America Needs Its Teachers, And I Won’t Give Up

Sundays are weird. They can be both rejuvenating and exhausting. On the one hand you have that rested feeling from some time off work and maybe even some spiritual vitamins pepping you up from going to church. On the other hand, you have the entire week’s tasks lined up in your brain, each with five-star importance. Sunday evenings are some of my most anxiety-filled for that reason. I go through the list of chores and errands and appointments and work needs, and it seems like I’d need at least three clones to make it all happen.

For those of us who care about education, the list of problems our current system faces is like staring down a busy week on Sunday night. There are not enough of us to complete all the work that needs to be done.

Photo credit: Village Vine Press

When we moved back to Texas, I was looking forward to getting back to teaching. I could feel my instincts and drive telling me it was time. I was very fortunate to get a tutoring job preparing seventh graders for their writing and reading STAAR tests at a school I love. I was so nervous about that first day. I picked just the right outfit. I lesson-planned well in advance. I even packed a lunch! And when one of the regular seventh grade English teachers told me that first day that I was a fun and educational, well, that was it. Teacher Stephanie was back baby.

I’m hoping to get a full-time position next year. I love being a teacher. This tutoring job has reminded me of all the great things about it. When a student gets a concept because of the way I explained it, it’s magic. Being able to cheer them on as they try things they thought were too hard before they met me is another benefit. I get to talk about words all day. And I really enjoy being around so many friends who are also teachers.

But the negativity is there waiting to bring me down. All teachers know the tough parts of our profession. It’s the teachers in the lounge complaining about a student they don’t like or a regulation that makes no sense. It’s the pressure to have students pass a standardized test we  didn’t help create. It’s the worry that retirement money won’t support us. It’s parents who expect greatness without cultivating it at home. It’s the parents who would love to cultivate greatness but are too busy working two or three jobs to supervise homework. It’s the pressure to have grades in the gradebook pushing up against your own feeling that too much homework only hurts. It’s the general perception that anyone can teach, and therefore, educators aren’t valued or supported as professionals.

And on and on the list goes like your busiest week in your worst nightmare.

And it’s not just the teachers who are getting burdened and burnt-out. We are failing our kids. There is no soft way to say that. We’re failing. I am not against testing. I am against it being the be-all-end-all. Passing a test means nothing if our students are incapable of surviving in the workplace. And, oh, how I mourn the loss of time to explore in great depth. My sons are really excited about space right now; they eat up every tidbit. It kills me that one day our school system will try to beat that love of learning out of them. And what are we doing for students who are not college-bound? How are we preparing them for life and work?

And on and on and on.

The list makes even the most dedicated teachers want out. I see teachers I respect and love wishing they could do something else. They see no hope for fixes and no point in what they do every day.

We cannot let this happen. We cannot lose anymore greats nor stop creating new teachers. And I’m telling you right now that I’m not giving up. I gave up teaching once, and it hurt. I was born to do this, and I will push through the crap to continue to do it. The kids need me. My fellow teachers need me to support and encourage them. Dude, grammar needs me to continue fighting for the Oxford comma.

Just like a week comes a day at a time, we must approach the needs of our education system one day at a time. We cannot change it all at once, and we can’t change anything if we stop fighting.

Do you have concerns about education in America? Are you worried for your kids’ futures? Please let me know what education topics you’d like to discuss. I hope to feature an education concern at least once a week.

6 thoughts on “America Needs Its Teachers, And I Won’t Give Up

  1. Unfortunately, the glamour of any job wears thin after a time, and it becomes a battle with the reality of life. We find out that the quest for success and money are the consistent culprits blocking the beauty of doing a thing for its own sake. This has been true in my work life, my social life, and even my hobbies. At some point you begin to value most the friends and associates God puts in our path that do things with a good heart and for the benefit of others. Keep believing in what inspired you from the start and don’t get distracted by the negative thinkers and actors. Trust your moral values and follow them.

  2. 1) Anyone who thinks “anyone can teach” can bite me. When people used to make comments about teaching being an easy or cushy job, I would smile and say “You’re so right. You should do it.” Silence.

    2) The testing. Gah, the testing. When I taught in NJ, I at least could say that I did believe that the test was a good test, and that practicing persuasive prompts 3 times a year was good practice anyway. But the high stakes nature, the be all and end all? Absurd. Damaging.

    3) You? Are doing just fine. Just keep loving your kids. Teach them, yes. But mostly be the person you are, and they will be better for you having been there.

    • Ha, I love the image of some know-it-all facing seventh graders hopped up on caffeine after lunch.

      I agree that there can be tests with valuable information, but that the high stakes are absurd.

      And number 3? Thanks. I needed that.

  3. One of my best friends is a teacher and I think she would agree with every word of this post. She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES it – gave it up for a while for all the stresses you mentioned and went back about a year ago. I can’t even imagine how frustrating so much of it must be – every point that you mentioned. But when you get through to just one kid…MAN. I remember doing that when I was tutoring inner city kids in college. So rewarding. Well, not that it’s much, but know that there are many of us behind you, rooting for you!!

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