Thursday, January 29, 2015

To be a Teacher or not to Be?

This week started the downhill slide of the school year and the wrapping up of grades and such for the first half of the school year. After eight years in the same school, the two years before that in two completely different schools, I signed up to be split between schools this school year so that puts me at five schools in eleven years.

I was really excited about this opportunity because I was really looking for some perspective when it comes to my chosen profession of teacher.  Not last year but the year prior to that I had  hit severe burn out and  was ready to throw in the towel on this career. However, I knew it probably wasn't wise to make that decision in a moment of frustration. I also really wanted to give myself a chance to change things for myself within the profession before making such a huge decision. I definitely made the right decision to give myself more time. Have I made a final decision yet if teaching for 30 years (20 more to go!) is for me? I would say that answer is still inconclusive depending on a few things.

I enjoyed my last year at my former school of eight years though, and I've had a good first half of the year so far. So after some time and reflecting here are some things I've learned.

-No matter our chosen profession it's going to have it's pros and cons.
-No matter the profession there are going to be people who have no idea how to really do our job telling us how to do it.
-Every job has its good days and bad days.
-Every job has its demands and is hard in some way.

I know education is under attack in many ways. Every time I look there's some new article posted about why teachers are leaving the field of education. But every job that's a professional job is going to be hard, going to be demanding, going to push our limits and dedication. There's going to be change to implement over and over again.  I think that's part of being a professional. I don't think there is no easy professional job; there are just different stresses and demands placed on each profession.

However, even knowing that I still have the thought of leaving education in the back of my head. It's not because it's too hard or I hate the changes. In fact, as I've spent a lot of time working with data and new curriculum this year, I tend to think the changes are a move in the right direction. They just need some work and revision but that's the way change works. One of the biggest reasons I still think about leaving is, well to put it simply, stupidity, because I think it's stupidity that leads to all three of these reasons I'll outline below.

1. I'm so tired of "work" being created for teachers to do because someone, who has no idea what teachers actually do, think that we're not busy enough and need things to do to fill our time. For instance, we're given PD days, which should be for grading and all this new data recording and analyzing, except half the time we're pulled into workshops or meetings where others that aren't teachers can pretend to be the teacher for the day while we "play" student. Now I have attended some worthwhile, beneficial PD, but I have also attended a lot of time wasting PD that really made me feel like we were given tasks like busy work for crying out loud because again we must not have enough to do with our time.

2. I'm so sick of the numbers game and the pushing kids through because of the obsession with numbers. We're suppose to be preparing kids for the real world, yet we do them a huge disservice when we're pressured by parents and sometimes administration to "work" with students by giving them chance after chance to take care of assignments they decided not to do in the first place. I'm so sick of it being the teacher's fault because the kid was lazy, and it being a poor reflection of the teacher because the kid was lazy.

3. The third thing is the attitude and behavior of the kids. Teachers are given limited respect at times, but I'm also amazed at how little respected they give their peers too though. I'm so sick of students that can't shut their damn mouth. It shouldn't be a fight the whole period for a teacher to stand up there and present her lesson.  Luckily this year I haven't had to deal with the attitude much, but I've definitely had my fair share of in your face attitude problems in the past.

When I look at these three things though again I ask myself, "are you really going to escape these things by leaving teaching." Even though I may not have to sit through meaningless PD, from talking to people in other professions it sounds like you always have "know it alls" in the higher offices that think they know how to do your job better than you. I also think many occupations today, not just teachers, are being given more work than ever before. I read something recently how due to the economy and people's fear for their jobs, employers can get away with requiring more and more work from their employees and paying less and less overtime, therefore, requiring more productivity in less time.

Many jobs are based on numbers because those numbers show the progress and success of their product. However, I wouldn't be contributing to the disservice of lazy, entitled future generations.

The third one is a big one for me. Because the thing is this is one of the things that I've come to see can vary from school to school. It's my biggest reason for considering leaving; yet I've also come to see through my experience this year that every day does not have to be a fight to just get up and teach in front of a class like I've come to expect it to be the last few years.

So what I've concluded is if I can get into a school with a mostly pleasant student body that allows me to teach classes without fighting through the whole period to get them to shut up and listen, I'm okay with all the rest of the things that annoy me. One of my biggest visions with teaching is to teach in the same community in which I live. I have never experienced this. We moved two years ago to this nice small town community. I'm confident if I can ever get a job here, I'd come to find teaching the enjoyable experience I've had this year.

However, it's hard to get in here because no one leaves until they retire. Second, I would lose pay and the job security I've had for the last seven years. The system I'm in now offers better pay, benefits, and opportunities. However, even though I really like the one school I'm at now, it's typically an hour commute in the morning. Teaching is a job where you want to feel like a part of the school community, which usually involves attending a few school events and activities. I've always enjoyed seeing students do their thing outside the classroom. I loved how some of my students got to know the girls through mine and Nate's coaching a few years ago. I know the only way to really feel completely connected to a school is to be a part of that community, and now that I have a family of my own, I really want it to be the community we are already a part of. So when it comes to the question for myself  to be a teacher or to not be I now feel confident in knowing what I want and what I can expect from this profession, and now I have a clear goal to shoot for.

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