I have a college degree….a degree that I worked hard for... a degree that I was told would open doors for me and allow me to have a better life. Granted, a degree in Elementary Education isn't a particularly difficult degree to get, but I did have a 4.00 grade point when I graduated (I think - maybe I need to look that up).
Now, fourteen years after getting my degree (I finished late), I am using that degree not to teach, but to be the “Pencil Police” because my students cannot handle keeping and maintaining pencils on their own. What exactly ARE they doing to these pencils?? I assume that the erasers have been abducted by aliens who leave the metal casing scrunched up after they meticulously remove the pink eraser tip. The pencil leads (or graphite) mysteriously disappear as well. Are they on the mother ship with the erasers racing to a new galaxy? Because I can promise you this....my students NEVER do anything to the erasers. They gingerly write with their pencils....treating them like precious gems. They've never removed an eraser and flicked it across the classroom. Precious angels.
Daily I bark to my students to “sit down”, "stop talking", "change your color”, “stop talking”, “pay attention”, “keep your hands to yourself”, “stop talking”, “label your paper”, “stop talking!”. “Single file, hands down, eyes forward, mouths closed”. I utter words not heard in any other profession except for teaching. In what other profession do people frequently say, "Voices OFF!". I spend hours cutting out things to enhance student learning that only end up being lost, torn up, or eaten perhaps? I don't know where all these things go....they just disappear. Aliens again? Do they not have a Wal-Mart in outer space?
I do actually teach, but all this “redirecting” goes on while I am teaching too. Despite all my attempts at good classroom management, this is my daily experience and it takes up an enormous amount of time and energy. We have seven weeks left of school and it gets worse every day. In fact, it gets worse every year. The apathy and inability to focus has become all I can focus on….trying to get kids to care enough to sit down and focus on what is going on. They don’t care. They just want to play all day. And yet I alone am responsible for their test grades. No pressure there.
As a highly organized person, I have put everything into place for these kids to be successful. The only thing missing is the student and what they do with the tools I give them. But the problem is that they lose the tools I give them or forget about them or their dog eats them or pees on them. Or things are shoved so deeply into the depths of their desks that I need to get out my caving helmet and light to go in and find anything, because God knows THEY can’t! Although, it could be those damn aliens again....hmmmm???
Is this seriously what I am using my education for? I didn’t need an education for this. I could have gone to more parties and spent my nights reading books I wanted to read if I had known my education would be used in this way. I could have saved thousands of dollars if I had only known.
But the most frustrating part of the whole thing is….THEY are NOT getting an education. It’s not for lack of trying on the teacher’s part. All of the teachers I know put their heart and soul into these kids, every day. But these kids can barely form a complete sentence. How on earth are they going to formulate an intelligent thought? We can’t teach them higher order thinking skills, they can’t perform basic thinking skills, nor do they care to try. Don't get me wrong...there are a few kids out there who want to do well. They want to learn and to be successful. Some even want that but can't achieve it because their bodies won't let them focus. They need medication or an environment where their type of learning can be addressed. When you have four or five in a class like that, it makes it a little difficult.
Folks, this is our future and it scares the hell out of me. Seeing kids like this, actually it was seeing adults like this, made me want to get into teaching. I wanted to make a difference. I thought I could do it….get their attention, make them care, make them love academics the way I do. But I can’t. I don’t have the energy. My bag of tricks is empty. My brain is fried. And they, the students, are laughing the whole time and throwing away good pieces of paper and breaking perfectly good pencils just so they have an excuse to get out of their seats and not do their work.
This is the most frustrating thing I've ever dealt with in my life. I know the parents want their students to get a good education. I just think most parents have no idea what their kids really do in school, or rather what they really don't do. I don't think the general public has any idea what teachers face daily in school. I know that the few people who have experienced it, either through substitute teaching or classroom parties always come up to me with a newfound respect. I had a substitute the other day who requested that I NOT call him again to sub. Wow.
I believe to my core that I am an educator. I believe that I have a great deal to share and that I am a good teacher. Maybe this is simply not the right forum for me. I don't know. I believe in education, just maybe not the way it is done in today's educational system. I don't have the answers, yet. I do believe we need a major overhaul in the education system because the one under which we are functioning today is severely broken.
I have taught in two schools during my career. I only taught one year in the first school, so maybe my opinion is jaded due to my lack of experience in other schools. I know what I know though. What I see frightens me. I see teachers walking in first thing in the morning looking as if it should be the end of the day, not the beginning. I know that personally I wake up exhausted each morning. I can't sleep at night worried about my students and how I can possibly teach them when they don't care one bit about learning. We teachers seem to be the only ones truly concerned about the education of these kids. We seem to be the ones putting in most of the effort for what? A bunch of kids who just want to talk and play?
Yes, this is our future. Frightening, isn't it.
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