May 18, 2010

"Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Teachers"

When I was in Public school, I was crazy about my teachers. Like most little girls, I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to draw like my Art Teacher and tell stories as vividly as Ms. Weisssman...I wanted to play piano like Mr. C and sing like the Assistant Principal. I loved the sustenance of my teachers. I even wondered what Mrs. Rosen did 'all night' in the empty classroom when we went home. As a child, being a teacher meant being the one to stand in front of the classroom, hold the chalk, mark the homework, and give out the gold stars✩. I couldn't wait to get my first blackboard- and when my little brother was no longer a willing student, I lined up my most attentive stuffed audience kept on teaching.
As a third grade student, I remember when my teacher asked us to make ✎signs and stand outside of our school- Something about the city's budget cuts. Through a child's eyes, it seemed to me that someone, somewhere, didn't want to support our schools in the capacity that would sustain them. I recall being told that the person or people responsible for these cuts hadn't even attended the Public School System themselves. I wondered why we were on the verge of losing our wonderful Gym teacher and our Afterschool Program. Sound confusing for a child? As an adult, I am still confused.
As a NYC teacher, I have some questions for the "Kleinberg" team...

When did TEACHERS drop so low on the food chain?

"When did the 'TEACHER' become the the least important component in the business of 'teaching?'

When did TEACHERS become the 'disposable' factor in a system that teaches?

When did TEACHERS become the scapegoats for everything that is wrong with our city's children?

When did terrorizing TEACHERS become an acceptable practice and why have the Kafka-esque Rubber-Rooms been allowed to thrive even ONE more day under the Kleinberg administration?

My mother always said, "Be a teacher. You'll have job security, a paid summer vacation, good health benefits, a pension and..... If you have children of your own, you will be home in time to cook dinner for them." I followed my mother's advice. At the time, it seemed like the perfect job for a woman who wanted to have the best of both worlds. I went to school and got my Bachelors Degree and then my Masters Degree in education. I spent 5 years in night school working toward earning 30 credits above my masters. I never doubted my direction for a minute.
On my first day of teaching, I knew that I had found my calling. I remember thinking, "Wow, we get paid all day to be with children, ignite their minds, enrich their lives, fill them with knowledge and then get to leave at 3:00! I couldn't wait to return the next day. Compared to my last 9:00 to 7:00 job, this was indeed heaven. I was fortunate to work in a wonderful district and have a principal who cared about his teachers. He was a mensch. His support kept me going at times when I felt like giving up. I returned home every night eager to plan and prepare for the next day. I remember the relentless drive that I had to make my students shine.

It is 22 years later and thanks to technology, my students are finding me on Facebook, wanting to reconnect, eager to share their accomplishments. I was recently invited to a Wedding, a Christening and a family gathering by my former students. Who really knows how much influence we've had on a child's life in the one or two years that we get to spend with them? As far as I can see, there is no end. How does one measure the impact of true teacher effectiveness? There is no measure.

I never imagined that I'd live to eat my words. In spite of the horrible, heartless and harassing administrators, the "Billionaire" mentality, ungrateful, indifferent parents, 'kids gone wild' and Charter School politics, I do feel that I have been able to make a difference. I know in my heart that I have touched lives, instilled good values and provided lifelong lessons.

Thanks to our "Education" Mayor, teaching is no longer a labor of love. According to the 'Kleinberg' regime, Teachers are robots, children are widgets and education is a business to be controlled by Hedge Fund Managers looking for a tax break. We are constantly 'cut down', restrained and intimidated by a system with a death wish.

I speak for myself and those among me who have been burned by a system that doesn't see any value in the very essence of education. There is no room for innovation or thinking outside of the box. Schools are being starved and creativity is completely stifled. The idea of job security is dangling by a thread. Benefits and Health Insurance are constantly under attack...TDA's...declining in value. Sabbaticals... unattainable...Tenure...also at risk. Will summers off soon be a thing of the past??

Most of us, having gone through the public school system ourselves, know that our children are being robbed of the education that we were given and that they deserve. The little girl in me cringes when I hear that my niece or my neighbor's daughter wants to go to college for Education. I have to restrain myself from bursting their illusory bubble. I gently suggest, "Why don't you study law, medicine, graphic design or perhaps, rocket science?"(Maybe growing up to be a 'cowboy' wouldn't be such a bad idea after all...)
I will say anything but, "It is not a good time to be a teacher", which truly breaks my heart most of all.


Pissed Off said...

I too try to discourage my students from going into education.

primadonna said...

I also discourage people from becoming teachers.
Why are they doing this? They are trying to make teachers as miserable as possible so that they retire, quit or are fired. The less seasoned, dedicated staff there are, the easier for the Wall Street vultures to move in and open charters. Yes, they have found an untapped industry to make money on. Investing in a charter gives the investor a 39% tax credit(New Markets Tax Credit) and interest on loans. Their investment can be doubled in 7 years. Here and we thought these hedge-funders wanted to do good for poor kids. HA!!!!

Fidgety said...

Very sad...I don't even want to imagine how this generation is going to turn out.

