16 September 2011

Embrace The Job You're Given

Hey there, welcome back to the BlazeBlog.

I would've written something sooner, but I've been hard at work. Tonight, however,  it's Friday night, and we don't have a home game, birthday, bar mitzvah, or Ice-Capades show to go to, so I could knock this out for your reading pleasure. Or for you to used as an "enhanced interrogation technique". Whichever you want.

Recently, I've been struck with massive mood swings. Some days, I'm happy, content, and loving my life. Other days start well, but by the time I get home I'm in full on "I hate teaching" mode. Some Most days I don't want to get out of bed (I would note that this has nothing to do with my mood, and everything to do with the obscenity of the hour, and the effectiveness of my wife as a bed-warmer.)

My wonderful wife has taken the brunt of my anger and frustration, which is unfair to her. Wednesday night, after I had something which approached a melt-down about state testing (another post for another day, but lets just say educational experts are falling all over each other about the recent SAT scores to once again decry the culture of testing), she basically told me to embrace the things that I was worried about and to just teach. 

When you think about it, that's the best advice I think any teacher could get. Sure, we live in a high-stakes testing world. Sure, classes are getting bigger every day, and the money is getting smaller for school. Sure, there is an expectation that every single kid will be engaged and learning at every moment of every day. Sure is easy to look at all of that and think that teaching has lost it's luster, that it just isn't worth it. 

Sure, I have 4 sections of 38 freshmen each. Sure, I don't have a single class that is special, like an AP or elective course. Sure, I don't have a room, or a desk that I don't share with a dorm fridge, or a staff ID. Sure, I still don't know where everything is. Sure would be easy to just stop going in, to throw in the towel, to decry the work as too hard.

Sure, you have the world's worst schedule. Sure, you have a principal (or Decider) who is a bombastic fool. Sure your district is headed to hell, and sold the handbasket. Sure is easy to see all that negative and forget all the positive. 

The solution isn't to give in to the negative, it isn't to quit. The solution is to go back to work. 

I don't mean stroll in and do what you've done before. I don't mean break out last year's lesson plans and do the same things that you did on this day last year. I mean work like it's your first year again. And yes, young grasshopper, I know that I'm asking you to do something hard (which is the same thing Mrs. BlazeBlog asked me to do).

I think you'll do it, if you're not already. You'll do it because you never believed that this would be easy when you signed on the dotted line. You knew what you were in for. I know that it's harder than it's been in a long time, and getting harder, and the reward seems like even less than it was yesterday. 

But the wife knows what she's talking about. You just need to look at the challenge, find a way to solve your problem (I have some great stories about her solving other people's problems), and get to work. You won't think it's fun (I know I didn't), but by facing the problem head on, you will make your teaching better, and that's fun. 

Sure, I don't have fun in the ways I used to (and you don't either). I'm working harder than I have in a long time. But the flip side is that I see kids starting to think, which is something the testing has drummed out of them. And if you've forgotten, seeing a kid actually think is pretty freaking awesome.

Yeah, you have to fight the exhaustion, fight the powers that be, fight the status quote. However,  you have to embrace the situation you're in, because until we reach a tipping point of ignorance, legislatures full of fools will continue to force us to comply with policies that do not help students learn. 

You, dear public school teacher, are the last line of defense. Sure, you could give up, you could drill-and-kill, you could embrace the vocab worksheet, you could go back to the old days of rote memorization. But you're not going to. You care too much. You might be jaded. You might be bitter, but you haven't bolted to sell insurance (or public relations services) yet, which means you want to make a difference (no matter how deeply you've hidden that fact away. 

Embrace the fight. Embrace the job you've been given.

Because a wise man from a famous center of learning, er, Bon Jovi says:  you live for the fight when it's all that you've got.

I'll let you make the jokes about printing tests on "the fight" since it's all that you've got....

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