Friday, November 26, 2010

I Am A Teacher, Hear Me Roar?

Alternative title: Where My Balls At?

I know, somewhere Big Mama Mimi is reading that last line, shaking her head and wondering where it all went wrong. Sorry, mom! But hey, sometimes a girl's gotta say what a girl's gotta say.

Let me get to the point. You all know how I'm not afraid to say that there really are some plain old sucky teachers out there, right? I mean, it's true. (Granted, there are many of us out there who rock endlessly and yet the media loves to look the other way unless we are clad entirely in leather, essentially living in our classrooms and come with our hip hop soundtrack that magically follows us everywhere.). If you are a regular reader of the old Blog, you may also know that I often wonder whether these not-so-hot teachers blew when they first started their careers. Have they always sucked eggs or where they broken down by a system that constantly puts their needs and expertise at the bottom? Have their voices been silenced and their skills sabotaged by years of being told what to do, when to do it and how they will be punished if they do not follow through?

I don't know. Maybe it's a little bit of both. I know I spent nine years in a school where I learned a tremendous amount and was able to truly improve my practice. But there also came a time at this same school where I grew sick of the drama, the "speak when spoken to," the disregard of my knowledge. (And just like that, a snarky blog was born!)

Let me get to the point. I think education today is a dangerous business. It is easy to get wrapped up in the whole top-down hierarchy thing that seems to be our situation du jour. And it is even easier to lose your sense of self, what attracted you to the classroom in the first place, and your confidence in your own abilities and knowledge.

I know this is true for at least some of us, because it happened to me. Yes, Mrs. Mimi, she who is unafraid of saying pretty much anything, sometimes loses her mojo.

I have been a bit vague as to exactly what it is I do in classrooms these days. I am lucky enough to work for a visionary company that provides professional development to teachers. I am learning so much about the teaching of reading and writing, about how to work with adults (we can be difficult) and about myself as an educator.

Recently, I came to a sad realization about myself that made my super hero cape sag and shook my confidence. I had a particular plan for a school, knew it would work for teachers and believed in the process we were about to engage in together. But when that plan was questioned, I caved. Did what I was told. Lost my voice.

Nobody involved had bad intentions for teachers. The sad part isn't that my plan was questioned, or even that it was altered- the sad part was how quickly I lost confidence in my own knowledge, how I forgot to present my side, that I forgot about what I believe in if only for a moment.

Teaching can be brutal. I think that I am still recovering from some of my past experiences and still trying to find the voice that is so easily expressed here, but sometimes gets lost in the chaos.

So....I am now on a personal quest to build myself back up. To stop apologizing and to start trusting my teacher instincts again. Do I smell a New Year's Resolution in the making??

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

16 comments:

Michele said...

Do you think you'll ever go back to the "front lines" of the classroom?

Mimi said...

Absolutely! My current job is amazing and perfect for my life right now but I'll never rule out going back. I miss my little friends...

Stu said...

I discovered something fantastic as I approached retirement. About four years ago, when my job was cut to half time I realized that I could retire any time I wanted. It was at that moment I decided that never again did I have to bury my teacher-brain behind a script. I was free to teach without stopping to make sure that no one was watching. My favorite phrase for those last four years was "What are they going to do to me...make me retire?"

That moment of realization was liberating. I didn't have to hide my opinions about teaching to the test, or DIBELS, or our principal not having a clue about running an elementary school (he was a transplanted high school principal). I said what I wanted and didn't worry about what "they" were going to do to me.

I spoke up to the superintendent when she was trying to cover up for another central office administrator who was (and still is) bullying teachers, and I told other administrators what, in my opinion, they needed to change.

There's a way to do that even if you're still in your early years of your career. Carefully, and with significantly more tact than I used, let your administrator know what you think about the curriculum changes which have smothered your professional judgment. Let your administrators and school board members know what you think about the overwhelming, and stifling focus on tests and test scores.

Write letters, promote your blog...in short do everything you can, while protecting your career, to change things.

And in the meantime do the best you can to use your knowledge and problem solving skills to give your students what they NEED instead of what some bureaucrat downtown, or at the DOE in D.C. told you.

Teachers are the only ones who really know what's going on. We have to find our voices.

LM said...

I'm out of the classroom this year and I don't miss it as much as I thought I would. I took a leave of absence to be with my son, and let's face it, after 20 years in the classroom, I needed a break. :o) We're having fun doing kindergarten at home. I'm differentiating without someone else breathing down my neck! Gotta love it!

Janu said...

