“It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,” he said. “Have you thought of going into teaching?” ― Terry Pratchett, Mort
The quote comes from a fantasy novel written by Terry Pratchett in 1986 and took me on one of those silly pig trails I sometimes travel down. Twisting and winding through briar patches and blackberry brambles, my trail is strewn with rocks and roots just waiting to trip me or rip me to shreds…just like teaching.
Tomorrow, around the foothills of the Blue Ridge, teachers will report to their schools for their first day with students. The mushy portion of my brain will fool me into thinking I should be there with them.
I taught full time for forty years. Almost a half years’ worth of teacher workdays, days that we really got little work done as it related to the students we would meet on our first day. In-services on dress codes, discipline, bloodborne pathogens, safety issues, textbooks, teacher accountability, etc. I don’t want to even imagine what was discussed in this year’s in-services. Protecting your students in an active shooter situation? No, I don’t wish to imagine.
Forty-first days of school. Conservatively, some five thousand smiling faces waiting for me to impart knowledge and wisdom in an interesting, engrossing and riveting way…and be a role model, mentor and in many cases a parental figure. Another three first days as I taught part-time for three years as a long-term sub. Even though I’m beginning my third year of full retirement it would be ridiculous to believe I wouldn’t think I should be somewhere at eight o’clock or so tomorrow morning. Agreed?
Teachers, too, will be smiling as they welcome their new students, despite their apprehensions. If they are not smiling they should probably think about another profession. I would say apprehension would be normal too. I remember forty-three sleep disturbed nights the day before my first day with students as both my apprehension and excitement built.
I worry about my teaching friends and peers. So much written about public education is negative…and unwarranted. I’m not sure where education is headed, or society. I just know teachers are called on to be much more than just teachers, confidants, mentors and parental figures in our modern world…and due to teacher accountability, teaching to the standards and testing, less time to be “everything” to those children…especially those who need it the most. And yet, teachers are maligned in so many ways by people who have no clue or with multiple axes to grind. I “summon” you to use such sentiments as your “battle standard.”
There is a reason, or are reasons, why we are experiencing teacher shortages and rapid teacher burn out. When teachers need more planning and collaborative time they seem to be getting less. With shortages in numbers of teachers, class sizes can only go up, taxing people who are only human even more.
First-year teachers? Oh my god, your student teaching experience has not prepared you for what you are about to face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and experienced teachers, please offer it. Hang in there, teachers have had to learn on the job since there was the first teacher. If you can survive until Christmas, you’ve got it made…tee, he, he.
In my first attempt at writing badly I shared the following quote from Jim Henson of Kermit fame, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” While I admit to not always knowing what I was, since my retirement from teaching I’ve found the quote to be true. I wish I had realized such my first year and made the quote my mantra. I challenge you to remember this quote.
Teaching is much more than teaching and I miss it every day…well, I miss the students every day. Keep yourself grounded in the knowledge that it’s not teaching the three “R’s” or teaching to the test. It is about teaching kids. Don’t be afraid to get close to your students even though some won’t let you. You will all be better because you tried. Be proud of the path you have chosen. I am proud of you all.
There is no greater joy than to run into a former student. They always tell you, you were their favorite…even if you weren’t.
For more of Don Miller’s musings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Image from https://www.teepublic.com/t-shirt/2201031-retired-but-forever-a-teacher-at-heart-t-shirt