It Still Matters

I have to admit that I have really struggled in writing this post.  It is something that I need to write today, but I’ve been having a hard time with the how.

That is because I have made one decision differently than many of you.

It is not my intent to sound judgemental.  We each need to take different paths, in order to find our own peace and happiness, and to contribute in the way that is most meaningful to us.  I respect the journeys that each of you are on.

And my journey at this time, involves me continuing to teach.  In spite of the fact that I was less than happy in my last job.  In spite of the fact that I disagree with many things going on in education right now.  And, yes, in spite of the fact that school is one of the places where kids learn to “follow the script.”

Public sentiment toward teachers is not what it used to be.  I remember, only a few years ago, what people would say when I told them that I taught special education.  Basically, I was regarded as a saint, which made me feel very uncomfortable.  Now the response is neutral, at best.  But that is all right.  I don’t need to look to the outside, to find out that what I do matters.

That is right.  What I do matters.

Why does it matter?

  • I’ve taught numerous teenagers to read, from scratch.  You can’t say that being literate isn’t life-changing and important.
  • Yes, schools are set up to prepare kids to follow the script.  But that is because society is based on the script, and schools are a part of society.  I carry my values with me, into the classroom.  I might be the first person to show my students that there ARE alternatives to the life we’re “supposed” to lead.  I might be the first person to tell them that their crazy dreams are possible.
  • Adolescence is a difficult time, as kids are moving away from their parents and trying to define themselves.  I am one more adult that they can form a relationship with–a positive role model, someone who has been through the fire.  I carry my experiences with me, even if I don’t share all of them with my students.
  • Not all students come from supportive homes.  For some kids, I might be the only person ever to believe in them.  That can have a huge impact.

Yes, there have been plenty of changes in education.  But I refuse to believe that I “can’t” teach students certain things, or in a certain way.  I most certainly can, and do.  Last year, I decided to let go of survival mode, and just do what is right, without concern for my evaluation.  I’m setting up such a lifestyle, that having to live on a smaller paycheck (if I lost a teaching job) would not be devastating.  I’m there for my students, not for my evaluation.

And do you know what’s interesting?  When I slowed down, and taught my students creatively, their test scores went up anyway! 

I do know that I am not following the path that most teachers follow.  I have lost my years toward retirement, by moving to another state 10 years into my career.  And I intend to cross the ocean well before I’ve spent 30 years in my current position!  But, for now, teaching is what I am doing.

And I am doing it because it matters.

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27 thoughts on “It Still Matters

  1. Teachers matter. Teaching matters. I had a hard time leaving public education because I wasn’t sure of my identity – it was so linked to my job. Now I know I am me and that teaching is something I enjoy, I do. While I don’t do it in the public school system anymore, most of my friends do, and if I could share all the emails parents have sent them through the years, it would be apparent to any doubters that teachers do matter. Good for you, Bethany, for not letting “supposed to”s define you.

    • I think not being defined by our jobs is key. If a position is who we are, then it is harder to take risks, and we’re more likely to go into survival mode.

      By the way, Tammy, I do think it is awesome that you are CJ were able to walk away from “security” and follow YOUR passions. 🙂

      • Thank you, Bethany. I tell my tutoring students all the time, I’m still not sure what I’ll do when I grow up. They love it!

        We’re all just making our own ways. Love this life!

  2. I’ve found that teaching for myself and not worrying about appreciation works best in this field. From day 1 teaching is an uphill battle, and worrying about admin is a headache, worrying about test scores is a losing battle, waiting for a round of applause from the general public – better grab a snickers, etc-etc. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror and know I did my best and my students improved academically/socially, I’m fine with that…

    • Language arts. 🙂 That’s what I have done for MOST of my career (and will be doing in TX).

      I agree. I’ve finally arrived at the place where you are. I’ve found that my mindset kind of puts me above the drama.

      Keep doing what’s right–it DOES matter!

  3. Again, your words inspire me. Good for you for sticking to teaching and thinking about your kids rather than your evaluations or pats on the back from higher ups. Teachers matter and I applaud you for sticking with it!

  4. I think teachers do not get the credit they deserve . To me teachers,like nurses, go into their respective professions to make a difference. I cannot even begin to list the teachers I have had that have always been there and inspiring me to explore all aspects of life.

    Teachers have instilled in me a lifetime love of learning and they have my respect. I think if I was still in school I would have loved to be in your classroom.

  5. Being a 3rd generation teacher, I agree completely with your post. Perhaps it is true that some of us just are teachers. It is what we do even if no one respects us or even pays us. Watching a student ( I have taught infants – college ) “get it” is a true joy.

  6. I commend you for finding your own way to make a difference for your students in an environment that isn’t always looking to do the right thing for them. Many have left teaching all together as a result of the constraints on their teaching methods. Good luck in your new position.

    • Hi, Lois! I missed you around here. 🙂

      There definitely are no constraints, as long as we remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. But I do understand why people have left the profession, and I think it’s a very sad reflection on society as a whole.

  7. This post made me choke up! My mother teached for many years, and my boyfriend is also a teacher. I think it’s so easy to fall into the extremes – either thinking that what and how we learn in school and our grades are all that matters and define us, or that conventional education always is mind-numbing and evil and that if we don’t “unschool” our children it means we’re brainwashed. Just like many people define themselves by their possessions, many aspiring minimalists fall into the trap of defining themselves by what they don’t have. I don’t think either is a good choice (even though I think I’ve made both mistakes). Conventional school taught me so much! Like reading, writing, basic and important knowledge in foreign languages, history, religion… Of course I learned a lot outside of school aswell. There’s A LOT that I don’t agree with when it comes to the educational system in my country, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad or worthless, or even necessarily a bad choice for any children I might have. It depends on so many things and coincidences aswell.

  8. (Pedestal Alert!)

    Excellent post! I would really expect nothing less from you. You have such an ingrained sense of what is right, and a desire to help others, it would be almost impossible to keep it contained within most administrative guidelines.

    As one who is hoping to homeschool, for a variety of reasons, but who also only knows the public school system, I’m finding it difficult to work out where to begin. I agree with much of what Maria said. I may end up in the position of putting my kids into preschool/daycare, and just the thought is tweaking my brain and piling on the guilt, because “If I can’t even make it through preschool, how in the heck do I expect to do any future years?”

    • Just remember that nobody raises kids in a vacuum. Preschool is a resource, and just because you’re using it doesn’t mean that you are failing or not able to do educational activities at home as well. As mothers, we put so much pressure on ourselves, to go it alone, when that really isn’t how people were designed to be. Choosing to homeschool doesn’t mean that you can’t use resources in the community.

      Don’t tell yourself that you can’t make it through preschool. Congratulate yourself for being savvy and making use of the community, so that you can have a social life as well. You’ll get more inspiration for lessons from the things they discuss in preschool and the experiences you have at work!

  9. I needed to read this! (I know I am late in the game commenting, but felt the need too)-
    I get discouraged, I think about changing careers. I get the the thought “hey, if I was really a great teacher I would be homeschooling my kids”.
    I like the not looking outside for approval of your teaching, so often I worry parents won’t like what I am doing with my teaching etc.
    Thank you for the inspiration to rededicate myself to my real passion, teaching children. It’s in there, even it gets buried under all the “political education junk (i.e., test scores, progress reports, judgement from others” stress.
    Katie

    • I’m glad you commented on this tonight, as I go to my new job tomorrow. Let’s see if I can walk the talk…

      Hey, best of luck to you, as well, as you start the new school year!

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