A Letter to Future Teachers: Words of Encouragement

I was talking to my brother the other day about teaching, where things have been and where they might be going. He brought up the fact that my niece wanted to be a teacher, but was worried about doing so. She’s active on social media and has witnessed the struggles that I have gone through trying to decide if I wanted to continue teaching.

People are so hard on teachers and teaching right now. We are in the middle of a war between what is best for our children and what makes the most money for businesses. Our elected officials use education as platforms to further their careers, often to the detriment of those who education is supposed to help. I am not even going to get started on the devaluing of education itself. It’s important to realize that the current environment is doing nothing to create new teachers. If anything, it’s driving them away.

I haven’t been helping. At all.

I’m changing that right now. This is my letter to future teachers. There is hope. Believe in yourself and your love of your students.

__________

Dear future teacher,

I know that times are hard now in the world of education. I know that you may think that it isn’t worth it to enter into the politics of the educational system. And the kids… oh, the kids. You read about how horrible they are, how disrespectful, how disruptive they are. There is even video evidence of their horribleness. It’s no wonder that you’re doubting.

I am writing this to tell you that these things are just a tiny drop in the ocean of education. Yes, it is stressful right now as the government plays tug-of-war using the education system as a rope. Yes, there are some kiddos that are… well… jerk-faces. Some adults are too. It comes with living in society. Unless you want to be a hermit, you’re going to have to deal with it. It’s so much easier to forgive a 15-year old for being an asshole than it is to forgive a 35-year old for acting 15.

Teaching is so much more. It is being there for a young man whose parents are in the midst of an angry divorce, putting him in the middle of it. It is working with a colleague who cares about the kids as much as (maybe even more so than) you do. It is hearing your name screamed across the aisles of the grocery store because you’ve affected that child’s life so much that they are excited to see you outside of school.

Teaching is encouraging the parents of a child who is struggling. Every parent wants what is best for their child, but many don’t know what to do when their child is lost. I have had so many wonderful meetings with parents that started out with tears and frustration and ended with smiles and hope. Teachers have the tools to guide parents and students when they struggle.

Teaching is standing up and fighting for the needs of your students. You are the buffer, their line of defense, holding back well-meaning but misinformed next-best-thing strategies that are supposed to fix education. You translate their “failures” into jumping off points. You protect the children and help them to succeed in spite of the obstacles that the government and administration tosses in front of them.

Teaching is knowing that you are making a difference every day. Every single day. You may not know it at the time, but what you do sticks in your students’ minds. They remember you. They grow because of you.

Teaching is a service. It is often thankless, especially on a day-to-day basis. If you feel that you are called to be a teacher, don’t decide not to because of what you read online or see on television. Those stories always ignore the most important part of education, the essential element that makes it all possible:

the individual

My life has been enriched by my years as an educator. I’ve grown to understand so much about myself and about life because of it. I will never, ever, ever regret my thirteen years as an educator. EVER.

Be a teacher. The world needs you.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Advertisements

Job Search, Part One

It has been seven years since I’ve looked for a job. Seven years for my interviewing skills to get rusty. Seven years of not having to “try out” to get a part. I hate trying to find a new job. I guess that’s why I stayed in a job for a year longer than I should have.

When I decided I was leaving my current district in March, I applied EVERYWHERE. I spent weeks figuratively biting my nails, waiting for a call for an interview. For those of you not familiar with education, we work on a contract system. We usually get contracts at the beginning of May and have four weeks or so to sign or resign. It wasn’t even rational for me to expect a call so early in the game.

Me, except without the newspaper, suit, or coffee mug

Me, except without the newspaper, suit, or coffee mug

When the first call came, I was ready for it. The call, not the interview. It was set up on a Monday at noon. Don’t they realize that I would have at least six hours of waiting. SIX HOURS! I experienced the same feelings that I’m sure everyone feels while waiting for an interview—anxiety, nausea, an overwhelming sense of doom, and impending failure. Wait? Do you mean not everyone feels the last two? Huh. Interesting.

