I have had a couple of days that have only confirmed my belief that ending my "career" as a substitute teacher has come to its natural course. It is tragic watching children flounder and be left such incomplete lesson plans, confusing ones and be in schools where it is clear that the support is all visual not actual. You know this by the drop ins and pop ins before school starts. There is no way a Teacher can assist you in discipline problems when they have their own class to teach. Then we have the Administrative staff, some themselves are subs as the endless rotations and meetings to reform education has them rarely in the building, the irony is not lost there.
So when the day begins and you realize that there is a problem by the notes left about students it is a double jeopardy situation. You know the kid is a problem so it can affect your reactions and responses to him/her/them/they (yes we must be careful about our pronouns now as I am sitting in a classroom with a transgender child immediately to my right) and in turn you may find that it is like many situations, a simple personality conflict with that teacher, that student and your relationship will be fine. That said, kids with serious behavior issues should have a SPED or IA with them, whom actually supports and assists and in turn the "management" should not blink an eye when a call comes to have a kid removed. Simply put that these kids can be placed in resource rooms, counselor's office or even the library with a project to keep them busy until the next class. This does not need to be a major incident report associated with say, a natural disaster. But often it is and subs are usually blamed for somehow causing the volcano to errupt as if Mt. St. Helens just blew up one day without warning. Right.
And god forbid you complain that the lesson plan was convoluted, inappropriate, as in videos or stories that well cross a line that makes one think wtf! Subs can administer many lessons but some have so many bells and whistles, seem overly contrived to cover it as busy work and well no keys or details that would actually enable a sub to teach them.. such as clear cohesive keys for physics, math, etc that the kids just throw in the towel and do nothing versus doing something. And my favorite is when the instructions say "check their work and monitor." Really? That may work in elementary and then somewhat in middle school and then fold that tent in after that.
And yet I am willing to head back into the fold, and why it cannot be worse. I have a clear idea, I am better with bullshit and frankly get that I cannot reach all kids it is utterly impossible. You get the ones you can and hope for the best and leave the rest if you are to survive. And anyone who says otherwise has never spent time in front of a class.
So when I need to remind myself that I am not alone I find other blogs by Educators to remind myself of the best and the worst in the field; for the record, Teaching is the loneliest profession. You will be with kids all day, you have adults who may be one step above the kids in social and emotional skills and in some cases intellectual, you will find yourself mostly alone and having a hard time explaining to anyone what you do. The reactions are to lionize you as if you are Thomas Aquinas or to demonize you as some child predator whose union is protecting you. In other words this is a profession that has been so demoralized and vilified that we are like the Zombies on the Walking Dead, where will eat each other to survive.
And when I read this young man's blog dated from 2007 and the comments that were still coming it up to 2012 that affirmed his experience, I was not sure what to say, only yes I know. It is why I left the first time and why this time I don't expect it to be different but only that I am and I truly only care about what I can do with what I have and the rest is bullshit. But I have no debt, no delusions and a 10 year time window left before Social Security and I would rather be with kids, warts and all at least I know they don't care either. And that is the state of Education. So please reformers tell me how testing kids to death and using those to evaluate Teachers and in turn terminate them and replace them with whom? Computers? Robots? Or just more good people who figure it out and then leave.
Thoughts on NOT becoming a teacher
April 3, 2007 By Mark Welch
— Why did I decide not to become a teacher?
Five years ago, I wrote that I was considering becoming a teacher, and four years ago this month, I wrote
joyfully that “I have decided that I definitely want to become a
secondary-school English teacher (that is, I intend to teach English or
Language Arts in high school or middle school).”
Since then, a number of people have sent me emails (and a few have
called) to ask what happened? Did I become a teacher? Am I happy
teaching? Did I regret my decision?
I did move forward, but then stopped. In June 2003, I started a
credential program and from August 2003 to February 2004, I taught
English in an urban high school, on an “intern” credential. I quit
Sadly, I decided not to continue to pursue a career as a teacher.
While I was sorely disappointed by my experience, I must be fair and
acknowledge that nothing that happened was really a surprise: in my 2002 essay, I’d outlined many of the obstacles that I faced.
Accepting Failure: Five years ago, I wrote that I
knew it would be difficult, but that I knew I would have to “learn to
accept limitations and failures,” both my own and my students. In the
end, that was what made my decision to quit so easy: I realized that I
had abandoned so many expectations that I was no longer part of the
solution — I was part of the problem.
Lack of Support: A huge factor in my decision to
quit teaching “midyear” was the lack of administrative support. I
accepted a full-time teaching job in an urban school, and many of the
“worst” 10th graders were “dumped” into my classroom. Without support,
and with nearly zero follow-through from administrators, I faced serious
behavior issues, but oddly enough that wasn’t the worst of it.
