My son went to college to become a math teacher. He graduated last week and now when I asked him which school districts he's applying to, he hesitated. After four years of study, student teaching and attaining his degree, my boy is concerned about becoming a teacher. What's the problem? His response was disheartening. The pay is not that great for a college graduate and all I ever hear and read about is how nobody likes teachers anymore and that most of them are incompetent and that having tenure is no longer any type of guarantee for job security. Tell me Dad, what are the pros and cons? Why would anybody want to be a teacher in today's public schools?
Great question! The cons, of course, are all over the news. Teachers are the fall guys. When today's youth fail to do their work in class or fail to achieve a certain level on their state exams, the finger of blame must be pointed somewhere. For some reason, even suggesting that the child could be the problem is not allowed. Taking on the students or their parents is taboo. The general thinking seems to be that there is no point in challenging the family because let's face it; nothing we say or do is going to change anything anyway. So school administrators and the public at large must look elsewhere for a scapegoat. After all, someone has to be to blame, right?
So yes son, the teachers of today are going to be chastised, ridiculed and even demonized because our students are failing to meet the necessary standards of success. Who else is there to blame?
And as for the job itself: well, it's no longer like the old days when all a math teacher had to do was simply teach math. No, those days are long gone. Besides what you were trained to do in college, today you must also assume the role of parent for these kids. And you will need to be their counsellor too. You will gladly take money out of your own pocket to help these children with their needs. But get this: few will appreciate all that you do. No -- the media, state education department, your own school administrators and even some of the kids themselves will still criticize you and think that you are no good. And here's how they can prove that you are no good. They will grade you based upon the performance of your test scores. Now I know you well, son. I believe that you will put forth your best effort to teach and reach these kids with math information. You'll do a good job. But none of that will matter to administration or to State Ed. because if your students fail to do well, the onus of blame will land directly on you. Fair? Just? Of course not, but that's the result of people in power needing to wield that power over the teachers. Obviously, today's leaders in education have lots of issues. So here you are, forced to attain high grades for your students (even though they are taking the test, not you!), and on top of that you will have to deal with misbehavior, disrespect and perhaps even physical threats from these same students who are causing you to have a failing grade as a teacher.
Man, is it worth it?
You bet it is! I've been teaching for 35 years now and I never once allowed myself to be beaten down by administrators or the State Ed. Department. You know why, son? Because I know better than them! I'm the one who spends time with these kids and I'm the one who knows them. Yes, it's true that I am the one whom a handful will disrespect, dishonor and refuse to heed the good, sound advice of. But I'm also the one who succeeds in reaching so many of them. I'm the parent they never had and the counselor they can feel free to talk to. Years later, I'm also the one they walk up to at the grocery store to thank for the positive influence I had in their lives. That guy they come to think so much of and whom they owe a great debt of gratitude to is me! These kids need you, son. They need your energy, your willingness to never give up on them and your drive to reach as many of them as possible. Will it be easy? Not on your life! Will it be worth it? It's the best and most important job in the world! Do it and you'll never regret the difference you will make in their young lives.
Did I mention July and August?