When I have told the new 2011 CMs that I just finished my 6th year in the classroom, I get these awed looks. I always feel slightly embarrassed by that reaction. If you’ve read Outliers by Gladwell, you’d understand my hesitation to let anyone call me an expert. Also, considering the number of subjects I’ve now taught, I’m not sure I’ve developed much of a competency is any of them.
Now, I’m heading off into another field of ed entirely – special education. I start my “alternate accelerated route to certification” for SPED on Tuesday. I’m trying to be excited but I’m not. What is exciting to me about SPED is the legal compliance, and I already know most of that stuff. What is not exciting to me is the actual pedagogy, which would be the part I don’t know. I have been very blunt with my school about this. They know that I would rather be a bean-counting paper-pusher than a teacher, and yet they decide to send me for SPED certification anyway. I have a melt-down and declare I hate teaching, and no one bats an eye…?
Here’s the interesting thing: once your school decides they need you, they’ll fight like hell – even against you and good sense – to keep you. I’m now feeling like I can’t escape. I can’t get out of teaching now that I’ve gotten in. This isn’t true at all. I’ve turned down two other jobs and law school. I guess, in the balance, I prefer teaching to being broke. And I love living in New Haven enough that I would rather be here doing a job I like half the time than living somewhere else I don’t like doing a job I love.
I know people expect a lesson or a moral or a key takeaway from this post. She wouldn’t throw something that ambivalent up here without a message about teaching, you might think. I would. But this is not that ambivalent post without some moralizing.
TFA and other ed reform movements project a lot of zeal, and somehow it seems that you should feel the anger at social injustice in your chest everyday that you teach the disadvantaged. When the ed-Maccabees have come down from the hills and the shouting is over and the signs are in the recycling bin, it is your life. Your life will be more than teaching and your teaching will be more than zeal over injustice. Some days you will be angry that a 17-year-old reads like a 5th grader, and some days you will be angry that someone took the last cup of coffee and didn’t make more. Some days you’ll be upset about the last civil rights battle of our generation, and some days you’ll be upset that you can’t go skiing during spring break because you need to write a unit plan.
I think it’s okay to not be “on message” all the time; it’s okay to be human and not constantly perform amazing feats of educational strength. Be angry about how much you’ve sacrificed to teach. Be angry that you can’t run off to Europe or drive a BMW. Be petty. Yell. Then go back tomorrow and teach. It’s like a marriage. You won’t be in love with teaching all the time; not everyday is a high. But you work at it, and you will love it whether you like it that day or not.