November 2013 Posts

“Are you sure you wanna do that?”

More than a handful of times during the past seven years, I’ve had a former student come back to visit from college and tell me that they were now considering a career in teaching. Every time, I want to say the following:

Are you… sure?! I mean… don’t you wanna… maybe… look into something that might get you a ‘real’ job? :)

I also think to myself,

Good Lord, Sweet Jesus, please tell me this had nothing to do with me.”

:) Which of course it never does… except when it does:

Whenever I hear something like this from a former pupil, I think to myself: "Gah!!! Maybe I should've done my job worse..."
Whenever I hear something like this from a former pupil, I think to myself: “Gah!!! Maybe I should’ve done my job worse…”

I kid, of course. I am not high enough on myself to seriously believe that I’ve actually inspired anyone to become a teacher… but if I have, I swear it was by accident.

But I think I’m only halfway kidding when I say that we, as teachers, sacrifice ourselves to our profession so that, collectively, we can help these kids get a good education… so that they can, in turn, go out into the “real world” and get “real jobs”. 1

(And I want to make sure I clarify the following without burying it in a footnote: OF COURSE I believe that teaching is a “real” job.)

I explained2 this to a student of mine during morning tutorials earlier this month, and they retorted that if every kid went on to get a “real” job, then there would be nobody left to teach the next generation of kids to help them get “real” jobs. :)3

. . .

But on a serious note, this often does leave me feeling conflicted.

On one hand, teaching is an incredibly important profession, and we do need more able-and-willing young talent pursuing careers in the field.4

On the other hand, I am also intimately familiar with the the demanding and consuming nature of our profession, and I simply hope that any young person thinking about following in our footsteps would fully understand the levity of that which they are considering.

I truly enjoy my job. I hope that much is evident to anyone who has been around me these past seven. Anyone reading this that may be intrigued with the possibility of becoming a teacher should know that the blessings are immense.5 Yes, our job is a hard one, but [almost] nothing good in life comes easy.

As I have seen written by another fellow teacher: Being a teacher is not just a job — it’s a calling.

  1. Of course, some of us are in it for the money. Kidding. For real this time. []
  2. Vented, rather. []
  3. Kids are amazingly insightful, nay? []
  4. I have heard others say that “teaching is the most important profession”. That is one assessment towards which I have conflicted feelings — there are a LOT of important professions in this world — but I hope the following is indisputable: we need good teachers. []
  5. Also, all of the kids that have told me that they were pursuing teaching were, in my opinion, capable and cut out for it. []

“Drove my Chevy to the levy…”

On my way into work this Monday morning1, a coworker reminded me about how “when we were kids”, we actually got Veteran’s Day off.

I added that “when I was a kid” we got three consecutive Mondays off in February.2 Nowadays we get one inservice day, which is code for “teachers come to work but there are no students”, which is — in my opinion — decidedly worse than having normal classes.

Incidentally, I’ve had the mobile data on my iPhone turned OFF for the past 8 days, which makes me feel like I’m stuck in the “good ole days”.3

  1. Always a great moment, right? Monday morning? However, I can honestly say that for as long as I have been in the profession, more often than not, I actually look forward to Monday morning. Today just wasn’t one of them, though. []
  2. Oh, the good old days. []
  3. Or maybe just 2009… which given the recent rapid acceleration of technological innovation, is ancient times. []

Measuring your moments

Once every couple of years, the need arises to chew out your students. Even the best ones.1 2

Sometimes it’s due to a lull in effort. Or a premature splurge of senioritis. Or a general lack of respect for the classroom.

It’s not something I particularly like to do, because if you know me well, you know: When I get angry, I really get angry. And that is a side of me that I do not like to show unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

Plus, the last thing I ever want to do is make a group of good kids feel bad about themselves.3

It’s not something you can do more than once a year, because once you’ve used up that well-measured moment, any subsequent occurrence becomes a droning act of beating a dead horse – they just tune you out the second time.

It is in moments like this, when I am weighing the complexity of the delicate balancing act of how to walk that fine line of encouraging vs conveying a sense of fervent urgency to your students, when I cannot comprehend how parents deal with raising kids. I imagine it is this times a few thousand billion.

Is it them?

Or is it me?!

(Am I not teaching/raising them right?)


. . .

In other words… this is about the time of year where things really starts to feel like an uphill battle.

Turkey break cannot come soon enough.

  1. Sometimes, especially the best ones. []
  2. One particular moment I remember was in 2009-10, when my Pre-AP Algebra II students got extraordinarily good at skipping anything resembling a word problem. []
  3. Again, this hearkens back to 2009-10. Perhaps I’ll talk about this in February… []