I suck at being a Teacher.
I teach a population called “Gifted and Talented” Students. What does that mean? It means that kids who have an above average IQ and who have above average cognitive abilities are placed in an advanced class with other similar kids to be challenged. That means my class sizes are smaller than the general education class. My average class size ranges from 9-16 students. Sounds like a dream right?
I have had colleagues in the past give comments about how easy I have it. I can see why they would think that. Small class size with kids who are smart and motivated. Who wouldn’t want to teach under those circumstances?
What they don’t see, or more accurately, what they may not be aware of, is that these kids have their own kind of issues and problems they bring to the class as well. After all, they are just regular kids with regular problems. They just process it more deeply, or analyze it in a more intellectual way which can cause a lot of anxiety. Think about it. How does an 11 year old process the knowledge of the world when her brilliant little mind and imagination takes her to places that her peers won’t even recognize? When the gifted child realizes that her thinking is different than that of her peers, there is a sense of isolation. A sense of being different. Who then can this person talk to, and most importantly, who will understand them?
I could go on and on about the pshycology of the Gifted Child, but I would probably just bore you. What I want to share with you today is that I really suck as a teacher. Here is why.
Our present system is one that is Teacher Centered. It is all about how well the teacher can present the content, AND how well the teacher can do so in a milliton different ways, because we deal with a million different little minds. We currently base Teacher Performance on how well our students perform on a standardized test. We currently place all of the responsiblity on the teacher on whether a child succeeds or fails. When we get observed by our leaders, the observation is all about how the teacher talks, walks, presents, juggles swords on fire, with a full bladder, by the way, while making sure our little dolls are engaged with our teaching- in other words they are quiet and listening with no distractions, becuase the world is not full of distractions.
I suck because I don’t want that responsbility. I am a limited human being with limited knowledge. I can only do so much. The truth is that I can’t make every student succeed in the definition of what our system defines success.
I have students who are underachievers. I have students who struggle with perfectionsism. I have students who have self-doubt. I have students with a variety of diagnosis from Aspergers to ADHD to Depression and Anxiety.
I have students who know WAAAAAAY more than I do about certain topics like technology and serial killers. No joke! But that doesn’t matter, does it?
And yet it is up to me, little ol’ me, to make sure that my students are performing academically. Do we not see or understand the enormity of that kind of responsibility?!?So we continue to make our Educational System all about the Teacher.
Somehow us teachers are to have a magic wand that will cure the diagnosis and make all of their social and private problems go away so that they can soak in every detail of what we teach. Oh, and we have to make sure they eat a well balanced meal, get enough sleep and build their self-esteem. Teaching is hard people!!!
Do we have the answers to these pressing questions? Do we know what needs to be done to make education more viable?
I am not going to say I do have the answers, but I do know that we need to shift the responsibilty to the kids and their parents. Somehow education should be Student Centered, not Teacher Centered. Isn’t that the whole point of education anyway? To guide, to inspire, to mentor, to facilitate? Yes, we have certain curiculum and standards that need to be taught, still, shouldn’t the students take more ownership? Perhaps if they are more invested in what they are learning and take charge on HOW they learn it, might give them a more sense of success, and self-efficacy.
This is the crux of the matter- The world needs mechanics as much as we need doctors. The world needs artists as much as we need engineers. And most importantly, the world needs people who have strong work ethic! The Teacher Centered model is one that spoon feeds kids knowledge that kids don’t want to swallow, unless the topic is one of interest. SO the solution to this problem is one that still keeps it Teacher Centered- DIFFRENTIATION! -cough- -cough- So we are creating, in a sense, people who don’t quite develop a good sense of work ethic, or pride, because the teacher is doing all the work!!!
Isn’t it a wonderful and amazing thing when we encounter a professional who actually works hard at their job and actually knows what they are talking about? How frustrating is it, when we have a business encoutner with someone who doesn’t work so hard? Or worse, they are incompetent. And when that happens lets just blame the teachers!
I do wonder, though, what would it look like if we did make that shift. If we, God forbid, allow the students to take ownership and responsibilty for their learning. What if, instead of placing an impossible role on the teacher as “teacher” we place the role of facilitator?
I know– That’s chaos. That’s crazy. That’ll never work. We will never know if we don’t try.
That is why I suck as a teacher. I suck because the testing data says so. And we all know that data doesn’t lie. I suck because if you put me at the center of other’s learning abilities, I will miss the mark! I am not a good juggler. I am, however, really good at drinking wine. Actually, I am really good at having my students develop the skills to think for themselves and to develop a love for learning. And everyday, I do my very best. Except when I can’t.
This essay was in response the Professional Development I attended today.E