Let me open with this disclaimer: I am not happy with what is happening to education, but I still really, really like my job.
We spent the morning with friends whose uber-successful careers have been in the corporate world and guess what? They feel under-appreciated, disrespected, disheartened, distrusted.
Who ever would have thought that an MST and an MBA would have so much in common? Angst? Stress? Panic? Yup. We got that, too.
I always expected–well, more recently fervently hoped–that education was immune to the dirty goings-on we tend to accept in the private sector where success is determined solely by putting up winning numbers at any cost. It felt safe–sometimes a bit righteous, too– to believe that teaching would always be centered on what’s best for kids and on discovery and progress, entities that defy a business model quantification.
Current obsession with scores and metrics as applied to instruction, however, proves that wrong. As our friends in the business world have always known, numbers talk. If you have been listening, you can hear the arithmetical conversation. Teachers’ professional reputations are soon to be numerically calculated and, like the kids we teach, we are about to become known by our composite scores. Kids aren’t numbers; kids are individuals, each with his or her own unique qualities, each with a promise for tomorrow. I hope I never become a number to them.
The difference between the boardroom and the classroom? I honestly like what I do. I still believe that what I do each day is important. I still see each child in my classroom as an individual whose potential for success is not computed by his numerical score. I come to work excited about what each day bring. My friends working on Madison Avenue and Wall Street no longer say this.
It’s true. I like my job.
It is unpredictable. It is exhausting. It can be frustrating. I always take work home. Always.
But I still like my job.
Hostile political powers continue to disrupt and destabilize the workplace. By the end of the week, I feel embattled and sometimes under-appreciated. My book bag is crammed with papers to grade and clerical tasks to complete.
But I really like my job.
Sounds like what Dr. Phil might call the classic definition of insanity.
But as an educator, I can still go into my classroom and look forward to the day’s work, what used to be called “teaching.” I am excited to share a new novel with seventh graders: observing them as we read, hearing them gasp at an unexpected twist, seeing them smile, grimace, pout about the content. It’s not about standardized tests or unreasonable bureaucratic decrees from Albany. Though it has become over-accessorized, at the heart of the day, teaching is what teaching has always been: about sharing a love for learning with kids.
I know that what we do is important. I don’t know how it will look on a spreadsheet or how my numbers will run. But I know what we do in our classrooms does indeed touch the future.