The other night Molly and Brian were over and we were playing crockinole. We were giving each other recommendations for movies that each other should watch. Brian told me I should watch Waiting for Superman. It's a documentary about public education. I'm only five minutes in and I'm still not sure which side it's leaning towards, but it already has me fired up. It made me think about a meeting I was in on Tuesday. They spoke of our reading scores not going up in 5 years. Someone said something to the effect of What do we need to change? What aren't we doing? It really got me thinking the days that followed. What else could I do in my classroom each day? There's always more each of us could do, every single day. However, I'm human. There's also things I could do each day to be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend.... Again I'm human.
Then I thought about how difficult teaching is. If you're a good, quality teacher, it is a really tough job. On top of the actual teaching, there's the planning, the cleaning, the organizing, the teaching of life skills: hand washing, nose blowing, being a kind friend, how to shake a hand, how to organize a desk...., then there's the hugs I give out, the listening to their problems that would make your heart break, the meetings, the parent letters, the parent phone calls, the report cards, testing.....
The actual teaching of the curriculum is a small part of my job when you really look at what I do every day. When these kids come to my class at around seven years of age and they don't have the foundation they need to learn the curriculum, or they can't sit still and/or focus and comprehend what I'm teaching or they didn't eat breakfast or they come from an abusive home or they don't have an adult that tells them to do their homework let alone help them with it or they aren't being read to, or..... Again the list goes on. There's only so much I can do. I'm not a miracle worker and that is part of my job. Finding a way to reach every student. I think I do, do a good job reaching them on an emotional level. I know I am a solid teacher. It seems that every year my students' home lives are more and more complicated. It seems each year I have more and more students that have medical issues that make learning more difficult for them.
With all these factors it drives me CRAZY when media outlets and politicians speak poorly of teachers. I know there are teachers who don't do a great job. That's a sad fact. However, there are also crooked politicians and dirty cops, etc. Most do a good job. Most do the best that they can. Just like us. What the "people" expect teachers to do is unrealistic. I can't change who these kids are. I can't change their parents. I can't put food on their tables. I can't fix all their problems.
I can make them (most anyway) feel good about themselves. I can build relationships in class so they feel comfortable and safe enough to be able to learn. I can give them hugs. I can be a good listener. I can make my lessons fun and interactive so they get the most out of it. I can read interesting stories so they (hopefully) learn to love reading. I can give them challenging work. I can listen to them read and guide their reading.
I can do a lot, but I can't do it all.
Now, I'm going to go and finish the movie and see where it's all leading.