1. Why do people, including yourself, become teachers? What is probably the best reason for becoming a teacher? Is there a “best” reason?
Yes, there is a best reason. I don't know why others become teachers. I became a teacher because I felt called to it. Because I value thinking, learning, and communicating. Because I wanted to open doors, in the mind and in life.
2. Have working conditions of teaching in public and private schools changed over the past generation? If so, what are the most challenging aspects of this change?
Yes. Working conditions have changed. We work harder, and longer. We try to do more for less professional respect. We are heaped with blame for societal problems. We are asked to achieve things that are statistically not possible, and our professional competence is called into question when we don't. Our experience and professional judgement counts for less; in many places curriculum is scripted, and teachers are not allowed to step outside of that script. Doing something differently from another teacher is frowned on.
3. The issue of classroom management and discipline remain a challenge to teaching in America. Any ideas, secrets, or suggestions regarding this situation?
Sure. 1. Parent ed from birth to 5th grade. 2. Small class sizes. 3. Frequent parent contact. 4. High expectations. 5. Modeling of respect, listening, caring, etc. from all adults on campus.
4. What do you believe are the primary benefits of being a teacher?
Knowing that you make a difference in people's lives.
Relative job security.
5. Is teaching in the current educational context in America more than teaching? In other words, what roles have you had to fill in addition to that of a teacher (e.g. a nurturer, a substitute for an absent parent, a moral leader, a savior of the American economy, an instiller of character and citizenship, etc.) and does that constitute as being more than a “teacher”?
A nuturer...yes, and always. A substitute parent? Not my job. An instiller of character and citizenship...yes. Those are all part of being a teacher.
Also: a PR person. A member of various committees that take care of other school business outside of the instructional day. A curriculum writer. A clerical worker. A scheduling expert. Diagnosis and treatment of individual learning needs. And yes, those are all parts of the job.
6. If you had to do it over again, would you still be a teacher?
No. I would be a librarian. If I'd clearly seen and understood the direction public ed was headed , I would have taken a different road.
7. What is the most challenging and/or frustrating aspect of being a teacher?
*That you can undo a lifetime of bad parenting.
*That you can perform miracles.
*That you can do 2 or 3 or 4 peoples' jobs in one work day; and, that if you can't, you will work 12 or 13 hours each day and part of the weekend to finish up.
And: low pay relative to the amount of work, time, and $$ spent on getting and maintaining the credential.
8. Regarding your role as a teacher, what is the hardest part of working efficiently with other teachers? Administrators? Parents? Students?
Teachers: those whose philosophy on education are in opposition to mine, those who distrust and/or are hostile to students and parents, make teamwork difficult.
Administrators judging, evaluating, and making policy, handing down mandates about things they've never done. Administrators who have never been in a classroom making decisions about classroom practices. Top-down management in general. Swallowing professional judgements and complying with intrusive policies is the biggest challenge for me.
Parents: who don't understand the expectations or our limitations. Parents who don't parent. Parents who think supporting their child means fighting with schools. Parents who distrust and/or are hostile to their teacher or their school. Generally, I have a good working relationship with my parents; communicating what "standards" actually mean and connecting that to what their child is actually expected to do is difficult.
Students: Students who do not value learning or thinking. Students who wear a chip on their shoulder. Students who value social dominance of others. Students who have not been taught manners, and/or who have not had positive role models in their lives. Trying to do what a parent should have already done, or undo the bad examples they have been given is a challenge.
9. Do you feel that your community, as a whole makes it easier for you to perform the functions of your job? Why or why not?
No. If they did, they would be open at night and on weekends, understanding that I can't take care of any personal business of any sort during normal business hours, LOL.
Truly, I'm not sure how to answer this. I don't think so. If my community wanted to support me, they would do things like:
Pay to build more schools. Vote for legislators that didn't want to use me for their own political agendas. Insist on small class sizes. Insist on fully funding classroom supplies and materials in each classroom. Insist on providing support personnel in non-classroom positions to meet all of the needs a student has outside of a whole-class setting.
They would be marching to legislative buildings and holding them under siege until schools and teachers got the support they need to fully serve families.
10. If you could change one thing about your profession, what would it be?
No more standardized tests. Ever. Period.
11. How have you managed to cope with the many different demands placed on you as a teacher?
My family has suffered. My life has suffered. I guess I haven't coped well.
The only way I know to "cope" is to stop at the end of a reasonable working day, and whatever doesn't get done, doesn't get done. To not do anything that isn't "paid for." To not offer time that isn't "paid for." To leave it at work and go home to my life. Unfortunately, that requires acceptance that you are not going to meet every students' needs. A catch-22 in my case; I don't value my job, or the time I spend, unless I think it is making a difference. I haven't figured out how to just offer what is mandated or paid for and let the rest go.