The day of the interview came. I gussied myself up—even putting on a little bit of mascara and lip gloss—and went on my way. I arrived, a little shaky, but feeling surprisingly good myself. The campus was pleasant, and I felt very comfortable there. The “feeling” of a place matters more to me than it probably should, but it was okay. This school felt wonderful. I enjoyed sitting in the main office watching the students stroll past me.

My interviewer told me at the beginning that, because they had received so many applicants, the interview was for screening purposes. The interview went very well. Our educational philosophies meshed well. We talked about the direction the school was going with the new Common Core standards. We talked about curriculum. We talked or about an hour—much longer than a typical screening interview. I left feeling confident and with a promise for a call back early the next week.

I figured that I had it in the bag. I was wrong. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday rolled by, still no call. Finally on Thursday, I got an email letting me know that I did not get the job. I was a little distraught. If I had such a good interview, how come I didn’t get the job? Did I not do as well as I thought? Was I deluded? I was trying to be brave and strong, but all I wanted to do was cry. So I did. It helped me to feel better.

I replayed the interview in my head, trying to focus on what I did incorrectly. Then it dawned on me: I wasn’t the reason why I didn’t get the job. Well, I was, but it wasn’t me. She kept on asking me what sports I would be willing to coach a sport. My interest in sports is even lower than my interest in the growth of yuck in an untidy college student’s toilet.

They were willing to turn down a master English teacher with 12 years of experience because I wasn’t a coach. When I asked why I didn’t get the job, they confirmed my suspicions.

I am glad I didn’t get the job. It is apparent that they value athletics over academics. I don’t want to be part of a school with skewed priorities.

Thank you, Universe.

———————–

**Coming soon: Job Search, Part 2.**

Thanks, slightly everything, for sharing your photography on creative commons.

Taking the Leap

Whelp… I resigned from my job. I wrote this super-long post explaining the reasons why and, I have to admit, it was a wee bit ranty. No, that isn’t accurate. It was a whole lot ranty and a little bit bitchy. I decided not to post it because it wasn’t me. I am usually only a little bit ranty and pretty much never bitchy. I didn’t want to post something completely out of character. It did feel really good to get it out of  my system, but it definitely was not something that I should share.

So, in case you are interested, I resigned because my philosophy about education no longer meshed with the district’s philosophy. Trying to change my beliefs to mesh with theirs was making me physically ill and preventing me from being the teacher I know I can be.

This is something that’s been coming for at least three years. At the end of each of those years, I’ve thought about resigning. Every year, the part of my brain that hates change convinced me not to. Just give it one more year, it said. Things are going to be so much better next year, just you wait! 

This year was different. When I thought about leaving at the end of this year, that part of my brain was a cheering section chanting “Do it! Do it! Do it!” All of the parts of my brain reached a consensus: it was time to move on.

The scary(?) part is that I have no anxiety about my decision. None. That’s right; little Miss Freak-out is completely calm about it. Friends ask me what I’m planning to do, their faces crinkled with concern. When I tell them I have no idea where I am going to work next year, they look at me in disbelief. I should be having a panic attack– that is what I usually do– and they wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I can see the concern in their eyes. I’ve put in applications for teaching positions. I’ve had one screening interview and another one scheduled for next week. If teaching doesn’t work out, I’ll sub until I find a job. I have backup plans for my backup plans. I know I will go where I need to go.

For the first time I can remember, I am relying– without fear– on the Universe to take care of me.

Light Echoes From Red Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis – October 2004
Source: Hubblesite.org

Reason 12 That I Teach

I received this email today from one of my former students. I think it speaks for itself.

———————————————————-

Mrs.F,

I miss having your glorious class everyday. I miss seeing your smiling face. I miss the vikings birthday song. I miss doing all the homework. I miss reading books. I miss your laugh, you always made my day. I miss everything that contained to your first hour class last year; but most of all I miss you. I miss you being my teacher and I want you to teach Juniors next year!

I was wondering how you have been, since the last time I saw you.? Do you think that next year you will switch over to Juniors possibly?

Sincerely Your Most Favorite Student and Your Biggest Fan,

X

———————————————————-
’nuff said.