Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 10 2013

A Person, Living, in a Place

FINE, I guess I’ll have my fourth root beer float in two days. If I must.

And while I drink it, I’ll think about how crazy it is that I’m actually, seriously considering teaching next year. How weird it is to realize that might be what I want to do. So weird, in fact, that I’m not even sure if these are rational thoughts or whether some alien has planted them in my brain.

Rational Thoughts:
Teaching sucked me dry, ripped me apart, left me desiccated but still gushing. I walked away with such finality, and was so happy to be free! I was never good enough at it to actually get results–I have literally zero evidence of improved student achievement. Which was the worst thing ever because that’s what I was There To Do. There was just no TIME, and the kids were so far behind, it was like climbing an impossible mountain from the very moment I started. I continuously ached for the end of the day/week/grading period/school year. And my kids were mean! And my school was drama! And Everything Was Bad!

Alien Thoughts:
Elementary kids aren’t as mean. In fact, most of them really like their teachers. And they’re cuter and by definition, they just can’t be as far behind. And the whole way I think has changed, especially about what teaching and teachers Should Be. There are two completely different things: teaching because you’re going to try it for two years on the one hand, and teaching because you think you might want to do it for a really long time on the other hand. Permanence is important, and I’m moving toward permanence. Living for a long time in a place, teaching for a long time in the place that you live, means slow-but-steady can start to be satisfying. Putting down roots means “building relationships” isn’t just something you do because Results, but something you do because you’re a person, living, in a place. The tension, the struggle of putting humanness into the weird beast of American Education is something that can take place over a long time. Urgency can be about not hesitating to put the next foot forward, not about getting anxious because you’re Not There Yet.

Thing is, though… when I was teaching, it was teaching that was the villain. Not the school, or the kids, or anything else. It was the JOB. the ‘profession.’ I know there will always be drama and frustration. Yipes, can I be a teacher and have all that drama and frustration and still have a happy life? Can I start teaching and want to keep at it for another five years after that? I feel like my alien brain has already decided.

5 Responses

  1. donna

    I found you post very interesting. What made you believe that this was not a hard profession?

    You are mistaken when you say that “Teaching is the villain.” Teaching is the joy. Teaching is what makes those of us who do this as a profession, and not just a stepping stone, go back every day and continue to provide hope, joy and inspiration however we can. The villains are those that provide the empty rhetoric making those like you feel like a failure. If you worked hard and were committed to your children, the evidence of student achievement should be obvious to you. Teachers know that this does not always manifest into standardized data.

    • Wess

      Yes! I agree.

      The post above is maybe a confusing way to say it, being that what are labeled “rational thoughts” are those the I’m letting go of, and “alien thoughts” are the ones that are starting to take a stronger hold of me. I can see how you might think the opposite was the case.

      I think I do disagree with your last point, though. Not every hard working, committed teacher will see obvious results. I was definitely both of those, and results–of any type, “soft” or “hard”–were not obvious at all.

  2. donna

    Are you saying that you spent an entire year teaching a group of students and saw no results? What were you doing with them? These children were not an experiment. It was your job to educate them. Reflecting 10 months later that you saw no results of your teaching experience strongly suggests that you were not prepared to be in a classroom and responsible for educating children.

  3. H

    It’s so funny you posted this. I was talking recently with a 20+ year veteran teacher. He had been a very successful classroom teacher and principal, retired, and then moved and decided to start teaching part time. In his new place, he found himself the kids completely unmanageable (a lot like your and my classroom experiences) and exhausting. He quit after three months. But the experience made him realize that it wasn’t HIM. He was a good teacher. It was just the wrong kids/place for him. Who knows, with a new group of kids in a new school, you might thrive.

  4. Ms. Math

    I always feel pulled apart by my multiple brains.

    now I have a name for them!

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