K. Joy said...

(Part One)
I know this is an old post. I hope that you still blog and that you will read this. I am a twenty years old and a junior at Arizona State University. I have known since I was little that I would be a teacher, I work incredibly with children, an am incurable optimist, and am fiercely dedicated to the things I believe in. When I entered college in 2009, I didn't have to think twice before declaring an Early Childhood Education major. Last semester I obtained a minor in Human and Family studies before the rigorous education program I am currently in began. I am in my first "block" and it is just as terrible as everyone around me said it would be. My university "revamped" the curriculum and program in a desperate attempt to create better teachers in Arizona. As I am sure you know, Arizona is one of the lowest of the low in terms of education. I knew I was getting myself into a mess of sorts, but I had no idea how many people were going to try and break me down. Adults I thought I trusted? Check. People in education? Check. People with no clue about education but way too many opinions on it? Check. I have been discouraged by anyone and everyone except for my mom, dad, and step-mom. People ask me what I am in college for, I tell them I am going to be a Kindergarten teacher, and the best response I get out of them is usually a shark intake of breath ,followed by a "oh.. well.. that is a very noble profession." Why yes, if by "noble profession" you mean an incredibly integral and important job that I won't get paid for and will have people telling me I am making the worse decision of my life all the while telling me to "run while I can" and that "those who can't do, teach", then yes, what a noble profession indeed.

I am worn out and beat down by the education program I am in. I am a full time intern in a Kindergarten classroom, next year I will be a student teacher, but I love it and I take classes full time too. I work with a great teacher and I used to have my own preschool class at a montessori school. But we have to learn about the issues of education in this country, and specifically my state, and it is just one huge dose of bad news followed by another followed by another. People have gone past the point of giving their opinion, instead they have no problem tossing out personal attacks, judging who I am as a person, and not taking me seriously all because I am one of the few who hasn't been scared away and broken down already by "programs" and "systems" and people who don't believe in what I can do.

K. Joy said...

( Part Two)So, why do I still want to be a teacher?
It is because I know I can do it. I know I am a new teacher so I have this shiny, new perspective, and I am quite aware that my "ideal teaching world" isn't going to be my reality, ever, but I am confident that I am doing the right thing. Contrary to popular belief, I am not an idiot, and I know exactly what I am doing, even if that means walking head on into the train wreck that education is today. It isn't even the education, it is the outsiders. The people who don't care enough to enter the school buildings. The one who wouldn't dare spend every night lying awake trying to figure out "how can I reach this child. He doesn't seem like he is all there sometimes, but I know his potential, and I know I can get through to him". The people that judge teachers so harshly are the very ones sitting around the breakfast table with their kids before their children go off to.. who guessed it, a school. Where they will be taught by none other than teachers.
I am doing this because I know I am good at it. I know I was born to do this. I know I can make a difference, and I will make that difference no matter how many people try to get in my way. All the critics, the people who don't believe in education, they seem to forget or they just don't care about the future of this country. We can't live forever and this country won't run itself, so I'd suggest we stop the BS and start caring about where this world is going.
I am doing this because I refuse to be one of the people who gives up because it is easy. I refuse to be another person that listens to others instead of following their heart. I refuse to be just another mindless person, going through the motions of life and never really stopping to think and care about other people and our future. I want to work with kids because they are the only ones who still believe in the good in this world as much as I do.
I just don't understand why people can't respect my decision.

I feel like I would get a more positive and accepting reaction if I answered the "What do you want to be?" question with "Murderer."

K. Joy said...

(Part Three) I am sorry for the grammatical errors and flustered thinking. Probably half of this doesn't makes sense. But I am just fed up. I am feeling the negativity and I am not even a real teacher yet. I feel like the education program I am in is training us bootcamp style to become warriors and soldiers, not a future early childhood education teacher. So after another exhausting day of classes and being reminded of the grim outlook, I googled "Why people discourage others from being teachers" and this is what I found.

I don't want to know the reasons I shouldn't be a teacher, I have been given millions. I want to know why I should. I am going to be one, no matter what, but I want to know from your perspective why people are like this. Why is society doing everything it can to push me away from this dream? I mentioned I am an incurable optimist, and I am, but this world of education has led to many overwhelmed days. Days when you end up having a mini breakdown and wondering "What the hell am I doing?" Then I remember, I am doing what other believe I cannot. I am doing what others are unwilling to do. I am doing something that not everyone believes in or supports, and that is okay.

I know this blog post is about not being a teacher, but I know you teach for a reason, and I plan to do the same. I just wish I could find out why the society we live in is so intent of taking away the hope and passions of those that could make a lasting difference in the lives of children.. the future
our world.

I sincerely apologize for the three separate comments, but there is a "character limit" and I hadn't realized just how much I had typed. Once I started I just couldn't stop. I hope the three parts made sense. I am sorry for the rant. I just want advice as from a teacher's perspective. If I have chosen this career path and am not turning back, despite the great efforts of many, what advice can you give me? I think this world needs more happy, passionate, and positive people. We already have a limitless supply of "Eeyore's" walking around saying "why bother" and "woe is me". I know many have given up, but I won't give up on teaching kids to have passions and dreams and going after what they want. I want to teach kids not only to read and write and solve math problems and make deductions, I want to teach them to think for themselves and be different and never let somebody else extinguish the flame the burns bright inside of them.