Today I have to change my thinking……..I have to get away from the dread of knowing that I have to work tomorrow. I have to stop and remind myself the importance of what I do. I teach. However, many don’t realize what this word really means and the challenges that come with it. As a very green teacher coming in over a decade ago I thought I was prepared to “teach”. As I walked into that empty classroom I was confident that I was easily ready to face students. I thought teaching was going to be a cake walk. In the now, I chuckle within, the veteran coming out in me. How could I have thought that? Some of my mentors still made fun of me years later for some of my “foo-foo” ideas at my first interview. I felt on top of the world. For some reason though, universities don’t teach you about the real definition behind the word “teacher”. Maybe they don’t want to scare you off from this valuable profession and they want us to make our own judgments while experiencing what there is to experience. Statistics show that 1 in 3 teachers are out of the profession within the first three years of teaching. I didn’t understand this statistic until I really started “teaching”.
It would have been nice to have been taught to deal with things like children coming to school in dirty clothing and without food, behavior from these students that even make me sometimes question why I’m an educator (and make me want to bust out the cattle prod), dealing with the child services division, facing the political bullshit and the imaginary soap opera of the district I work in, and putting up with the everyday stresses that come with the burden of having to prepare these students for our society when support is lacking at the home they live in. That first year, I was hit in the face with some of these unknown challenges and even more so now in the setting I work in currently.
However, with all of this being said, this is why I or we teach…..to give students a chance to succeed amongst all of the world’s chaos. We as parents and teachers have a huge responsibility. Have you looked around the world lately? Unfortunately, our children already have a disadvantage. Technology has changed the way we socialize, taking us away from actually talking with one another. We are losing our ability to socialize face to face. Kids are losing some of their imagination too. Toys (let alone video games) weren’t a big part of my life growing up. This of course turned me into a sports freak, because this was all I ever did in my youth….neighborhood wiffle-ball games, football in the field with friends, and pine cone and apple wars in the forest. Maybe it was just the life of a country boy. Today, the boys in my classroom (stereotyping here) only talk about the latest video game. Exercise and being outdoors have become a thing of the past it seems for many of these children today.
It isn’t just social skills and imagination that these children are lacking or missing though. For the students I teach, they are lacking hope that their family will just make it by, the confidence that they can actually succeed in today’s world, and the respect that they should be learning from their parents. When there are so many parents working several jobs especially in this economy, we educators really become their second family. It is crazy to think that school aged children now days actually spend more time with their teachers than with their own parents, including my own daughters, but it’s true. The power to change lives as an educator, hopefully in a positive way, is inevitable. Not only do we teach children the standard curriculum, but also the curriculum we are always inventing as a means to truly allow them to appreciate themselves while teaching them "the skills of life".
To teach is not only spitting out dates and facts, it is educating the “whole” being. We have to teach values, build confidence, support these youngsters when their home life is falling apart, and light the fire under them so they seek out information to educate themselves. This is why I teach. You not only have to love kids, you have to love to put up with the challenges. You have to love to be in reoccurring change. You have to love finding ways to make the learning experience of these “children” memorable. You have to love to “teach”.
I’m going back tomorrow humbled by my students’ experiences and invite the challenge of educating them. Thank you for those of you joining me, whether you are an educator, parent or in a job that makes the world better for our future leaders.
“It is today we must create the world of the future.” Eleanor Roosevelt