I took an unintended hiatus from blogging because of the enormous amount of stress I’ve been dealing with. Doing a three to four semester program in two semesters is not for the weak. If I had been in my early twenties when I started the program, I might have taken the extra time, but in November I’ll be thirty (so old, I know), and my student loan debt is adding up. Since January, I have been student teaching at a middle school. For that first month, I cried almost every day and thought for the first time that maybe this job was not for me. My classroom management skills are my weakness and my students could easily sense my discomfort with discipline. Many of them did not like that I was there and they made that very clear to me in the first few weeks. It also has never been a goal of mine to teach middle school, but it is a requirement. And now into my fourth month at the middle school, I am finally grateful for it. The students in my classes have pushed me and challenged me every second of the day. In doing this, they have made me an even stronger teacher. I did not let them see me cry, but I was able to share my frustration with them in the most honest way possible.
This semester much more than last has also been difficult due to the amount of negativity surrounding education. Last semester the school district spoke out about wanting to make classroom sizes smaller. This was exciting, as I had over forty students in my classroom. One of my classmates had fifty students. Fifty students to one teacher! Smaller class sizes would not only be beneficial to the students, but it meant the possibility for more job openings. I couldn’t have picked a better time to enter the field of education. I was excited and confident about my future and the future of the public education system.
Then came the negativity.
The Los Angeles Unified School District presented a budget plan that included the possible layoff of at least 600 teachers. Just a few months ago they planned for smaller classroom sizes, but now layoffs? Didn’t that mean even larger classroom sizes? Two teachers at my placement school received layoff notices, which didn’t necessarily mean there would be a layoff, but if there were, they would be the first to go. This news added to the possibility of a strike hit me hard. I felt like I was going to graduate from this program and be right where I left off. Would this be the third time I left college with no job prospects at all?
Then came more negativity.
Nancie Atwell, a teacher from main, received the very first Global Teacher Prize—$1 million dollars. In short, she basically kicks butt and she will be able to use the $1 million to improve her school and help students in need. When asked by CNN what she would tell a student considering a career in teaching she said, “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.” Later, she backtracked, saying “I encourage anyone anywhere who enjoys working with young people to consider it as a career. The world needs all the smart, passionate educators it can get.”
What the heck? On this same blog piece, there is a survey you can respond to that asks, “Would you recommend teaching as a profession to young people today?” to which I answered YES. Currently there are 926 “yes” votes and a whopping 5078 “no” votes. Feeling anxious, I spoke on this to one of my mentor teachers with hopes that he would give me some type of uplifting response. To my surprise, he wholeheartedly agreed that it isn’t the time to get into the profession.
I am someone who has to make a commitment every day to be positive. I do not wake up in the morning with rainbows and unicorns flying out of my butt. I never have and I don’t know if I ever will. Most of my young adult life was spent being afraid of being who I am. Being in self-loathing. Being unsure. Having low confidence. It is very easy for me to listen to the negative comments, sulk in my uncertainty, and give up.
But what about the students?
I don’t mean to be cliché by saying, “What about the children?” BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? If now is not the time, when will it be the time? There are students who want to learn and need passionate, creative, progressive teachers. If the system is broken, who is going to fix it if not us?
One week ago, I made a commitment to be optimistic and positive about my future and the future of education. I don’t know what my future is going to look like, so If I’m going to future trip, why not make it awesome? I like to know what is going on in the world, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let it bring me down. Over the next week or so, I will be reflecting strategies that teachers can use to deflect negativity and focus on the positive things we can do for ourselves and our students. The one I have been doing the most as of late is listening to inspiring podcasts. Connecting with teachers across the country either through twitter or listening to podcasts has shown me that there are tons of educators out there who are doing amazing and inspirational things.
To end this post, here is a link to Angela Watson’s blog post on “How to be unshakeable in your enthusiasm for teaching.” Angela Watson, a former classroom teacher and current educational consultant and instructional coach, hosts the weekly podcast “Truth for Teachers.” Each episode is about ten minutes and it prepares teachers the week ahead. “Truth for Teachers” is one of many podcasts I listen to that keeps me focused on why I want to become the best teacher I can be.