Indifference: I was surprised at the level of
“indifference” from students, parents, and administrators. This resulted
in a climate where failing was completely acceptable. I had experienced
“indifferent” students before, but in most of my classes I was failing
40% or more of my students, and it seemed as if nobody cared — not the
students, not the administrators, not the parents.
Hard Work: Before I started teaching, I commented
that I knew that teaching was “really hard work,” involving long hours
preparing and grading, and specifically I knew that teaching involved
“steady, intense work” every day. I wrote: “I’m also worried about the
enormous load and the potential for a ‘triage mentality.’ . . . . Apart
from the raw work involved, and the energy level to maintain my own
focus and attention during every class each day, I wonder how well I can
serve those students whose needs are different.” What I didn’t realize
was that the workload was quite simply impossible, and
that I’d be forced to make decisions every day (every hour, really)
about which “required task” was most important and which would have to
be abandoned. I worked 10 to 12 hours every weekday, and more hours on
Stress: Two days before Thanksgiving, I experienced
severe, disabling chest pains, which stupidly I tried to ignore for many
hours because I had important, essential work to do. Finally, at 9:00
p.m., I drove myself to the emergency room. After taking my blood
pressure, the nurse quickly summoned a doctor, who immediately gave me a
pill to reduce my blood pressure. After several hours of tests, I went
home with a diagnosis of extreme stress, and a recommendation to try to
reduce stress. I went straight back to class the next day.
Intern Credential: In 2002, I wrote: “I was also
reluctant to pursue the common ‘entry path’ for many teachers, which was
to accept a full-time position as a teacher under an ’emergency’ or
‘intern’ credential, thus teaching before receiving any meaningful
training as a teacher,” and with very little supervision or direction. I
ended up accepting a full-time teaching position as an “intern,” which
was a huge mistake. While I recognize the financial pressures that make
an “intern credential” seem necessary to the state, to local schools,
and to new teachers, I now believe that the “intern credential” should
probably be abolished. (In theory, an intern credential might work if a
high level of support were provided, but in practice, districts provide
very little support and would simply not follow through on any new
Teaching to the Test: I taught four classes of 10th
graders, who faced the “High School Exit Exam.” Many of my students had
no expectation of ever passing the HSEE, and more than half came to my
classroom with skill levels that made passing uncertain. I felt that I
had no choice but to reduce genuine education time in order to meet
ill-conceived bureaucratic goals. Although I concede that the HSEE is a
very low hurdle and that high school students who can’t pass it probably
don’t deserve a diploma, the test is simply unfair to urban students
who haven’t been taught by an indifferent school system.
Preparation: I was interviewed on a Monday at noon,
and received a call that afternoon telling me I was hired — to start
teaching that Thursday. I was given a classroom that was nearly stripped
bare. I was given no resources to teach with (other than the teacher’s
edition of my textbooks), and I received very little guidance and nearly
no help preparing to teach. During the five and a half months that I
taught five classes per day, I was supervised for fewer than 20 hours
total, mostly because I begged for help.
Spending on the Classroom: During the first few
weeks of school, I spent thousands of dollars on materials for my
classroom. I had money from my dot-com days, but by February it was
Money: As a teacher, my salary was lower than any
other professional job I’ve ever held. I worked harder than I’ve ever
worked at any other job in my life. Financially, it wasn’t even a close
call, really not even in the same ballpark. Financially, teaching was
Joy: Every day I taught, I felt more joy than I’ve felt in any other job I’ve ever had.
Although many of my students were challenging, and I often felt
incapable of meeting their needs, I loved my students every minute of
every day. I often acted stern, angry, or abrasive in order to try to
encourage students, but even when they resisted and challenged me, I
enjoyed the experience.
Quitting: While I was teaching, my girlfriend (now
my wife) was incredibly supportive. The day I told her that I had
decided to quit, I thought she might be disappointed, but instead she
was relieved, and immediately told me that I’d made the right choice
(though perhaps five months late).
So Why Not Teach? Before I taught full-time in that
urban school, I worked as a substitute teacher for a year in an affluent
suburban school district, and I returned to substitute teaching the
following school year. I knew that if I “tried again”to become a
teacher, and did “student teaching” instead of full-time teaching to get
my credential, and refused to work in a district that provided no
support, it was likely that I could complete the credential program and
become a full-time teacher. But in the end, both my heart and my mind
realized that all the “obstacles” that I’d listed five years ago would
be present even in the best school, and while I might enjoy teaching —
perhaps even more than any other work I might do — it would almost
certainly kill me.