It’s 2016. We aren’t living in the age of appreciated education in the United States, and teaching isn’t like it was on Little House on the Prairie. A plethora of students are resentful of having to wake up early, come to school, listen to teachers, and do work. A myriad of teachers are tired of standardized testing, having more paperwork piled on top of them and less time to plan, having to try to make every lesson creative in order to capture the attention of their students, the disrespect of students, lack of support from administration, parents, the community, and the government. A lot of teachers are high-tailing it out of the profession. I’ll admit, it has crossed my mind a time or two (thousand), but I love the kids. It’s why I became a teacher.
Unfortunately, it seems like an uphill battle anymore. I’m working on teaching my 8th graders the perfect and progressive verb tenses, yet I’m afraid that they won’t need to know this for the great standardized test that looms ahead. However, I feel it is important for their writing that they learn to use helping verbs (because most of them don’t). In fact, I’m having a difficult time getting many of them to know what an action verb even is. They just don’t care. Or they don’t know when to use them.
I give spelling tests in the 8th grade. Some words are as simple as “debt” and “actually” – commonly misspelled words and words that I have seen misspelled in their own writing samples. They hate it. They hate it even more that I make them re-take the test if their first score isn’t an A. Spelling has gone down the drain. And cursive? Forget it. I hear the groans and see the eyes roll if I even write their bell ringer and the day’s agenda in cursive. Most of the students can’t read cursive, let alone write it themselves.
This marks my 7th full year teaching (I think that’s correct). I started out as a full-time substitute for 12th grade. Boy, was that a nightmare. I was 22-years-old and some of my students were 20. I had friends that age! It taught me a lot, though. I made a lifelong friend while I was there, and I never went home and cried. (Some teachers were concerned about how I was handling my first “real” teaching job in the world and said they used to go home and cry often. I never did. I felt good about that.) I taught pre-school for about nine months (never again). And then finally I moved into teaching middle school which is where I prefer to be. The students are still malleable. They are full of raging hormones, anger, resentment, a feeling of entitlement, insecurities, and I get to deal with it all. I’m pretty much the last chance they have before they are sent off into the high school world to get lost in the mix.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying high school teachers don’t care. Remember – I was a high school teacher, and I even had a class of 11th graders early on in my middle school teaching days. I’m saying that by the time students reach high school, most of them have started to settle into the person they are going to become (at least for a while). It doesn’t mean they are lost souls. Many high school teachers have an amazing impact on students, but I personally prefer the sheer angst and pure indifference of middle schoolers. Also in high school, it’s about preparing them more for the real world and a career. More work is put on them. My job is still to hound them, annoy the crap out of them until they pick up the pace and do their work, and call them into team meetings with other teachers and sometimes administration to try to get them to get their act together.
So I know that when I run across a blog or article, even if it is an interesting one, I start to lose interest if it runs on too long. (I am as bad as my students.) I’m not done with trying to shed some light – positive light – on teachers, though. For now, as an introduction, this is what I want to leave you with: A little bit of me and what I deal with on a daily basis. Where we go from here? Well, I hope you will come along with me on this journey.