My First Year of Teaching
I just read a comment on LinkedIn from a teacher who cannot find the joy in teaching that she was led to believe would be hers.
I cried, reading her comment. I, too, lost my joy of teaching.
My first year in the classroom began in January 1971, replacing a first-year teacher who had washed out completely teaching 6th grade. She stupidly told her 33 students (23 boys, 10 girls) that she was called Goosey Lucy in elementary school
That's what they called her, and she had no idea how to stop their lack of respect for her.
She'd also done something else that proved to be not only stupid, but destructive.
She invited the class to her home for a party. I still can't believe it.
The boys in her class destroyed her apartment. A food fight resulted in food being slung at other students--and at her. There were holes in walls, a broken chair, and paintings and framed photographs destroyed.
They were there three hours before parents came to get them. Lucy was in tears, in her bedroom, with the door locked while the destruction went on. They even tried to bash their way through her bedroom door.
At school on Monday, her students were quiet when she entered the room. Their parents had demanded apologies, and they were delivered.
Within an hour, they were calling her Goosey Lucy again. She turned in her resignation.
I arrived--also a first-year teacher--on her last day for "orientation." She asked me to teach a science lesson because she "hated science." I explained why airplanes could lift from the ground when they reached a certain speed. Every student's attention was riveted on me and on learning something fascinating.
That semester proved those students could learn, could behave in class, could appreciate being treated with respect, and return that respect to Mrs. George.
An in-class party for Valentine's Day brought parents and pink cupcakes and red punch. They were in shock during the party.
Every student ate, drank, spoke quietly to each other, cleaned up napkins, and one asked if he could empty the trash.
The mothers who'd provided the treats told me, "I can't believe this is the same class. What did you do?"
With a smile, I told them, "I got them interested in learning."
My husband and I moved several times during the following ten years. He was a high school History and Spanish teacher.
Every class I had prior to the Essential Elements, TAAKS test, and eventually the STAAR test (I'd quit teaching before the STAAR, thank goodness), were just as eager to learn.
Those years are like fireworks in my memories. Surround kids with bulletin boards, learning centers, story starters, science experiments, and show them how wonderful reading can be (by reading to them every day), and teaching is pure joy.
When the curriculum turns to "teach the test, every day, only the test" then teaching ceases, interest in learning ceases, and the joy of teaching becomes only a job with teachers being punished for low test scores.
That's when I quit teaching. I'd been so distressed over "nothing but the test" that I had to do something to ignite the joy of learning in my 6th graders.
Pompeii has always fascinated me. I have several videos of National Geographic specials on Pompeii, but one stands above the rest.
I told my students (6 classes) that we were going to Pompeii for a week. The video kept them riveted to the discovery of empty spaces in the pumice ash that had solidified around dead bodies during the eruption of Vesuvius.
They'd never experienced a volcanic eruption, so they had no idea what was coming.
The pyroclastic clouds, unimaginably hot, killed people instantly. Men, women, children, babies, dogs were covered in ash.
When the spaces were discovered, scientists and archaeologists filled the spaces with plaster and removed them.
The video shows these casts of people reaching, sitting next to walls, dogs lying dead.
By the end of the week, I'd seen the "lightbulbs" ignite in my students. Discussion was thrilling.
My principal--and the new superintendent--called me to the office. "Is what you've shown them going to help them on the test?"
I was told not to divert from teaching the test again.
That was my last year in the classroom. Now, I'm substitute teaching to find the joy of teaching again in the enlightened school in our small city.
I'll never stop being a teacher.
Teaching to tests and league table wear me out it is why I now teach two places part time so that I can enjoy working with the kids with none of the pressure.