Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door



What does it mean to be a teacher?  It’s not a trick question, give me 10 educators and I will show you 10 different answers.  For some, it’s showing – even involving students in a step by step process to convey an idea or strategy.  And some are that simple, like the alphabet.

I struggle with this concept.  Teaching….Thinking.  What is the difference?  If I teach my students in such a way, that they know the correct answers have I been successful?  Test scores may say yes.  Parents my say yes.  But have they been taught, are they provided with the skills that will make them successful in an unpredictable world where they can add value to their environment, to their workplace? Or I have a created an adult that is satisfied to simply do that they are told and the paycheck will follow.  The problem is, the rules have changed.  And we are failing, I will say it again, FAILING our students.

Is it possible, that our careers could be spent teaching our hearts out, showing students, guiding students, watching students work hard to achieve wonderful grades only to see them grow up and have an average job…an average life.

Let’s face it.  As teachers, we are tired.  There are many viral articles floating around from teachers who are ready to throw in the towel because all the work of educating students has fallen on their shoulders.  I know it’s hard.  And the difficulty increases exponentially when copiers don’t work, the internet is down, the printer is out of ink, and the funds are low.

Will you allow me to encourage you?  These are growing pains.  Pains from a pregnancy months past the due date. It feels like education cannot be fixed.  It feels like the task is beyond our reach.  It feels like we are unequipped, that the shift is requiring more than we can do.  It feels like a battle.  It IS!

The struggle is real.  We have been teaching at a Depth of Knowledge level 1 for so many years.  We have taken comfort and even felt successful when our students could regurgitate things back to us.  And that is a fine model for creating factory workers and yes men and women that will dutifully take what is decided for them, even if they don’t like it.  Is that want you would want for your own children?  Is that what you want for yourself?

I was working with a student this week.  We were analyzing poetry and having a discussion, when he asks, “Do I have to do a constructed response?  I hate those.  I mean what’s the point.  Just to pass a test.”  Seriously folks, what?  He had been taught that it is about a test.  Yes, the teacher is nervous about the upcoming test, but I just want to SCREAM….stop telling students it’s about a test.  It’s about life, it’s about thinking.  Yes, Common Core is challenging.  Yes, the test matters.  But it matters because it’s trying to make sure we teach children to think, not regurgitate information.  Parents don’t like it because they don’t understand and feel powerless to help.  Shoot, some teachers don’t like it because they don’t understand and feel powerless to help.  There it is, the elephant in the room.  Some of us are not equipped for the challenge at hand.  We need to be students, we need to continue learning.  Teachers, we need to start acting like the professionals we want to be considered.  Change your focus, problem solve.  Take time to recharge, and by all means, don’t get bogged down by the negativity of your peers.

Get over the angry parent that doesn’t understand and don’t take it personally.  Keep your eye on the goal.  The goal is to create thinkers, problem solvers, innovators.  Do you understand the importance of the task set before you?  You are educating the future.  It’s not too late.

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