Archive for June, 2010

Time to say goodbye

June 21, 2010

You always remember your first real love, the one you gave yourself to completely, the one you thought of day and night. For me, there wasn’t much dating in the beginning; just a couple of meetings before it got serious. And now, after nearly two years, it’s over. We never really fought, maybe an occasional squabble, but that was about it. It has ended for the same reason that breaks up many couples, money; a force more powerful than the family squabbles of the Capulets and the Montagues. When the money dried up so did our relationship.

So I lost my first job as a teacher. The recession cost me my first love, Quabbin Middle School. I’ve worked for thirty years in various endeavors, all of which I found challenging, but none of them offer the satisfaction of a lesson that went well or the trust given by a student who just needed someone to hear them. Both of my parents were teachers and told me when I graduated high school that I shouldn’t consider teaching; the job was changing too much and not for the better. I still hear that from people, even from experienced teachers, that the job is changing and it is not what it used to be.

The job may be changing, but so has every job yet kids are still kids. What I love are those times when one of my students realizes that there are adults who are actually interested in what they have to say and believe what they say matters. In college they teach you methods of lesson prep, technology usage, educational philosophy, but nothing about how to connect the humid continental climate to a kid whose primary adult contact calls her a bitch at every opportunity or the recent political history of Uzbekistan to a boy who will lose his mother to terminal cancer. I want to teach, not to be a social worker, but just being human means I can’t help feel for the lives kids endure. They don’t mention this in the “Welcome to a Career in Education” brochure.

What I found at Quabbin was that every teacher found a way to connect with the students; some with one groups of kids, some with another. Within the constant change these teachers still remember that the students are what it’s all about, not the educational initiative of the week. Listening to talk radio you hear how horrible today’s teachers are;  any stories of educational missteps are front page material in the paper so this level of caring is not what I expected when starting my teaching career.

Teachers need a PR firm to get their story out. Does anyone wonder who chaperones the dances? Or who took it upon himself to DJ those dances so the school had one less bill to pay? Who volunteered to stay with your son or daughter so the work that was missed/forgotten/lost could be made up? How about the craft fairs, the honors breakfast, the over-night? How about the field trips? These teachers have twenty-four hour responsibility for your children during the four-day Washington DC trip and are paid no differently than a regular week. And these teachers don’t complain!!! They do this (and they do it gratis) because it’s important to your kids and nobody knows this.

What everyone “knows” is how easy the job is, all you do is present some material four or five times a day and the kids absorb it. How hard is that? Have you ever tried to read ninety paragraphs and give some meaningful feedback in a timely manner? Just think about it – Ten minutes a paragraph times ninety gets you to fifteen hours of work that gets done at home. Maybe if you are really good you can cut that in half, which equals a full workday including a half hour for lunch. That’s on top of an actual full workday. Yes, I know we have summers “off,” but also consider that there are courses that need to be taken to maintain licensure and preparations for the coming year. That has to be done sometime. So much for the summer off. Does everybody know that?

This is not a rant about how hard teachers work. I thought I knew that going in, but I still am amazed about how hard a job effective teaching really is. This is a rant about how much I have learned from my fellow teachers, administrators and students. This is how much I appreciate all their patience helping me learn the craft.  This is about how much I will miss them and the community they have created. This is acknowledging how very lucky I am to end this year knowing I have a job in the Fall (Mountview – Here I come!) because so many of us do not.

I look forward to my new position and I will take all I have learned from you to make myself the best teacher I can and follow the example Quabbin has set for me. Though it must end for us now, remember you were my first love and we will always have D.C.