The Sin of Being a Teacher

Colorful-Crayon-FrameThe field of education is full of hypocrisy. Teachers are the worst of the hypocrites. I should know. I’ve been teaching for over a decade.

Lies I’ve heard over the years and what I’ve learned as a result:

Lie #1: Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.
I teach in a middle school, and a co-worker of mine posted this on her fb page regarding a particularly draining day:

Teaching today is like trying to get a cat to stand on one leg. While on a roller coaster. While it’s raining. And there are other cats around.”

Teaching is like leading an orchestra. Our job is to corral 30 different personalities into one harmonious sound. People outside the field of education just won’t understand the sinew and determination and patience that is involved in creating a melodious classroom where learning is evident, students are constantly engaged, and positive relationships are maintained.

Is every student capable of learning? Sure. Will they? Not in a million years. The biggest obstacles I see in my own classroom are an extreme epidemic of apathy toward education and a steadily increasing disrespect shown toward teachers, by both students and parents.

So, why do teachers stay in a profession that is overwhelmingly challenging and offers little more than intrinsic value? We stay in it for the summers, of course! Hold it.. just kidding. That’s just what everyone outside of education expects us to say. Ha! Sadly, more and more educators are turning away from their first love in search of something with less stress, or less personal time stolen outside the regular work day, or something that offers fair monetary compensation. But the truth is, most of us still enjoy it. We live for the moment when the light bulb flashes on for some students; we love the opportunity to be the day-time parent to some really great kids for a year. I just hope that the intrinsic values are enough to keep quality teachers in our schools.

Lie #2: We don’t “teach to the test.”
One word.

Liar.

Teachers are crushingly fearful of numbers. Good grief, our job security is directly tied to how well we can get our students to perform on standardized or district-driven tests. Or in many cases, both. In my world, we’re talking 13- and 14-year-olds. It’s a VERY. GOOD. THING they don’t know how much power they hold in their little hormone-driven hands. We work hard to motivate them, entertain them long enough to hold their attention, and gently challenge them without pushing them far enough that they give up. But if an educator tells you that she is strictly focused on creating life-long learners and that she thinks teaching to the test is a disgrace to the profession, then you call her on it. Tell her you’re throwin’ the flag. Either she’s of the unique population protected by the union or she’s a first year teacher. Either way, it’s not reality.

Lie #3: We’re offended at all the jokes about having summer and holidays off.
We pretend to be. But really, we love our time off. We have families and hobbies and a thousand other things that we deliberately ignore to great lengths during the school year because we’re so focused on loving our students and getting them to score highly on tests. We spend our summers and holidays making up for all that lost time, hugging our own little ones a little longer, finishing that book we started back in October, and getting down to the serious business of all the episodes of Downton Abbey we missed. We feel sorry for the professionals. SUCKAS!

Kumbaya and all that other crap

I’m a facebook junkie.

I am.

I feel no shame in admitting it.facebook_logo_detail

Like any other social media outlet, facebook has its advantages, disadvantages, and at some point people who will use it for purposes of exploitation. This week especially though, I appreciate it. Several heartfelt posts I read recently prompted some incredibly meaningful conversations– like real ones, face-to-face discussions, not just cryptic messages left in the comments of the post.

I find it interesting to note the overriding sentiment behind the posts I’ve read lately. What I keep hearing these days is that people want to know they are in like company. The posts catching my attention feel a lot like distress calls. Apparently people, present company included, want to know they’re not alone, that they’re not the only ones experiencing struggles or battles or frustrations, no matter if the situations are serious or so inconsequential the whole thing becomes hilarious. Regardless, the resounding cry seems to be “IS THERE ANYONE ELSE OUT THERE WHO UNDERSTANDS WHAT I’M GOING THROUGH?”

Each time I’ve read between the lines– “DOES ANYONE ELSE FEEL THE SAME WAY?– there have been, of course, many people who reached out with encouraging words or funny anecdotes to showcase their own weaknesses. And I love how all of a sudden facebook has become a new way to minister to people looking for assurance.

I’ve responded with similar words online before, but twice just today, I reminded a couple of dear friends, “You are not alone.”

It all started with this chick’s blog– Lisa Jo Baker apparently. Never heard of her before last night. But she wrote an AMAZING and UPLIFTING piece titled “Grace for the working mother and her guilt” and I caught a glimpse of it on a friend’s facebook wall.  Well, shoot, down here in the ‘suthin parts like Texas, all us lil’ ole’ teachers were gearing up to go back to work this morning after enjoying our two week Christmas break. This is Texas, the tip of the Bible belt. Most of us will forever refer to this time as the Christmas Break– not the “Holiday” break. map with texasI hate to stereotype, but let’s face it. Most teachers, at least here in Texas where I’m from, are females. And most of us have families. And most of us were dealing with some pretty hefty, Texas-sized emotions as we faced the prospect of leaving our little ones and going back to work after the break. And on Sunday night, on the eve of the great slap in the face from reality that is called Monday Morning, that blog Lisa Jo wrote spread like wildfire among us teachers.

In fact, I was so moved by it that I re-read it again today. And here’s the best part, y’all: that blog, and just as importantly, the sharing of that blog through facebook, led to conversations today that I just consider priceless. Several of my friends and I were handed the opportunity to look each other in the eye and speak the words, “Oh, girl. You. Are. Not. Alone.” And I felt connected. Reassured. Encouraged. My resolve was strengthened. I still didn’t have all the answers, but I was comforted in knowing that neither did they. I was not alone.

photo credit: bangsandabun.com

photo credit: bangsandabun.com

In a world characterized by technological advances quicker than the speed of lightning, I understand the disadvantages of our plugged-in lifestyles. You’ve heard people quip how this generation is more “connected” than any other in history, and how they’re failing to make meaningful interpersonal connections despite the availability at their fingertips.

But today, I am grateful for technology.

Lisa Jo What’s-her-face understood a deep-rooted dilemma facing working mothers on a Sunday evening. She shared her sentiments on a blog. Encouraged friends and readers shared her blog on their social media pages. Several hundred (thousand?) more encouraged readers shared those social media pages. I have no idea how many hits Lisa Jo has recorded so far for this particular blog post, but I consider the whole effort worth it. She wrote words I personally needed to hear. Even more importantly, I was led to share my experience and encouragement with face-to-face friends.

And those are exactly the kind of meaningful interpersonal connections we’re working so hard to protect for the next generation.