I went on a ‘release’ day today – that’s teacher talk for when we are allowed to leave our classroom to do something besides teach students. It’s kind of a silly word to use, isn’t it? Just think of what being ‘released’ from something implies – that you’re somehow in a situation unwillingly (like jury duty) and someone else decides that you can be let go.
Not such a positive way to think about teacher training…but being ‘released’ is the only way to collaborate with colleagues, learn new skills and strategies, and plan for how to improve my teaching and make the overall school experience better for all students.
So I spent the day with two wonderful, hard working, experienced colleagues at a workshop for AVID teachers – AVID is a program for supporting kids to achieve their dreams of going to the college of their choice, and I’ve been running and teaching it since 2008.
I believe in the power of AVID, and the possibility that all kids have to achieve anything they set their mind to.
Spending the day with these two women is empowering; they are kindred spirits, women who themselves graduated from top universities, have decades of teaching experience, are mothers and partners and creative spirits…
and they spend most of their day, their nights, and their free time thinking about, creating for and innovating to provide the best education possible for their students. For OUR children.
It made me think about teachers and teaching in another way – in a very human, raw, open manner. It made me think there are at least 5 things you probably don’t know teachers are thinking:
1. Teachers believe in possibility – for all children.
When I first started teaching, a wise mentor told me that she believes every child wants to be successful – they just don’t always know how to get there. When we walk into our classrooms each day, each period, each hour, we believe in the possibility that every child in that room can not only learn, but can grow into an individual with the potential to change the world. We know that not every day will be amazing, and we know that sometimes it takes years for our lessons to sink in and bring a child to another way of thinking; we also know that some days we get it so right on that children have a moment that they believe in the possibility of their future, too.
2. Teachers think about their teaching all the time.
I haven’t met a teacher yet (in 25 years) that isn’t automatically programmed to see an opportunity to share something magical that they discover outside the classroom, to seize a book or materials that spark their creativity and will certainly enhance their classroom. We do it on vacation, when we’re walking the dog, or when we’re listening to the radio. Sometimes teachers have even been known to go away on vacation together and TALK ABOUT TEACHING! As much as we would often like to, teachers generally are on the lookout for any way to make learning more meaningful, more exciting, more relevant – all the time.
3. Teachers think about their students outside of the classroom.
Some of my worst – and best – days of teaching come home with me. Those are the days that I question myself, days that linger in my mind, nagging me to solve a problem, find a new way to connect, or search for something that will make my students laugh or question or want to do their very best. Oftentimes I’ll call a teacher friend for advice, or search the internet for hours for new lesson ideas, or intriguing video clips, or for photos that will make them smile. It’s impossible for me to not think about my students, even long after they’ve left my 8th grade classroom.
4. Teachers think about how to do more with less.
In my 25 years of teaching, I’ve watched education budgets shrink, salaries stagnate, classrooms remain ill equipped for today’s learner, and teacher work days disappear. I’ve also watched class sizes increase, healthcare costs rise, new technology arrive and waves of popular curriculum pedagogy come and go. Today, I have more students, more preps, more demands, and more work hours. I also have less money, fewer classroom assistants, fewer supplies, less ‘free’ training and less free time. I honestly spend more hours than I should trying to figure out how to streamline curriculum, how to get volunteers into the classroom to help connect with kids, and how to balance my work life with my home life.
5. Teachers believe in the power of relationships.
We know that if a child, a teacher, and a parent share common goals and the belief that success is possible, great things can happen. Teachers believe in building relationships with children first, then building curriculum. In middle school, where I reside, it’s nearly impossible to teach content if students do not first develop trust, respect and feel safe in the classroom. We know education starts at home. We see the power of early childhood education, of families that read to their kids, and parents who stress the value of education. Teachers want to be allies with parents, not enemies. We believe in the power of relationships to create magic for our children.
And maybe you’re sitting back, reading this and thinking I’m exaggerating. Maybe you think that not every teacher thinks this way. And you may be right. Like any profession, teachers share a wide variety of perspectives and philosophies.
But what if you’re wrong? What if you give teachers the benefit of the doubt, and assume they made teaching a career not because of the high salary (ha!) and summers off (ha! again – we just do our year-long job in 10 months!), but because we really do believe in your child – in all children – and we are here to serve?
Imagine what a transformation we could make. Just imagine…