- May 31st, 2009
Whenever someone writes in a public journal, I believe it's an attempt to become closer to other people. We are social creatures so it is not a surprise that this would be the case. All of our entries are meant to resonate with someone and so it is one of the most intimate of actions and it is also one of the most ancient of traditions. I teach my students that authors have three main purposes why they write: to entertain, to educate, and/or to persuade. Today's post is to entertain and to educate, and it's merely an update and some thoughts here and there. I find that my dearth of entries is a little embarrassing, as a humanities teacher, I should write more often. Yet, there is so much that we experience each day, it sometimes becomes hard to figure out where to begin and start.
Summer is fast approaching. We have about three weeks left before school ends, and essentially before I end my three years as a classroom teacher (for now). I decided to leave the teaching profession for several reasons. One, I wanted to go back to school either this fall or the next, depending on whether or not I was successful in my applications. Two, I found this year particularly difficult in terms of student motivation. Three, I found that teaching may not be my calling, based on how much success I was getting.
I earned a generous scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since graduating from high school that has helped me throughout my educational career. For the past two years I have been on a teaching deferment. I either have to go back to school this year or next year, in order for me to keep this scholarship. So I decided to apply this year and in case I didn't get in anywhere, I would have next year to try again. Fortunately, I was successful and because of reasons 2 and 3 from above, I decided to accept. Thus, this fall I will be attending UC Irvine to pursue a doctorate in education. My particular emphasis is in learning, cognition, and development but I'm also interested in their language, literacy, and technology emphasis. (I would be what the department would call a slasher: LCD/LLT) My main research interests are in teacher learning, interdisciplinary studies, semiotics, and comparative education. I look forward to starting in the fall and hope that I will be able to successfully complete the program and be able to pursue this one particular dream of mine.
Though I harbor a lot of guilt for leaving so early in my teaching career I find that it is probably for the best. Many of my colleagues think I am being too hard on myself, but I really felt that I was failing as a teacher in many ways this year. I will admit that my lessons were usually engaging and thought out, but the results I was seeing were quite disheartening. It stems down to motivation (on the parts of my students and myself). I believe middle school students do go through a challenging period in their development at this age, but it is worrisome that across the board (across the entire school) we have students that constantly put up a front/battle to engage in learning. For the most part it stems from undeveloped skills to be successful, but other reasons have been cited: lack of parent involvement, peer pressure or peer issues, disengagement, and the list goes on.
As a teacher there is so much you want the students to have. I would like my students to be caring and kind individuals who are responsible, try their best in all they do, and love learning, and to have qualities to be successful in life. Yet, can I really achieve that when I have 35+ students in each class and that the school is overcrowded by 500 more students than it was built for? I am speaking particularly of students who came to me at a second grade reading level...how is that possible when they are at an elementary school for at least five years? Of course there are always extenuating circumstances, but I found that despite my best efforts, I have students who do not turn in their homework, who would rather socialize than learn, and who, in general, are defiant.
When I see that what I can offer is not good enough, it makes sense to me that I should leave. Yes, we cannot always reach everybody, yes we can only try our best, but really, I think that students deserve the best and if my best is not working then I cannot allow this to continue. I guess I put this pressure on myself that I should be getting results that a six or ten year veteran teacher has in my short three years, and because I am not, that is why I believe I am not a good teacher. The key idea is that classroom management is important if any teacher wants to succeed yet it is also the one area that many TEPs (teacher education programs) do not emphasize or teach. We learn on the job, because education is contextual. With so many variables and factors at play, I wonder how research can be focused. In the end, I am leaving in hopes that a better teacher can take my place and give students the type of education they need to develop holistically.
One of these days I will sit down and write a longer reflection on my attempts at becoming a teacher and how, even with "credentials" and good training, I feel like I was never the professional I needed to be. I hope in this way, I will find a profession that I can truly excel at, and though I will be teaching in the future, I hope I will be more successful with college students than I was with middle school students. Perhaps one day I will return, but until I feel I have the necessary skills, I will not be teaching middle school any longer, for awhile. I believe some people will not support me in this decision, but I believe it is what I must do.
In the end, I hope that my students will be more successful with other teachers throughout the years, and that they will grow up to be the great individuals that I know they can be.