year I will spend a whole class on how we have a debate without jumping out of our seats. One of my administrators came in and I think he thought there was a riot in there or something. No, sorry, just another crazy Glenn class debate with my crazy students I seemed to have been blessed with this year.

I was telling them how when they study us in history, the role of women today is going to be one of the big topics. One coworker said this "is the century of the woman". Gender roles are changing, expectations are changing, and the way we live, view society, parent our children are all changing as a result of that. As a woman, as a mother, this all fascinates me. I wish I could have recorded the conversations we had today. I found their insight enlightening and some of their comments comical. I know they have to write, which is what I love to make them do because I love to write, and  have to have vocabulary, grammar, and all those crazy analytical graphic organizers, but it's days like today when we get to read something from American history and then talk about it in a way that makes them all engaged and on the edge of their seat to make their voice heard, that makes me enjoy teaching. Not all students are going to college, not all love reading and writing, or even like school, but they're all searching for their identity. Gender roles and defining today's American helps them see how they fit, who they are, who maybe they want to be. Can't we just talk about that all year? Isn't a sense of self, a sense of self that is aware of its weaknesses and strengths, just as important as some of that "educational" stuff that they have to show they've mastered on some test that most probably won't ever use after high school unless it's their major.

So that was my day in the classroom today. But the best part came forty five minutes after the school day ended when a parent called looking for me. And unfortunately, those parent phone calls aren't really what you want to deal with at the end of the day. It was a student's mother, calling to tell me how her daughter came home talking all about Mrs. Glenn's class and our discussion of the American woman's role in society from Sojourner Truth's pre Civil War time to today. And she called to thank me for having such an enlightening discussion with my kids, for making them think about the shoes their own mothers walk in today. She went out of her way to make sure she tracked me down almost an hour after school to thank me for being her daughter's teacher. Talking to her brought tears to my eyes and in a moment when I so desperately needed to be reminded why I do what I do I got it. It was just a phone call and it was just a thank you but it meant the world to me.  Don't let my stories fool you; I'm not a bad teacher, but I'm not a great teacher either. But whether great teachers (and I work with some great teachers) or teachers like me that are still trying to grow into better teachers, they do so much more than what anyone ever sees. And as awesome as a free burrito from Chipolte or a chicken sandwich from Chik fil a is, a simple thank you from a student or a parent is going to make that teacher's day if not year because I sure know that one phone call from just that one parent didn't just make my day. It made my year so you have two more days to tell the teachers in your life thank you!


  1. I know exactly how you feel. Every year what looks like a perfect classroom management plan turns into a disaster a month or two in. It can be frustrating. Like you I see teachers that I know are stronger then me and I really try my best everyday. Sometimes it takes them a few years to mature and sometimes they end up in jail before that happens, but at least you can say you did your job 100%. What grade/subject do you teach?

  2. I've been teaching ninth and eleventh, but next year I go to just eleventh and two elective courses, yearbook and creative writing. I love creative writing so I'm excited about getting that. I do love American literature but this has been a really tough year for me. I've had a severe case of burnout. I'll be starting my tenth year next year. I'm hoping after a restful summer I'll feel a lot better.