Being and Becoming

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If there’s anything that can make a person terrified of the prospect of teaching, it’s a good story of how awful kids can be. Like in Ellie Herman’s blog post “The Kid I Didn’t Kill”
(https://gatsbyinla.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/the-kid-i-didnt-kill/). I almost cried while reading this post. I’ve seen some of these kids. Shoot, I know some of these kids. Last summer I had a kid take a drink of chocolate milk and spit it right out on the carpet. And do you think Gavin gave two flying you-know-whats about me telling him to go get a bunch of wet paper towels and clean it up? No. Zero flying you-know-whats. But then, just like Herman’s story of Gio who “brought [her] entire class to a standstill by taking a half-eaten pear and mashing it into the floor with his shoe,” Gavin would on other days be considerate and kind. For instance, when a third grader persistently said the less polite version of ‘female dog,’ to me and I told him he could either begin to use polite language or call his mom and tell her what it is that he thinks of women, Gavin stood by my side and said, “Not cool, man.” And Gavin’s two extra years of maturity were respected by Carter who laid off the foul language for the rest of the day. Although I have far less experience than Herman, I must agree with her in the fact that the Gio’s and Gavin’s and Carter’s of the world are “so good at driving an entire schoolful of people completely batshit crazy,” but you’ve got to love them anyway.

Once, after I had a Gio/Gavin/Carter incident, I can remember looking across the street at the bank that two of my friends work at thinking, why do I want to put myself through this for years and years and years? I could have a quiet desk job. And then I remembered, wait. That would be horrible. Which is why I loved when Starr Sacstein wrote on her website: “Early in my career, I promised myself that if I ever got to a place where I didn’t love teaching anymore and I was no longer as effective as I could be, I wouldn’t do it anymore. When I find myself questioning my spot behind the desk, I ask myself “can you imagine yourself doing anything else?” And so far my answer has always been a resonant ‘no’”
(http://starrsackstein.com/category/when-burnout-seems-imminent-manifest-positivity/). I’d like to stick with her vow: if I ever feel like I don’t enjoy teaching then I need to seriously consider what good I am for my students.

I really was brought to tears by the video on Terry Heick’s blogpost “When Teaching Makes You Cry”
(http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/when-teaching-makes-you-cry/). Hard to believe I’d be surprised by my reaction, I know, after reading the title and all. The video attached at the end is truly something that could make a tear ductless person cry, but what I actually was the most concerned about were Heick’s words. There are schools out there who require more for a lesson plan than college? And for … forever? Yikes. Heick put it best when he wrote, “The assumption is that you’re delinquent; prove you’re not.” His admin went over each minute of his lesson plan with a fine toothed comb and not only always discovered the ticks and fleas, but microscope organisms never before known to man! If he had time planned for class discussion he had to provide not only the exact questions he planned to ask but the anticipated responses as well! Are the majority of school districts like this, or is Heick’s a rare breed? For the sake of my sanity, I hope Heick’s school is unusual. VERY unusual.

Not to have doubt in Justin Stortz advice, but his blog post “How to Be a Teacher for More Than 5 Years Without Killing Yourself Or Others” worries me because the advice comes from a man who burned out in sure, not five years, but in nine. It’s easy to see how the burnout rate is so high, though. As Stortz writes, teachers can easily allow themselves to obsess over their careers. They can always spend time on their profession. So, my favorite advice from Stortz is “Don’t Let Teaching Consume You”. After all, although you may be a teacher, you’re not just a teacher.

Pernille Ripp’s blogpost “Some Small Confessions From an Almost Veteran Teacher,” (http://pernillesripp.com/2013/10/13/some-small-confessions-from-an-almost-veteran-teacher/) ends with the advice that it’s best to “remember that the next moment will be better.  The next day will be better.  Even if you are the only one that believes it.” I’ve had those days. We all have – it’s not just a teacher trait. But I do imagine that these days occur much more frequently in the life of a teacher. Perhaps to make them happen less frequently, it’s best to also remember that no matter how much experience a teacher has, they still will never be perfect.

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