Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Who's calling? Should I answer?


Fifty cents a week, during the summer, for "nursery school" in my backyard.  Two and a half hours a day, three days a week, as I recall.  At ten years old, I knew nothing of minimum wage, but suffice it to say, I was significantly underpaying myself.  We did experiments, like growing crystals on charcoal briquets, put on plays with a clothes-lined blanket for a curtain, and did all sorts of crafts.  I continued that little "school" for five summers, before life-guarding at the local pool offered me a booming salary of $2.12 an hour.

It was the best job I ever had -- up to that point.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today:

If a young person told you they wanted to become a teacher, what would you tell her/him?

This question has been visited quite a bit in conversations around me recently.  Teachers have always felt overwhelmed by the demands of the profession, and with each passing year, the demands seem to become more complex.  I have colleagues who are looking to leave, sooner rather than later, because they can't see themselves doing this for the next quarter-century, or longer.  I have colleagues who retired earlier than they wanted to, because they wanted to go out on the top of their game.  Quite frankly, these are the people I admire.

My admiration is not for their seemingly personal desire to abandon education.  Rather, it is for the unselfish, caring way in which they are realizing that by continuing in education is potentially influencing both their own lives and the lives of their students.

Education is about passion.  Education is about motivation.  Education is about constant change.  Old educators, and young educators, for that matter, have been called to share knowledge.  The world needs teachers, and not just the schools.

Have you ever taken a class from someone who is truly incapable of conveying directions to assist you in succeeding?  Someone who thinks that simply by demonstrating the skill they are trying to teach you that you will suddenly become a master craftsman?  There used to be a bumpersticker that said "Those who CAN, DO.  Those who CAN'T, Teach."  Absolutely not the case.  For the delivery of instruction -- the very art of teaching -- requires understanding.  Go ahead and look at the definition for "communication."  You aren't actually communicating with someone by yelling directions at them -- particularly if they don't actually comprehend what you are saying.  The same goes for teaching.  You haven't succeeded in actually teaching, if the learners are unable to perform the instructed task.

Education involves passion.  It involves the willingness to negotiate, accept less pay than you think you deserve, and an evolving process of thickening your skin against criticism and finger-pointing.  It takes courage, I tell you, to stand in front of some classes.  And it takes even more courage to determine that after all you've done to become a teacher, that teaching in a classroom setting might not be what you are truly meant to do. 

HOWEVER.... If you feel called to teach, you owe it to yourself, and to many students waiting for a connected learning relationship with a teacher,  to pursue that calling.  They'll miss you if you don't, and you'll never know what you gave up in your self-denial of a dream.