Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Hard Part

Every job has aspects which are difficult. . . maybe even onerous and horrid if we are being completely honest. The problem with teaching is that when you talk about the "hard" parts of the job, you will--inevitably--have to talk about the students at some juncture.  Other people's babies!!  How does one express this without sounding like a heartless devil?

And therein lies the crux of the situation for teachers and other people-centric professions.

The hard part of the job isn't the endless--and largely uneducated--meddling that legislators do (Although it's a royal PITA and I'm NOT on board with some bozo with no education experience telling me how to go about my business.). It isn't the ridiculous amount of $$ I've shelled out to improve myself professionally and to maintain licensure. It isn't the "politics" of working in a building--and in a department--with a host of, sometimes conflicting, personalities.  Nope.  Those things are small potatoes.

The hard part--my dears--is when you look out onto the group of students in front of you--knowing full well that you are not reaching the students and there's nothing you've done that will break down the wall. It's hard because you WILL continue to give your best effort to reach them.  You have to. It's both your professional and your moral obligation.  But. . . . it's exhausting.

Point in case: We are reading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried in one of my sections.  The kids are Not. Into. It. Nope. No Way. You. Cannot. Make. Me. (In the interest of full disclosure, they--as a group--haven't been into much this year.) And. . . . it's exhausting. It's exhausting to put everything I possibly can into providing learning opportunities: ways for the students to look beyond themselves, ways for the students to think deeply about the text, ways for the students to connect the text to what they know, ways for them to create a unique experience with a really powerful piece of writing. . . . et cetera and so forth.

What is additionally frustrating is how we talk about this lack of engagement within the realm of education. Because. . . again if we are being completely honest. . . there is some culpability on the instructor, the student, and outside forces in cases like these.  The current trend in education, however, is to say that if students are engaged (or not) it is entirely due to the teacher.

That's just silly.

When we teach, we try to be all things to all students but I believe most rational people would say this is an unreachable, if admirable, goal. So the hard part is seeing their eyes glaze over and then trying to figure out what to do next and where to go from here.  The thing is. . . the thing that separates the "good" teachers from everyone else. . . is that we don't give up.  We cannot. We will not. We dare not.  Too much is riding on maybe the next approach being the one that works.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Once Upon a Time. . . .

In a land far, far away there was a woman who wanted nothing more than to teach children about the truths of the human experience via literature.  

Well, that's the beginning and the end of that little  fairy tale. 

If I were inclined to do so, I could wax rhapsodic about my teaching experience, my education, my areas of expertise, my certifications, etc and so forth. . . . but, I am NOT inclined to do so at this juncture.  Since I'll cover all of that, in some manner, as the posts progress, it hardly seems necessary now. Instead, allow me to share a little anecdote from my classroom.  I think it's illustrative of the "type" of person who teaches and who is able to stay in the profession without going completely bonkers.

A few weeks back, my students were working on their final paper for the quarter/semester. As this paper was in a "new to them" style, I spent a fair amount of time in instruction and modeling--so as to minimize confusion and angst (teenagers are well-versed in angst).  As I'm talking about some aspect of the paper, I spy--out of the corner of my eye--one of my students holding up a note card and another student giggling.  Now, my experience has taught me that no one, and I mean NO ONE, giggles while taking notes about the stylistic requirements for argument writing.  It. Just. Isn't. Done. So, I stop what I'm doing, walk over to the student, and pick up the note card.  On it is written, "pen15."  That's right, my students are giggling over an incognito "penis" note card.  As a new teacher, I probably would have flipped out over this.  However--being me at this point in my life--I simply said, "you do know you've misspelled 'penis?"  And, that, my dears is what I LOVE about my job.  The students are funny, crazy, silly, maddening, challenging, goofy, and almost always the best part of my job.