I would like to begin by saying I love my job. I really do. With that being said, I would not recommend becoming a teacher to anyone. When I began teaching sixteen years ago, I received accolades. “You are going into the noblest of professions,” people said to me. I believed it. I woke each morning excited for the day, excited for the “ah-ha moment” that was surely to come to some of my students,, excited to be a part of someone’s history.
Today, it’s not that simple. Politicians who have never stepped foot into a classroom as teachers are making decisions on how I should do my job. Because they once were students, they have declared themselves experts, judges of what makes a good teacher, and their new laws are a reflection of this extensive knowledge. (Insert eye roll here).
Well, Lawmakers, you can pummel me with paperwork. You can force me to capitulate to asinine rules and regulations. You can push schools to adopt “a business model.” You can call the students clients and you can tell me that the customer is always right. You can bombard me with an evaluation system that defines me not by what I actually do, but by the scores of my students, and if anyone of these young people is having an off-day and does not show growth, you can threaten to fire me. Yes, you can try to break me. You can tell me that teaching should be the gateway to “a real job,” and that no one should teach for more than five years. You can create a climate so adversarial that 50% of my colleagues will leave the profession within their first five years.
But until you actually fire me, you cannot break me. Do you want to know why? Because I know something that you are unwilling to recognize: I do something that you will never be able to do. I make a difference every day in the lives of students!
I make kids work hard each day to think for themselves. I push them by constantly asking “Why? Why? Why?” I get kids to make connections between ideas they never knew connected.
I make kids see that being part of a community is important. I make kids want to extend themselves to better more than just themselves.
I make kids write, and I make them write a lot. When they are lazy and slovenly, I make them do it again. I make them realize that I expect something of them, and you know what, they begin to expect it of themselves.
I make kids say “May I” instead of “Can I.” I make kids learn the difference between anxious and eager.
I make kids read. Every book is my favorite book while I am teaching it, and I get so excited about it, I pique their interest. Every year, I have students say, “This is the first time in high school I actually read the books and didn’t just use Sparknotes.”
I make kids dream about what their lives can and will be after their comprehension and writing improves.
I make kids rise to the challenge. I do not believe that C work deserves an A. Only A work deserves an A, and if the students want an A, they have to work for it.
I make kids responsible.
I make kids laugh.
I make kids know I care.
I make a difference, and no amount of brow-beating can ever change that!