My good friend shared with me the other day something a professor said to every Introduction to Education class he taught: The Three F’s of Teaching. Now I don’t specifically remember this philosophy, as I stayed in the first “F” stage for a fairly long time. My friend, on the other hand, decided to pursue a different path than education. He now has a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
It seemed that McGalla, our professor, was always trying to talk us out of becoming teachers. (I don’t really think he was – he just didn’t sugarcoat the career and wanted us to know what we were getting ourselves into.) What I remember most – other than the fact he saw creativity in me and pushed me to take a black and white photography class which turned out to be my favorite class (and I scored the highest in the final) – anyway, where was I? Right -McGalla always used to say that most people who were not cut out to be teachers didn’t make it past the first five years. I have always been determined to make it…you guessed it…past five years. (I just completed my sixth full year.)
However, my friend distinctly remembers The Three F’s of Teaching: Fantasy, Frenzy, and Forget It. (Except replace forget with an expletive professors are allowed to use as opposed to public school teachers.)
Fantasy: We all believe starting out that we are going to change the world. We are going to make a difference. Just like in the movies, our students will adore us, listen to us, be engaged in everything we do, and learn from us. We will inspire.
Frenzy: Harsh reality sets in as we realize kids don’t really like school. At the most, they tolerate us as teachers. Every year new demands are put on teachers with the stress of bringing up test scores, managing behavior, and trying to figure out why that one student keeps hissing and meowing in class…? What can we do to help these kids? Most of their home lives are unsupportive, and we are expected to be miracle workers. Then teachers are cut, pay freezes go into effect, classes get bigger, and more demands are placed on teachers. You can be doing a swell job, but you can always be doing something better. So we throw ourselves in a tizzy – we take essays home and grade them over a long weekend. Lose sleep at night trying to think up creative lesson plans. Stress about how the kids will do on the standaedized test even though we know we can’t make them care about it. This leads to anxiety, irritability, depression, psychotic breaks, and suicide. (Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit with that last one…)
Forget It: Yep. After your stint in solitary confinement at the mental institution, a few rounds of shock therapy, and enough drugs to sedate a baby elephant, many teachers get to the stage where they realize that they are just spinning their wheels. You can’t save them all, Hasselhoff. Sure, there are still some bright, shiny moments, but a lot of times teachers fall into a routine. Teaching becomes just a job to them instead of a passion. It doesn’t matter if they inspire kids or not, as long as they are getting a paycheck.
A former student once worked with me on some assignments for my Master’s Degree. One question that I had to ask was what type of teacher did she like? I will never forget her 8th grade response – she said the teachers who really care about the students because you (a student) can really tell if a teacher cares or not.