18 Nov Inspiring the Teachers of Tomorrow
One of my most profound written assignments happened when I was in elementary school. I remember it because it happened right after an exciting career day presentation, during which we got to meet a firefighter, policeman, doctor, and even a dentist. It was fun to spray the firehose and to sit in the back of the patrol car; the doctor let us listen to our hearts, and the dentist gave everyone toothbrushes and kid-sized toothpaste!
When the special guests left, my teacher told the class to take out a clean piece of paper and a pencil. She wrote a question on the board, “What do you want to be when you grow up? And why?” As we all busily wrote down our responses, the teacher went around the room and began calling on my friends. Most of my classmates wrote that they wanted to be doctors and firefighters to save lives. My teacher noticed our copycatting, and prompted the class again, “If you could do any job in the whole world, what would you want to do?” I erased my initial answer of wanting to be a doctor to save lives and wrote, “I want to be a teacher like my grandma.”
Since as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I think initially, I just wanted an endless sticker and rubber stamp supply. Then, as I got older, it was so I could boss my friends around while being the teacher “playing school.” I was the real deal; I had a sticker chart, hand-wrote all my own worksheets, and gave my lessons using chalk on the garage closet door. Now that I think of it, I never had any classroom behavioral problems with my students, most of whom were stuffed dolls.
Fast forward a couple of decades …That is pretty much still me: sticker chart, handwritten worksheets, but dry-erase markers now instead of chalk. I no longer play school; I live school. This is my career. It still amuses me to think that after all these years, I am finally able to fulfill my elementary written assignment and be a teacher, like my grandma. Her students still remind me about how much my grandma influenced them and their love of learning. I chose to be a teacher because I too want to influence life and inspire a desire to learn.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with the additional demands and tacked-on responsibilities of what being a teacher has become. I feel that my once youthful, enthusiastic, and passionate energy for teaching is being sucked out of me by an ambush of acronyms, meetings, and professional development sessions. With all the shifts in our education system, I sometimes wonder how my grandma would handle Common Core State Standards (CCCS), Educator Effectiveness System (EES), Student Learning Objectives (SLO), and Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). If I witnessed all this back in elementary school, I don?t think I would have ever said I wanted to be a teacher. Today, teachers must become CCCS implementors, EES portfolio creators, SLO developers, and SBAC proctors, in addition to their multiple existing roles.
Teachers are educators, mentors, motivators, peacekeepers, and advocates. They are often the most passionate about doing what is right for our students. Across our state, teachers are sharing experiences and frustrations similar to mine. While it is a joy and an honor to be a teacher, it should also be a profession in which I feel supported and given opportunities for further development, rather than scrutinized and regulated.
It is time we use our collective voices to be heard. As teachers, we often have the loudest voice when advocating for our students. We must realize that in order for effective change to happen, we must also advocate with as much conviction for maintaining the integrity of our profession. Because without great teachers in the classroom, who will be there to inspire the teachers of tomorrow?