Oh Groundhog Day...
Every year on this day instead of thinking groundhog, I am reminded of Bill Murray and what ultimately becomes his pursuit of Andie Macdowell, day after day, as he is forced to repeat February 2nd as some kind of It’s a Wonderful Life-esque obligatory life lesson. Some days he legitimately tries to win her over with his kindness and attention to detail (all of which is acquired information from the days previous). Some days though he acts like a real ass, because he knows he’s just going to end up right back where he started that same morning. I completely feel like I can relate and my guess is that there are others out there just like me.
Does anyone truly like his or her job, and I mean really enjoy it? The kind of like or love for a job where you wake up excited to get started, and then find it difficult to end your day. I have struggled with this idea for well over a year now. And yes, I realize how fortunate I am to consider this my struggle when many people around the world don’t have jobs, or homes, or food. But for me, at this moment in my life, I am questioning my place in it. I went into education because I really hoped that I could inspire students. I think (most of the time) that I am good at what I do. I’ve heard other teachers, when asked why they wanted to be a teacher, say, “I do it for that moment where the student gets it, when the light bulb turns on, when I can see understanding wash over them.” But these are not examples of why I teach.
Contrary to the complaints that spill out of my mouth at times, I don’t actually detest my occupation. There are, most definitely, issues that I feel befall education unnecessarily in terms of budget, management, and the overall direction to which we guide both students and teachers. Additionally, there are times where I just don’t get where a parent is coming from on both ends of the parental participation spectrum. In previous posts I’ve mentioned the parents who are, in my eyes, a little too involved in their students academics. I’ve had students where it is completely obvious that the parent does their schoolwork for them. And then there are moments where I can’t even begin to fathom what goes on in my students’ homes nor understand completely the difficulties that they struggle with. I’ve had students where the parent is so uninvolved or inefficient that the student has moved in with a classmate. These examples are not as extreme as one may think. There are so many variables that manipulate what goes on in a typical school day.
Often, outsiders of education have no idea what teachers deal with on a daily basis. I know that many people have mixed feelings as to the effectiveness of educators, specifically those in public schools. I know there are people who view educators in K-12 as babysitters, not for one moment recognizing the difficulties of teaching (typically 30 students) at a time the same idea, even when those students are probably sitting at 30 different ability levels.
Don’t worry though, that has been dealt with. Now, all teachers have to do is simply adjust to each students’ own ability level, adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of each student, even if they are reading at a 2nd grade reading level as a 9th grader. (True story)
And it is for this exact reason that I sometimes feel like more of a babysitter than a secondary teacher. Instead of teaching with the philosophies and educational tools that I acquired while pursuing both my Bachelors and Masters in Education, I most often have to teach with my hands tied to a specific textbook, while wearing a blindfold so that I can ignore the outrageous behavior exuded by students, because they have a “right” to education.
Last summer, I was extremely lucky to have spent some time in Hawaii. Oh ok, really quick. Teachers on most contracts are paid for 180 days that is then separated out over 12 months. We are not technically paid for our summers off, or winter break, or spring break—our pay is just “rationed” out. While in Hawaii, I met a woman who spoke of her son’s exceptional intelligence. It was very hard for her though because his teachers just weren’t reaching him and thus he was failing. This is not the first time I’ve heard this. Somehow this idea that students are so far above and beyond the norm that they are simply too bored and unmotivated to do the menial labor required of them in school as if it is below them, has become the perfect excuse for poor behavior and poor study skills. When a child chooses to sit in your class and do absolutely nothing and/or they go home and additionally make no progress on the content covered in class…I have to ask, who is at fault? I have heard more times than necessary how it is a matter of finding “that carrot” that will encourage a student to want to learn, as if the idea of learning no longer bears any intrinsic value. Why do our students not see the value in education? Where is that coming from? It is not just parents, but society too.
Schools and teachers are often blamed for the negatives associated with education. And yes, there are instances where they aren’t what is good in education, but are we really so naïve as Americans that schools are failing all across the country, and we can’t see a bigger picture, a bigger issue?
President Obama discussed education during his State of the Union Address in January. He mentioned the importance of parental involvement, and of teacher accreditation, but he also mentioned how teachers’ success, in recognition of Race to the Top, will be based on student test scores. Anyone who has read my previous posts knows I don’t agree with this concept. But here’s the thing…change in education must happen. What we are doing now is not working, for anyone. And so, I am willing to accept changes like this because I know that for some of these issues to be recognized and dealt with, a major shift must occur.
I think like this because I see myself as the type of educator who wants my students to succeed, for the benefit of our country, and for them. I don’t give a shit if they get an A. I don’t care if they become famous athletes or entertainers. I don’t wish for any of them to make millions. What I want is for them to become valuable in our society. I want them to be known for their ideas, for their effort, and for the very struggles they had reaching their success. So when I say that I don’t teach for the “light bulb” of understanding to pop up over their heads, what I mean is that I’m just trying to pass on a spark.
And so what does that mean for me, and my current situation of indecision? I have absolutely no idea. My groundhog day does not revolve around winning someone over. Actually, I think that would be easy, at least that goal is attainable. Instead, my groundhog day, every day, is wondering if my involvement in education is worthwhile.