Things I was worried about prior to teaching, July 2000
- Class size
- Classroom management and getting the kids to respect me
- Keeping up with all the grading
- Not having a set curriculum for the two senior English classes I was assigned
- Making friends with my colleagues
- Reading all the books I needed to teach my students
Things I am worried about prior to teaching, July 2018
- How to make sure my students aren’t stressed out to the point of hospitalization
- Whether I will be killed at my job
- How I can keep my students safe in case someone attacks the school
- How I can keep my newspaper kids safe in case someone attacks them personally, either in person or online
- How to reach out to marginalized students
- How to educate non-marginalized students how to be allies
- Failure rates
- How to motivate students
- Whether my program will get cut due to funding
- Whether my program will get cut due to low enrollment
- Whether my program will get cut due to ever-elevating focus on STEM classes
- How to teach journalism in a country whose leader hates journalists
- Whether I will get push back when I try to teach critical thinking
- How to reassure my students that there’s still hope
- How to have hope myself
Granted, part of the difference in these two lists is I’m no longer naive about teaching and all it encompasses. However, part of the difference is intense political and societal upheaval, especially in the past 15 years.
In a matter of weeks, teachers across the country will head back into their classrooms. Some teachers are already there. Some teachers are preparing from homes and vacations right now. Despite the ill-advised jokes about how much teachers love summers, so many of us really consider it a year-round job.
This upcoming school year in Omaha, district superintendents from across the city have pledged to embark on a #bekind initiative. I am pretty sure the intent is to make sure kids are kind to each other, a cause I believe in. But I hope we can extend it the the adults.
Parents, be kind to your child’s teachers. Teachers, be kind to your students’ parents. Administrators, be kind to your staff. Staff, be kind to your administrators. And if teachers haven’t already figured this out, be kind to your support staff–the paras and custodians and secretaries, for they shall move mountains for you and shower grace upon you when you don’t deserve it.
And probably most important, teachers, let’s be kind to each other. Look at that list of what worries me. Some of those things might worry you too. Click on a link or three–these worries are not unfounded. We could probably stand to shower each other with a little more grace.
This work is not for the faint of heart. I left at least ten more worries off that list, and you might notice that not a single worry is related to the actual art of teaching my curriculum.
The work we do as teachers, administrators, support staff, students, and parents is more important than ever. Education as a core value seems to be declining–especially when that education happens at a public school. But as the author of this linked article writes:
Our public-education system is about much more than personal achievement; it is about preparing people to work together to advance not just themselves but society.
I hope the 2018-2019 school year sees a little more kindness, sure. But I also hope it sees all involved stakeholders working together to improve our society.