Note: Any instances I speak of are from the past two years of my graduate school career. I’m not mentioning any specific teachers, schools, or giving any details that would allow anyone to determine where or when these took place.
There’s the truth…and THE TRUTH!
I like to think I’m pretty optimistic. I’ve talked before in previous blogs about how my anxiety and depression got the best of me and turned me into this pessimistic ball. Having CPD (Chronic Panic Disorder) year-round and a fleeting amount of Vitamin D during the winter months can be a bitch.
Since I’ve been back in therapy, working on my own self-worth, and teaching full-time for 8+ weeks, I’ve noticed my optimism has gone full throttle. I wish for the best outcome, put forth all my effort, and when I see the great results of my hard work, I’m not surprised; I’m merely happy.
I think this optimism can fade throughout the years, especially if you stay at one job for almost all of your life. I’ve seen too many teachers in my graduate school experience who are just…jaded. Their efforts and results are decent, but their outlook…it’s not so great. I’ve heard teachers gossip about other teachers, make a huge deal out of small events, and seemingly throw their hands up when a challenge comes along.
At one point, I observed a teacher with a pretty large classroom. This teacher didn’t seem to have any respect for their students, nor did these students have any respect for the teacher. According to school policy, this teacher was allowed to give time-outs at any time they felt a student was misbehaving or acting inappropriately.
These were 8th graders.
8th graders got time-outs.
These students would go to the corner of the classroom and be forced to turn and face the wall for five minutes, not talking or interacting with anyone. Of course, this teacher had no control over their classroom, and the students would throw paper, jump up and hit the ceiling tiles, and insult their peers. I could only sit in the corner, pen in hand, and write my observations.
I came home after these observations feeling defeated and confused. I’m going to be a teacher, is this what I have to look forward to?
I rationalized this terrible experience as poor classroom management on the teacher’s part. He/she had graduated from college only a year prior and was thrust into this classroom as their first job. Maybe their weakness lied within managing the students, and their love of teaching would soon surpass this.
Hang in there sad kitten.
Another experience was with a veteran teacher of 25+ years. He/she had been in the same school their entire career and worked with students for decades. Their outlook on education was motivated by their love of teaching.
Excellent. A teacher who would be ready to tackle anything!
Fight the system (effectively)!
After observing them for a while, I started to notice a few things. They were very quick to write students off based on one or two short encounters. One day, we were discussing the amount of homework the students were given on a daily basis. The teachers response was that “some kids are deadbeats” and wouldn’t ever finish their work.
Teachers get about 9 months with a student. This comment came towards the beginning of the school year. I don’t think you can call a 13 year old a “deadbeat” for not finishing their homework.
This same teacher called the students “lazy”, “irresponsible”, “stupid” (yes, stupid), and “weird”.
I don’t know if it was because they were so close to retirement or because they were having a few off days, but this type of language and outlook continued throughout my time there.For me, the worst part came from my personal interactions with the students. I would never use the words he/she did to describe these kids. I would have used “motivated”, “eager”, “silly”, “excited”, and “hard working”.
Another sad kitty.
I’ve observed, worked with, and taught alongside teachers from ages 25-60, male and female, from different educational backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and economic backgrounds.
They’ve all been jaded.
They’ve all been just a little too negative about their students.
It scares me.
I haven’t worked with more than a dozen teachers, mind you. Observations at the graduate level only require 100-140 hours before student teaching. By the time I get my Master’s in four weeks, I’ll have only worked one-on-one with about nine teachers. So my sample is very small.
But I know I’m not the only one who has had an experience like this. Many of my peers have complained that their cooperating teachers just don’t care. They don’t really act like they want them in the classroom, and when they do get the chance to teach their own lessons, the feedback is less than helpful.
I’ve been teaching for eight weeks, and I know that’s not a long time. But, in this time, I’ve been on top of the world and buried under it. I’ve left school skipping, and I’ve left crying.
Nobody has a perfect job. Everyone has to work hard. It’s just how it is.
But it’s not the students’ fault. It never is. Ever.
It might be the fault of:
But it’s not the kids’ fault. So why take it out on them?
I can look at my faults and strengths and say that I’ve never blamed a student for something going wrong. How could I? They’re kids. Even high school seniors; they’re kids too.
It doesn’t matter if they’re black, white, poor, rich, angry, quiet, frustrated, happy, slow, in need, confident, or worried.
It is impossible to feel jaded when each kid is so different and lovely.
I hope, more than anything, that in 25 years, I still feel this way. If I don’t, I’m going to do something else with my life. I never want my students to suffer because my own personal bullshit has clouded my abilities.
Despite what I’ve heard from these jaded teachers, kids give a shit. They really want to learn.
Just because a school is high-resource, high-income doesn’t mean shit.
The teachers matter. And we have to really, truly care about our students.
If you don’t, get out.