A question posed in a recent teacher group discussion was:
What factors make great teachers negative, hostile, and resentful? Parents? Students? Society? Media? Bureaucracy? How can new teachers keep the good stuff flowing throughout their careers?
The responses included a mixture of all the factors suggested. However, I’m not sure the initial question is very helpful. We pretty much know why we’re negative, hostile, and resentful. The second question, which implies “How can teachers maintain positivity, amicability, and gratitude in their careers?” is more helpful.
The answers were powerful:
…reach deep and try to make the classroom experience as dynamic and engaging as possible. This requires broad actions, a creative approach, and an open heart and mind.
…a true sense of humor… I try every single day to make my kids laugh along with me. I try to find the craziest stories I can and present them for short discussion. I try to challenge kids to think about their every day world… Since I teach HS, I have to take on the mantle of adolescense and try to see the world from their perspective. So, yes, I get a little crazy in class, raise my voice, challenge thier prejudices in hopes that something new (the ah-ha moment) will click, and that they will want to carry on Learning Themselves! The grind of every day doesn't have to be a grind..it can be an adventure. I've been teaching 36 years...I try to make it new every day.
…one must simply make the effort without obsessing over the result… I have learned that I will reach some consistently, some occassionally, some rarely, and a few never. The same lesson that sent kids soaring in one class, can fall flat in the next. Accept, and move on. Maybe you will inspire them the next time.
I think of innovative ways to help my learners…
When my students complain about having to memorize soliloquies from Shakespeare, I ask how many of them lift weights? Every athlete and some of the nonathletes raise their hands. Then I ask how many of them plan to get jobs in a weight-lifting factory? They laugh, and I tell them that memorizing is mental weight lifting. They seem to get it.
I have to admit that as I read the complete responses (which answered both questions posed above), I got stuck on the negative factors that were contributing to resentment. It wasn’t until I went back in to pull out potential solutions that I actually saw them. It was somehow just easier to empathize with the problems that educators experience than it was to ingest or consider the solutions.
However, focusing on the how and having a plan for that how may ultimately prove more productive, fruitful, and refreshing than analyzing students’ apathy, administrative rigidity, and the mother of all hostilities: standardized testing.
We know what mosquitoes do, what causes hunger, what leads to pain, but the value of this information is in direct proportion to how we choose to implement it and use it to overcome the same.
Instead, let’s work our way through, out, or over, using the advice of our peers:
Reach. Create. Laugh. Challenge. Accept. Think. Analogize.
The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson