Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Fierce Battle Cry!

Every year I struggle with the same battle. I know it's coming, I even brace myself for it, but every year it gets the best of me...for a little while.

When I was in my senior year of college, I had a professor ask me an important question one day: What do you think is going to be the most difficult part of being a teacher? I didn't hesitate in my answer because I already knew. I told him the most difficult part for me would be the changing policies and the "red-tape" of public education. I knew that some things would change according to who was in control of my country, my state, and my school district. You know, the ones making the "rules" by which I teach and decide what I teach to my students...but don't walk in my shoes, teach in a classroom every day, and understand the individual needs of each student.

I was correct in my answer.

I am now several years into my heart's desire to be a teacher, and I can honestly say there is nothing I would rather do than teach children. I can also say that every year before school starts, I feel the same pressure build up in me that has nothing to do with the children I teach or the resources I need to teach them. It has nothing to do with the people I work with or the amount of money I have to spend in order for my classroom to have the things it needs. It also has nothing to do with the children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how great their educational need may be.

It has everything to do with how much "the rules of the game" change...constantly.

The problem is...teaching children isn't a game. It's a battle. Not a battle WITH the children, a battle FOR the children. It is a battle to be heard, as a classroom teacher, among all the "experts" of every new learning technique, new curriculum, new sequences of learning, and new trend of the day. It is a beat-down to hear how we've been "doing it wrong" and now need to "do it right" according to who is in charge now.

Please don't get me wrong. I am all for changing for the better. I am not a teacher who is married to whatever textbook or novel or grade-level lesson I teach in my classroom. I can teach anything. In fact, I am a lifelong learner who enjoys new things and new ideas. The problem I have is that, as a college-educated professional in the field of education, shouldn't I be somewhat trusted to do my job and know what is in the best interest of my students? Isn't that what I went to college for? Isn't that why I continue to take professional development classes over my summers and during the school year?

I get all tangled up every year in all the expectations put before me in my week of inservice before school starts. I pay attention to every change I need to make, every bit of data I need to look at, and get copies of all the new policies and procedures. I listen to all the presenters, take notes, get copies of power points, and... I do as I am told. You see, I'm a good student, I learn well, and I obey the rules. It is my nature, always has been. I try to do it all with a smile on my face, but almost breaks me.

Then, a wonderful thing happens...

Just when I am beat-down the most and think they may have finally pressed the last breath of joy out of my chest, just when my spirit feels bruised and battered and defeated - I find myself on the eve of...

The First Day of School.

I know, on this most holy of holy educational days, I will be greeting precious new faces who will look to me to teach them, guide them, and be a good example to them every school day. It will matter what I wear and how I present myself to those children. Every word that comes out of my mouth, for the next nine months or so, matters in the life of a child - of many children. They watch me, they listen, and they learn. I also watch them, listen to them, and learn from them.

This is what is important. My students are what is important. Not the policy-makers, not who is in charge, not the state I live in. The children who look to me are all that matters. Will I do all the other things that are expected of me by my administrators, my school district, my state, and my country? Absolutely. I will do them to the best of my ability, but I can't ever let all those other "things" beat me down to the point that I forget what I'm really fighting for on the front lines every single day! I'm fighting the good fight to ensure that my students receive a great education to give them a better, brighter future!

So, tomorrow morning when you hear my loud, fierce, battle cry, let it serve as a reminder to send up prayers and good thoughts to our nation's teachers who are fighting on the front lines every school day for our country's children.

"God bless us, every one!"


  1. I agree totally with your comments and as a retired teacher do feel your concerns. You just wants to concentrate of the teaching and not the 'red tape' that often appears to be politically motivated.

    1. Thank you for commenting and, yes, that's exactly right. The people controlling public education talk about "student-centered learning," but do very little to help us practice what they preach. As a lifelong student myself, I want to thank you for your service as a teacher! I hope you are enjoying your retirement! :)