Things I Know 171 of 365: Teaching is no slap in the face

I touch the future. I teach.

– Christa McAuliffe

A lady sat across from me today and told me the story of how she came to be in the classroom this year.

She began the year in a role that had her coaching other teachers in her school. Out of the classroom, her goal was to help her colleagues improve their practice.

Not unlike many school districts across the country, this teacher’s school experienced a workforce reduction due to budget constraints.

In October, she was asked to enter the classroom again.

I listened sympathetically as she explained her growth as a teacher had been put on hold this year as she attempted to create order and structure in a classroom that had already seen two other teachers in as many months of school.

As she explained the difficulties of grappling with unexpectedly teaching two separate disciplines, I understood her frustration.

What I could not abide and what has me seething long after our conversation was the way she described the call to return to the classroom.

“It was like a slap in the face.”

No. It wasn’t.

It was a call to return to the classroom. It was the entrusting of the children of others into your care. It was continued employment in the face of layoffs of colleagues.

It was a chance to make an impossible world possible for a child. It was the call to teach.

And, yes, it was difficult and a divergence from the plan at the beginning of the year. Yes, it required growth and stress and sacrifice.

I have and will continue to spend time and energy working against systems so broken that they produce schools and teachers like this.

Today, though, those systems were not sitting across from me.

It is far too difficult to criticize teachers today and receive the title of champion in return for your efforts.

In a moment in time when so very little is expected of teachers, when a teacher is simultaneously the most important factor in the classroom and the least trusted, the profession could do without maligning from within.

Teachers across the country who want nothing more than to build classrooms of caring, learning and inquiry next year are searching desperately for places to teach.

Meanwhile, children are being packed into larger and larger classes, receiving less and less personal attention.

That is the slap in the face.

The fact that this woman has a place to teach, that is a gift.

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