Saturday, July 2, 2016

Stay put? Go back?

I wonder if I should start paying attention to my dreams more. On several mornings this past year I’ve woken from a dream in which I’m in the classroom, or I’m teaching, or I’m surrounded by kids, or I’m doing something teacherly – and then I wake up and feel like I’m missing something. Should I go back to the classroom?

I’ve been in this profession since 1990. Teaching has been my life. After 26 years in, however, teachers usually start looking at how many years they have left, when and how to retire. I've found myself doing the same. I know I'm not totally content in my current position. For the last two years I’ve been in a support role, coaching new teachers, providing professional development, running data, and going to meetings.

It’s just not as satisfying as the teacher life. There’s nothing like teaching kids how to write, reading with them, getting them excited about new things, and letting them figure things out for themselves. It’s fulfilling and heartbreaking and joyful to be responsible for a classroom kids who depend on you in different ways; you get to watch them grow, you form relationships with them, you push them and protect them. Teaching is how you move the world forward, how you connect with the future, how you keep dreams alive. I miss that.

Now, I know teaching isn’t what it used to be – and that if I were presently in the classroom, I would be complaining about the paperwork, the lesson plans, too much testing, demanding administrators, and disengaged parents, and the pointless meetings.

But I still miss teaching. And I know that, if it’s popping up in my dreams as often as it does, it’s because my soul is trying to tell me something.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Half Teacher, Half Super Hero

Most of us are required to wear an ID badge at school. I wear mine on a lanyard, to which I've attached a large white button with black lettering, stating: “HALF TEACHER, HALF SUPERHERO”.  I’ve felt that way for a long time, but this past year I believe it even more. I wear these words as a mantra, a shield, and a shout out to all my fellow educators. Who else but a teacher can know what it’s really like?

We pay our respects to the children and educators lost in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. While the grim news affected our entire country, it touched teachers in a most profound way. Who would ever imagine that the joyful place called school would one day invoke the saddest of tears? And, are we even surprised that teachers would step forward to protect those in their charge?

I’m even more determined to make it known, that ours is the most humbling of professions. The huge expectation placed on our students as indicated in the new standards, and the incessant testing that robs us of teaching time, wears at us. Teachers are more burdened than ever with district mandates, tight schedules, and the urgent need to reach every student. A typical school day with its ups and downs– bad behavior, laughter, the discovery of a weeks-old muffin in a desk (and an accidental science lesson!), multiplication facts that make you shake your head, great discussions, no homework and MIA parents, and the collective “Nooooo!!!!” when the bell rings and it’s time to go home – is tiring, overwhelming, heart-breaking, and inspiring.

I often tell myself “I’m done!” with this exhausting work, it’s just too much sometimes. And yet, I fall in love with it again day after day. Right before we broke for the holidays, my newest student - who has only been here a few months – laughed at a joke I told in class. His eyes lit up and he guffawed! Another student, who refused to speak since September, began to bloom during guided reading, as she shared the story of her arrival to the U.S. – a connection she made after reading When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Moments like these mean a lot to a teacher, especially a teacher of ELLs.

It’s been too easy to criticize teachers lately. But when it gets really tough, and when it counts the most, we stand firm. And so, in the New Year, I recommit to being the best teacher I can be. I’ll teach my kids with energy and enthusiasm. I’ll prepare engaging lessons. I’ll keep myself informed. I’ll have high expectations of my students, but I’ll also be sensitive to their needs. I’ll watch over them.

I’m half teacher, half superhero.