Wow...can't believe I found this today. I'm a first time visitor to the NEA site, this is the first teacher blog I've read and I feel like I've just found a professional lifeline. Pretty sure you wrote this just for me. You sound quite a bit younger. I'm almost 3 decades deep in this profession. I too came up with a new answer for education. A design that provides computers and CAI for every student and teacher. It makes it easy for the professional educator to differentiate instruction and it has valid, respectful, built-in accountability. It provides a safety cradle for new teachers and an amazing classroom set-up for students. It also saves a ton of money. All this...and because of the savings it became very attractive to local politicians running for office. The election is over. The design is still attractive, but I'm just a teacher. We Joe the Plumbers become very attractive when politicians are running on the "I'm just your average American" platform. I gave a presentation just 4 days ago to a group of interested "movers and shakers". The teachers who actually piloted the design, put in the work, and proved it's merits, were talked over and around. We weren't administration, so we were made to feel we didn't count. I know this design is amazing, but I walked out of that room and felt my confidence, pride, and passion for this career choice pour out of my body and onto the floor behind me. It would be different if the administrators had more experience or if they had been a contributing part in the process...I could blah, blah, this self pity party till the balloons all pop! Sorry! Thanks for the blog. Loved it! Needed it! Thank you.

valerie said...

Perfect! Just what I am looking for! I feel the same way about the drama created in our schools. I am also in the process of learning to voice my thoughts and expertise in a manner that will not create more drama. ;0)

dbs said...

Yes. It absolutely can be brutal. And yes, we teachers often get bullied. We have to really believe in ourselves though. (I think I just wrote this comment as much for me as I did for you. Thanks for making me think.)

Monkey Speaks said...

I'm so happy I stumbled onto this blog! (No, no. Not the "website" stumble, the actual "doing research for a paper and just happened upon this little gem," type).

I digress - I have only read a few entries, but so far love your little rants and insights. I am a future teacher (I know, but what can I say? I love working with children, I love my "insanely-far-from-the-realities-of-actually-teaching" position at a public middle school in my area, and I have not felt as big of a thrill toward my vocation since graduating college 5 years ago). Again. Sorry. Can you tell I want to teach ELA? But I am just so terrified of a lot of the administrative details that come with the ball of wax. The testing, the open-court, the constant scrutiny and of course the unfair blame many teachers are accosted with. Truth be told, these issues worry me more than the kids (as a glutton for punishment I've chosen 7th and 8th) and more than the prospect of not finding a job right after graduation (fingers-crossed for Teach America!).

Actually - do you have any insight for Teach America? Or anything you can offer an aspiring educator? Beyond "stay away."

Looking forward to reading more! Sorry for my incoherent babble.

I hope this blog helps a bit with my path. At least on a support level.

Monkey Speaks said...

I just wrote a very long comment, and of course I lost it all.

The gist? New ELA teacher who is more terrified of administration, NCLB, open-court and the constant blame educators face than a group of 30 students trooping in after lunch.

I am looking into Teach America. Any thoughts on this? I graduate my Credential/Master's program next fall and am looking into this as a very viable option.

Looking forward to reading this little gem more often. And a very belated congrats on being a new mommy.

Allison said...

I'm a new teacher and I agree that to do it well requires a lot of confidence. Who's going to listen to you if you don't believe in yourself? It's also true that this profession can/will chew you up and spit you out. I came into it last year so enthusiastic and in short order I started asking myself if I've got what it takes. (Jury is still out...) Students/parents/other teachers/administrators - dwelling on what they think about you/your teaching is a sure-fire way to fall out of the sky like a lead balloon. Thanks for reminding me to believe in myself and my voice!
allisonwelch.com

Ashley O'Connor said...

Yes, confidence and diligence. I think that like students, so many teachers can be caught in the cracks! It is our responsibility to make a voice for ourselves, our school and our students. Thanks for the inspiration!

Shireen said...

i miss teaching! there i said it. i gave up work last year when i had my baby girl and made the decision this year to stay off for a few years. i did this because teaching is hard! especially with the kinds of friends i had in my class (loved them all - but needed a lot of my heart and soul to teach) and now so much of that part of myself is directed to my child. i am in the process of finding out what else i am, aside from a kick **ss teacher! i love your blog and i love watching you on a similar journey...you do rock, indeed!!

Ms.C said...

My team and I have talked about the "dream roar" several times, the one where we could really say what we think & explain what(who) is not working right. But, then we always come up with list of reasons why we can't actually share our real thoughts to the fullest.

ChiTown Girl said...

Where, oh where, has my Miss Mimi gone? Where, oh where, can she be?

I hope everything is ok, and that you've just been too busy with Mini Mimi to check in with us. I just wanted to stop by and wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

2ndMile said...

Nice site! You may find this interesting: Profile of a Teacher!

http://2ndmileleadership.blogspot.com/2010/12/profile-of-teacher-elusive-educated.html

schroederpage said...

Miss Mimi...I feel you. I just found your blog and am loving. Thank you for saying what need to be said. I am working to find my voice again through my new website. I too am a 2nd grade teacher please check it out. It is still in creation mode. www.theschroederpage.com

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