I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

grey areas?

Almost two years ago, a friend and person with an amazing soul asked me about 'this teaching thing.' She asked about the grey areas between the YAY!teaching group of teachers and the embittered, hateful group -- because neither group necessarily talks about the other part: the doubts for the first group, and the love for the second group.

I answered her privately, but... well, I think people do see me as part of that first group -- the group that sees teaching as an amazing thing and seems to have no doubts, no grey area about the whole thing. But I do question. A lot.

Anyway, this is what I told her, posted here in case it's helpful to anyone else considering teaching...


You asked me about this teaching thing, about the grey areas between the shiny, happy teachers and the embittered group that is counting days resentfully until retirement. You asked me if I'm going to tell you about less thinking and more doing, to get out there and do it and figure it out.

I tell you this:

I promise, no. I'm not going to say that. In fact, I do so much thinking about teaching and who I am as a teacher and what right do I have as a white woman to (unintentionally, sometimes) foist my beliefs/values onto these children, and can I ever be truly, amazingly effective and do I even want to try and can I possibly have the type of success that the county/state/country expects me to have when the standards are generally wrong and unrealistic and judged by horribly flawed criteria?

I spend a lot of time -- a lot of the school day, even -- reevaluating as I go along. It's really, really hard.

And this is my twelfth year of doing it... well, doing it and and getting paid. This doesn't include the year I spent in an internship during my master's degree. Or the two student teaching stints I did when I was in college getting my initial certification. I guess, technically, this is my fourteenth year, yet I doubt myself regularly.

Sometimes I just want to get a job at Crate & Barrell or as a computer guy or go into curriculum development/writing, etc... Sometimes I want a job that doesn't keep me up until eleven figuring out what in the blazes I'm going to do to help my student over this writing hump she's having, and oh holy crap, is it my fault she's having this writing problem?

Because I'm pretty sure it is.

Sometimes I want a job where I don't end up in tears at the end of a day because everything I taught fell into a gigantic flop and I have to revamp everything and I just don't have the time, because I'm human, too, and there are only 24 hours in the day and I still need to go to the store and cook dinner and clean the kitchen floor because it's been two weeks and its so dirty I could cry! And I don't have any clean underwear and I haven't paid my bills and I haven't had a real conversation with my copilot in three days that didn't involve, "Have a good day, love you, will you be home for dinner?"

Sometimes, though? I don't.

Sometimes I know, deep in every bit of my soul, that this is absolutely where I belong. When I have Ryeanna trying to ask me so many questions about reading/writing, etc... that she's interrupting time with other students and I know that she's not doing it on purpose, because she really, really just wants to know them. So, I develop a system where we have a small little index card with a big ? on it. She puts it up on the desk when she has a question and then I come over when I can. That way, she keeps doing her work and allows me to spend time with other students, too.

It works so well that now my entire class each has one.

You know what? Sometimes I do leave to go home at 4:15 and don't do any work at all in the evening. Sometimes I even cook elaborate meals, go for runs, visit my nieces and nephew, make love, write fanfiction, and complain about the traffic on the beltway.

But, no. It is by no means as easy as some of my posts may make it seem. I only stayed with teaching for the first couple of years because I'm stubborn and too chicken to quit something that I've started.

I stayed, and after a while, I started to figure out that there were places where I wasn't completely awful. I can't tell you what a relief that was. One day, there was something going well and I stepped back and just watched, dumbstruck. I thought: 'Wow, I don't suck any more.'

That was a momentous occasion, let me tell you.

Over the months, and so on, I started to feel more comfortable in other areas, too. Interestingly enough, it took me seven years to finally admit to myself that I was good at teaching... that I'd finally tipped the balance from: I don't suck to I'm pretty good at this.

Seven years.

That is a long time. And I do still question it. Regularly.

Something occurred to me recently, though: this a journey. A long one. One full of twists and turns and ups and downs and tornadoes and storms and the most glorious sunrises ever seen anywhere. I'm on it by choice. I choose to teach; I choose to see it as a gift. I choose to go to work every day and work with the puzzle that is the six year old mind.

I choose it because it's really hard. Most of the time.

But, I choose it because the successes… the moments of "this is going well?" do happen, and they are worth working for, even through the days where I just want to tear my hair out and light it on fire.

For me.

Because I do believe that it's also okay to choose not to do this. It doesn't imply any sort of weakness, any sort of lack of character to choose something that points in other directions. There are places in our lives where we find joy and passion and so many forms of heartache that it makes our eyes bleed. The way all of our lives have gone help us to make these choices, and to know what we can and cannot realistically expect ourselves to do.

I do think that it's okay not to choose this. Or to choose to take some time away because sometimes you need perspective. Or a break. Or the chance to go pee whenever you want to. I certainly do.

So, that's my answer. Long-winded, because it always is when I talk about teaching. But, I promise, there are always grey areas for me. Always. I think teaching is a constant series of choices that don't get easier with time – just different. I will never think less of someone for choosing to move away from this path, or questioning the reasons they're not enjoying it.

And, I am always here to talk about it. ♥

1 comment:

Belén said...

You say you still question what you do. I think that's a very important thing and shows how deeply involved you're in your job and how important your students are for you. You have all my respect as a teacher (as a great woman too, but we're talking about work), and I really hope that my girl will have a teacher like you: so involved in what s/he's doing that thinks in the consequences of every little detail. <3

You made the right choice when you decided to be a teacher.