I wasn't going to post at all this weekend because I don't think I have anything uplifting to say. But, then I thought that writing might help me, and I started this blog to be authentic. Authentic is not always cheerful, so here goes....
It was a tough week- the kind of week I wonder how much longer I can sustain this job as a teacher. I would really like to be a teacher for another 15-20 years but I'm often wondering these days if that's going to be possible.
I talked with two teaching colleagues after work on Friday. We were trying to figure out how to best address a problem and I felt frustrated because I usually have some solutions and ideas but I didn't have much to offer. The systems we work in just seem so complicated and it seems like no one wants to listen. I left feeling pretty negative and sad. And I think they felt the same way- kind of defeated. And, that made me feel like crying because I know these two are amazing, committed, passionate teachers and too many wonderful teachers are feeling this way these days.....
"America is demanding too much from its teachers without giving them the proper support to educate students effectively. Commitment, caring, pushing for results, and putting in a full work's day no longer seem to be enough...Often, I felt like a soldier dropped behind enemy lines with nothing more than orders. No weapon. No helmet. No hope of reinforcements." wrote John Owens, in Confessions of a Bad Teacher.
50% of teachers are leaving the profession within the first five years according to recent reports. The reports say that they're leaving because of lack of support and help. They find the job and the problems the kids bring just too overwhelming and they don't get the help they need to help the kids. These teachers don't leave because they don't care. They don't quit because they don't love their students and want to help them. They leave because it's too hard and no one is listening. This statistic should absolutely shock- it should compel a call for reform so loud it can't be ignored.
Teaching is an interesting profession. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody thinks they're an expert on teaching and freely feel they can give advice. Why is this? Because we all went to school once?
A couple of years ago I was on a committee that included community members and I was absolutely astounded at the lack of willingness from some people to listen to what the educators had to say about our field. They were sure they knew better than all of us. It was as if my master's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and my 20 years of experience in the classroom had no value. They didn't even want to know about the established research that informed my teaching practice. They knew better. The audacity and arrogance floored me.
And, it made me want to drop by the closest seminar for surgeons and stand up and share all my expertise and the way to do surgery since I had once had my gall bladder removed.
I'll just go all the way here as long as I'm venting and say that when you work with English Learners, immigrants and refugees, you get even more advice and criticism. Ours is a complicated teaching field because it gets all mixed up with people's politics, fear, prejudices, and assumptions about immigrants.
So many people in our country and our own community and even some teachers in our very own school buildings, look at these children as a drain and a deficit. They pull down scores. They need extra help. They don't speak English for God's sake.
When I look at these English Learners, these resilient and brave immigrants and refugees, do you know what I see? I see the future of our country. I see kids who once they master English, and THEY WILL, (provided they are given the appropriate teaching, time and support, ) will be members of our community who speak 2, 3, 4 languages, who are able to navigate seamlessly between cultures. I SEE VALUE!!!! I SEE ASSETS!!! I know when you type in capital letters, it's like you're yelling, and yeah, I guess I am yelling. I want to be listened to.
So, back to the original question of how much longer can I possibly do this crazy job? I'm really not sure today.
I have a wonderful aunt who was an early childhood special education teacher for many years and she just always simply advises me to do it for as long as I can. That for however long I can hang in there and teach, it will be a benefit for the kids I work with and for public education.
I actually feel less discouraged right now after writing this post. I feel more like fighting and advocating, because when I think about giving up, I see my students' faces, and they so badly need fighters and advocates who love them and believe in them.
I'll take a deep breath. I'll smile. I'll focus on the positive and try to make change where I can, even if it's in the smallest way. I'll continue to put my heart on the school table.
I'm a teacher, after all, and that is something. That is really something........right?????