Friday, June 8, 2007

To All My Teacher Friends: Congratulations on Closing Out Another Successful Year!

If you’re a hardworking person who cares, teaching is the most difficult profession on earth. If, however, you are lazy, don’t give a rat’s $#^%, and want to “have the summer off,” teaching is the easiest job there is. The shame is that the community often recognizes only the latter, when in reality, most of the teachers I worked with in my short time in the public schools were of the caring type.

I started writing an essay once, entitled “Why I Became a Teacher … and Why I Quit.” But some of the memories were so depressing that I never finished it. I should. Teaching public school has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done with my life so far. For those of you who don’t know, I taught middle school for six years and elementary summer school for three of those years. Most of that time I was a Special Education Resource teacher in an inclusion setting, but I also taught computer technology for two of those years.

When I started teaching, I thought I was in heaven. I taught in a large county with a good reputation, but I was in a school that was in a challenging part of town. So I was working to make a difference to students who needed it, with the resources of a large, stable school system behind me. My principal was a former guidance counselor who believed in lots of positive reinforcement for his teachers, as well as students. I taught small English and Reading classes to students who primarily had learning disabilities, with a few cases of extreme ADHD layered on for good measure.

One of my favorite memories of teaching was from those early days. After doing some research, I decided to try teaching grammar in my 6th grade English classes by having the students diagram sentences. (Yes, I did!) After the initial groaning and moaning of “why can’t we do something fun,” I got the students to give me a chance. And low and behold, they loved it.

From a special education standpoint, it was perfect. By having the students (I only had six in each class) diagram on the board, they were able to get out of their seats and move. Because they were essentially “mapping out” the sentence, they could visualize the knowledge. Afterwards we would share and discuss their diagrams orally. It was effective. They were engaged. And on my best teaching day ever, my principal walked through the room as the entire class was at the board, silently diagramming sentences. It was a Kodak moment alright. The look on his face was such astonishment and joy – these were the “trouble” students, the ones who disrupted the “regular” English classes. He smiled at me in disbelief and snuck out the back door – I don’t think the students even knew he was there.

So why’d I quit? I’ll tell you in the next post ….

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