The Truth About Teaching
Teachers. They are a curious bunch. There are many types, shapes, sizes, and states of mind among them. Almost all teachers believe they are doing their very best. The majority are really good, heartfelt people who want to make a difference in their students’ lives. New teachers, until they’ve had their own classroom, will not realize how much of themselves they’ll give to their new way of life. Once they have been baptized by fire, they’ll realize that teaching is a soul baring vocation, in that one’s best and worst are displayed in the classroom for all to see. This is incredibly terrifying and exhilarating all at once. In order to truly reach students, teachers must allow themselves to be tender, open-hearted and willing to always work towards being a better person, as well as a more effective educator.
Teaching Is War
Some teachers embrace that crucible and allow the students to hold up a mirror for the teacher to see his successes and defeats. For a classroom is a battleground. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not teacher against student; it’s teachers and students against apathy. Every day the battle is lost and won. Every day, the teacher must reassemble his tools and weapons. Every day, he must go back to the same field, consciously forgetting the casualties of yesterday, because he has to start new, or else the battle is lost before he ever gets out there. In preparing the students, he can’t fight before them. He must fight by their sides. He must let them learn to thrive and fail by their own accord, showing only by example, the glories to be had through vigilance, discipline and true spirit. The teacher’s job is to help the students want and attain that glory for themselves, because he won’t always be there, and they have to learn to stand in their own desire to learn, if the war is to be won.
It’s mighty hard to go in, day in and day out to try to teach the adolescent animal, whose very nature causes her to mistrust, push back, withdraw, make excuses, hide behind false bravado, and fear failure and success. If she’s poor or disadvantaged in any way, then there is a Great Wall of China between her and her teacher, which he’ll have to climb over, before he can even start teaching. But he signs up for it every day, because he believes that he can reach her. He swears that if he ever gets tired of climbing that wall for more than a year, he’ll do something else.
When he uses these challenges as a launch pad to always getting better, his heart will not be defeated.
However, if he absorbs her negativity, listens and hears with his heart her answer, “No.” Then he will start to slow. His energy will begin to wane. All of a sudden, he rests and pretends not to notice the three in the back of the room with their heads down. There’s not enough to fight that battle. It’s their choice anyway, he tells himself. Because he’s becoming more and more removed from them, what used to just be mild irritation at their ways has now become a more solid dislike. How can he do this over and over? When is somebody going to do something about this? He didn’t go into teaching to babysit. In a few years more, his dislike will have calcified into bitterness. Anyone who comes along with a new idea or a possible solution is met with searing impatience. There is no desire to learn or to get better. Just to do the time. There is no judgement in this. All teachers flirt with this kind of disillusionment, especially teachers in schools of poverty. The turnover is unbelievable. It’s a difficult, often thankless job, and many argue why anyone would put themselves through such dysfunction. Anytime someone is that unhappy in their job, no one benefits. There’s someone else who will give it a try. It’s perfectly understandable to move on to a job that feeds him better and isn’t as hard on him day in and day out. Many don’t make it to five years. It’s almost like all of those tiny baby turtles rushing across the sand to the ocean. So many get picked off before they make it. But so many do.
This blog is for those of you who keep going out there day in and day out, fed by one child looking up at you with hope or the one more hand that went up more than yesterday. It is very possible to teach with joy for a lifetime, but you have to learn the deal. I hope this blog helps in your daily triumph. Please contact me below if you ever need anything. Let’s go.