As someone who has been an educator for over four decades, it saddens me when I read blogs like "I Don't Want to Be a Teacher Anymore." While it is true that some people go into teaching only to discover that it is not what they aspire to, most are committed to making a difference in the lives of their students. I know that when I was a teacher, I relied on my colleagues. We shared ideas and problem-solved together. If I felt my students weren't getting the lesson, I was able to talk it over with my peers and they would give me ideas or strategies I might try. Today, with so much available through social media sites, teachers can collaborate with fellow teachers all over the world if they have questions. Reading about this committed teacher's challenges and the stressors she was experiencing as a result of top-down mandates really affected me negatively. As an administrator, it angered me that policymakers have taken the joy out of teaching for someone who has been so committed to her students for so many years.
I admit that I was never one to follow a teaching guide page-by-page. I knew what students needed to learn and I tailored lessons to their strengths and needs. Now that I am a principal, I give our teachers the flexibility to use a variety of resources to address the differences in their students. Grade level teachers know what they have to teach but how they teach is up to them. My philosophy as an administrator is that teachers are professionals and can be trusted to do what is right for their students. This is why we have professional learning communities where groups of teachers examine student work, analyze their data, and determine strategies to help their students to progress towards grade level expectations. This is why our grade level teachers create and constantly revise their interdisciplinary units that incorporate science, social studies, and other content areas through project-based and relevant, hands-on learning experiences. These collaborative discussions provide the supportive environment that teachers need in order to improve their practices.
Top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates may work for certain communities or schools, but I cannot expect that of our teachers primarily because I could not follow that directive if I were in still in the classroom. I trust our teachers to prepare their students to be successful, not just in the classroom, but in life. As a school with 98% military-impacted students, I believe that we must equip our students with skills and strategies so they can be self-directed learners and problem-solvers, able to pursue their own questions about topics that interest them.
Teaching is an art, and good teachers are constantly learning and improving because they know that our world is changing. As I read this teacher's blog, I wondered what happened to her. (This was written in 2010 but I just read it today.) All those 'maybes' - did it finally get to her and she decided to retire? If so, the profession lost someone who committed 35 years of her life to teaching and making a difference in the lives of her students.