Friday, July 25, 2014

She works hard for the money...or, at least, she's about to.

Monday. Monday marks the beginning of the school year -- a time when teachers resolve themselves to pasty skin tones, mounds of paperwork, and the best part: taking your children off your hands for ten months (did anyone sense the sarcasm??).

We love your children; however, we feel your frustrations of trying to "entertain" them when they're in our care 7 hours a day, five days a week. I'll be the first to argue that parents hate summer break, or any break for that matter, because they have to find childcare and activities to occupy the kiddos and because kids, en masse, can sometimes drive a man...or a drinking. Even the best parents out there get a tad annoyed at the kids, and I think they all enjoy the steady schedule of a ten-month school year. Summer marks a time when more money and time has to be spent making sure everyone is taken care of, and things become a bit hectic. What tickles me about the whole teachers on break crazy is that the general public has no problem complaining to teachers about how much "free time" they have, yet they forget that for ten months out of the year, teachers are parents' lifelines. We educate and entertain the children, and that is a hard job. For those of you who believe we sit around in blue jean jumpers wearing wooden necklaces while eating apples, listen up. It ain't that pretty.

Noun - one with a firm belief that everyone can accomplish something; one willing to compromise dignity and sanity for the wellbeing of others; one lacking the desire to live lavishly and in favor of spreading common sense and intelligence throughout the land.

We don't know everything. Most of us qualify as masters in our fields; however, we are learning each and every day. All of those little neurosurgeons out there can thank a handful of teachers for teaching them facts and statistics and writing skills and brain hemispheres, but all of those teachers can thank those former students for teaching them patience, imagination, and innovation. The world is ever changing, and while I'd love to see a glimmer of excitement in every 13yr old's eye when I introduce Shakespeare, I have to approach the literature with real-life application in mind. I teach English not necessarily because I'm trying to instill a love of books in children but because I'm trying to help the students learn life skills that will follow them into various stages of existence. Fifteen years ago, my teachers weren't concerned with email etiquette, but, that's a vital part of everyday writing skills that kids and adults need to know. As an educator, I have to research and study so that I can keep up with what upcoming students need to know. It's my job to venture beyond what I was taught in school and educate myself so that I can educate others.

Anyone imagining this an easy task is oblivious to the work and time that we put into making sure your kids are properly equipped to go into the workforce or college atmosphere. We aren't paid for specific trainings when there's an argument over whether or not to use the Oxford comma or when MLA decides to take out a period that's been there for two decades. We just have to keep up, sans a large meeting room with dozens of donuts and free coffee. Unfortunately, a popular idiom discredits the struggle that is maintaining relevance in education: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." So. Not. True. I will always attest that I learn more about something when I'm teaching it than I did when I originally learned it. To do often only requires minimal attention; to teach requires seeing beyond what appears to be. When's the last time you thought about how hard that is? Next time you try to teach a child to tie a shoe, think about how you have to break it down in order to make sense of it. It's frustrating to take something so mindless to you and try to get another human being to do it with ease. That's our every day...with more complicated material.

Noun - one with the desire to make others happy; one with the ability to stave off boredom; one creative enough to make others forget temporarily that important things are happening around them; a teacher.

Yep. I've said it before, and I'll reiterate it here: a good teacher is a one-man Broadway show without all of the acclaim...or a stitch of dignity to speak of. In good entertainment, the gloves are off, no holds barred, all the world's a stage, and every other cliche idiom applies. If I had a nickel for every sword fight I've staged with myself while teaching the first two pages of Romeo and Juliet, I'd have...well, I'd have like $.70, but that's not the point. The point is that I've had to throw caution to the wind and walk into a room spouting Whitman's "O' Captain, My Captain" if I want the kids to care about it. I've jumped on a windowsill to demonstrate the emotion of Juliet during the famed balcony scene of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy; I've spoken in a ridiculous southern accent in order to capture the distress and hyperbole that is Blanche DuBois in William's A Streetcar Named Desire; I've pretended to peer out of a bunker during war as a means to convey the trepidation of soldiers in the night. All of this is entertainment for the students, but it gets them thinking...ah ha! My job: make the children think.

179 days of 180, I hear, "Why are we doing this? This is stupid! I hate this. No one else is making us work because it's Friday. You always make us work." After growing a relatively thick skin, I learned to edutain, for it is the ONLY way to make them understand the means to the ends.

"Today, class, you're going to imagine you have a career. You would like a week off from work for vacation, but it has to be requested in writing. We'll assume you're sending this correspondence in the form of an email to your boss. You have ten minutes to compose this email, and your boss will provide immediate feedback."

Now, after I scan the room and see 98% of the little stinkers rolling their eyes, I call on the one brave kid who asks, "how is this relevant to English class?" Yes! That's the question I wanted.

"Well, young grasshopper, part of my job is to help you write properly for a variety of situations. One day, you will need to ask off for vacation; however, your approach and appropriate writing skills will determine whether or not the request is granted."

Of course they still don't see the relevance, but when I collect the "emails" and read them out loud, the learning begins. I'm the boss, and those requests are getting on-the-spot answers...some of those answers are a big fat NO and a "please pack your desk." It's funny, yet scary for them to hear that one inappropriate word choice or one ill sentence structure can make or break an entire job in their futures. Edutainment's how we reach your kids. That's hard.

All of this being said, I am not a momma (One day, hopefully, but not yet); however, I feel your frustrations of having to entertain and to teach your children skills that will make or break their futures. You're frustrated about 8-10 weeks out of 52 that you have to occupy with entertaining, educating, feeding, etc., and you're quick to bash us for posting pool pictures and "school's out" statuses, but before you mutter obscenities under your breath as you snack on a stale donut at your office desk while admiring the 90 degree sunshine through a distant window, remember that we've devoted our lives to your kids, and we do everything we can for those ten months a year to make sure you see little Johnny sashay across a stage and go out into the world in pursuit of a decent living.

Ease up on teachers, world; we deserve a break, too.

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