I’ve been giving thought to alternate careers lately. I’ve been a teacher for seventeen years now. The same school. The same grade. The same room. It’s been a good run. It really has.
I think back to all the reasons I became a teacher. I wanted to shape the future, inspire young learners, better humankind. Lofty goals, but good fuel on which to stoke the fires of a career.
Have I reached any of these goals? I’d like to say yes. I run into former students on a regular basis and a good many of them have turned into something productive. Most have gone on to college. Some are already beginning their own careers. A few have written to me, thanking me for my guidance. These are all good things. Things that help me wake up each day and get my ass into work.
As I look at the current state of education, however, I grow weary. Teaching is less and less about shaping the future, inspiring young minds, or bettering humankind. Teaching today is about accountability. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that we need ways to measure student progress and teacher effectiveness. We need methods to improve our educational practices. We need to hold teachers and students accountable for what goes on in our nation’s classrooms every day.
But we’re sucking the fun out of learning, peeps. Totally. And not just for the students. I don’t have fun at work like I used to.
I’ve had a few moments more recently where I’ve been in the middle of a lesson and I think to myself, “Does anyone care about this? Is this going to change students’ lives in any way?”
Are those expressions on students’ faces ones of boredom? Is the inattention a sign that this is all too easy, too hard, not relevant? Can everything students “need” to learn just be googled nowadays on their cell phones? Am I less interesting than an online multimedia experience that can present the material in a more engaging way? A way that will capture students’ attention and keep it?
Sometimes I feel as if I’m competing so hard for students’ attention that I’ll never succeed. Gone are the days where my students and I would thoroughly explore a topic through good books and solid conversation with sustained involvement. Now it’s all two-minute videos with music and animation. It’s short, mini-lessons – quick hits – because the human attention span is like under ten seconds. It’s power-up-your-laptop-kids-and-click-your-way-through-your-education, followed by take-this-online-assessment-so-I-can-collect-buttloads-of-data-on-you. Data that directly affects the ratings I receive from my administration. Ratings that don’t take into account all the variables—many that I have absolutely no control over—that go into a student’s success.
Meanwhile, kids don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. They’re going to grow up to be adults who don’t know how to talk to each other. Respect appears to be a non-existent skill too.
This depresses me.
I need an alternative… or I need to make changes. Changes that maybe don’t jive with the “requirements,” but make good sense. For me. For them. For society.
I don’t have any answers just yet, but I’m keeping an eye out for new opportunities. Mostly ones that have to do with writing. That’s where I always feel pulled. That’s where I always feel inspired. Writing offers the chance to live in a fantasy world where things make sense to me.
Where things are fun again.
So what do you think? Mid-life crisis? Real concerns? Shut up and be happy you have a paying job with health benefits? Weigh in.
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