Teaching is an honorable profession, one respected by the public, parents, students and the administration at each institution — at least, it should be. This is what everyone hopes for, but not all teachers are committed to helping students, just as not all school administrators are committed to supporting their teachers. Many enter professions with idealism and hope for success in the field, only to experience exhaustion, frustration or disappointment in their choices. While teaching is far from a "get-rich-quick" career, it can offer intrinsic value to those who desire more than money. Here is a candid look at experiences in varying states and diverse neighborhoods. Anonymity offers honest insights and opinions that may not have been heard otherwise. Every field, including teaching, has pros and cons, all of which can help people decide wisely.
A student teacher in Boulder, Colorado, loved teaching the children, and her positive experience was a wonderful introduction into teaching. She describes her first-graders as "interested in learning, helpful with each other and like 'flower' children." It was a peaceful community where the parents were involved, caring and willing to help their children succeed.
Onward to Alexandria, Virginia, where children were reared by many politically involved parents who ranked education a 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10). As one would expect from such a community, parents were socially and intellectually active, and the children were clearly products of their parents' values and involvement.
Chicago, with its diverse neighborhoods, produces quite varied experiences for teachers and students alike. One young man, a new elementary and junior high teacher, taught at both Montessori and Chicago Public Schools. As a full-time Montessori teacher, his students were "well-behaved, studious and diligent in their homework." Likewise, these students' parents, including a volunteer mother to help in the classroom, were "loving, involved, caring and positive."
This was a far cry from his year subbing eighth grade (12- to 13-year-olds) in the CPS inner-city school system. There, this dedicated teacher was faced with "rowdy, rambunctious, disrespectful and disinterested students." His CPS first-graders, however, were attentive and respectful. Somewhere between first grade and eighth grade, behavior saw serious change — change he could not correct. Since the money and the environment were less than he had expected or hoped for, he left to double his salary in the field of construction.
A female teacher lasted four years at CPS teaching 12- and 13-year-olds. She was committed to helping, but discovered that the principal expected teachers to handle situations themselves. She realized she was on her own. On parents day, she met with parents who were "noticeably drunk," "dressed and acted like prostitutes" and others who simply "didn't care." Each day, teachers were asked to sit with the children at lunchtime. When rough and tough students sat down next to the younger children, she was supposed to ask them to leave, but knew she would have no support from administrators. The older students were much bigger than she was, so she remained silent and let it slide. During her four years at CPS, she had one student in particular who touched her heart. The student was a 13-year-old girl, embarrassed by not being able to read, who had been passed through the school system even though she didn't earn it. The student asked if this teacher could tutor her after school. This was the teacher's chance to make a difference, so she agreed to teach the student on her own time. The student worked hard and learned how to read, and the teacher was proud of her contribution. Unfortunately, after a different student threatened to kill the teacher, she left not only the job, but also the school system.
Teaching can be immensely rewarding when teachers see the difference they make in students' lives. The question in this varied career is how dedicated the person is willing to be, how much sacrifice the person is willing to make and what kind of safety the teacher is willing to risk for the sake of helping students who want to learn amid the group of student naysayers to education. Onlookers complain about the field of education. Perhaps, lawmakers and parents need to attend their children's schools and ask themselves if they would be willing to make the same sacrifices teachers do.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.