What’s Your Purpose?

By miller727@icloud.com December 13, 2015 Uncategorized 3 Comments

For the teachers and school administrators out there, I encourage you to seek out a young, first-year teacher in your building and ask them the following question: “How’s your school year going so far?

After they give you the standard, “Good, everything is going fine,” ask them again.

No, seriously, what can I do to help?” Be persistent and tell them you won’t take “no” for an answer. Then listen, truly listen. Give them a shoulder to cry on. Tell them you’ve been there too.

It’s a tough time to be a teacher.  It can be easily argued that teaching in schools today is simply harder than it has ever been. This is especially true with our younger teachers who may be dealing with the unvarnished, brutal reality that teaching is an emotionally and intellectually challenging profession.

By this point in the year, many have started having doubts. Teaching can be a lonely journey of self-reflection causing even the best of young teachers to harbor feelings of insecurity, confusion, and even self-loathing: “Why did I ever get into this profession. The kids deserve better than me.

It is harder still to teach in schools with a preponderance of poor or minority students. Kids have changed. Parents have changed. Society has changed.

Teaching is an extremely stressful job. In your school and many others throughout our country, teachers cry every day. They feel overworked, under appreciated, demeaned, micromanaged, and exhausted.

Today’s teachers have to listen to a long list of politicians who belittle their ability, blame them for every student whose grades do not reach arbitrary standards, and want to take away every fringe benefit they have — everything from the possibility of achieving tenure to receiving a decent pension.

One in 10 teachers will leave the classroom by the end of their first year, and teachers are particularly vulnerable in the last two months of the first semester. They need our help, support, empathy, and encouragement.

At the same time, I submit it is important for each of us to spend time to honestly reflect on our purpose as educators. Are the reasons we first entered the profession the same as they are now?

Hopefully, most of us continue to improve with each year in the classroom, but does the same upward trend continue for our energy, passion, and sense of purpose? And, if not, why not?

I found the following Venn graphic on the Twittersphere the other day.

The four outer circles all represent valid reasons for entering the education field. Likely, these reasons are what keep many teachers in the classroom even when they recognize they could make much more money doing many other jobs for which they are qualified.

It is the intersection of these circles that makes so many individuals fall in love with teaching.

When you love the job that you do, are great at it, get paid for it, and the job meets a critical need of society, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

I sometimes worry that I occasionally may come across as cynical or overly negative when I discuss educational issues on this blog. It is never my intent. But, when people outside of education attack my profession, my vocation, my passion, and my mission, I’m going to fight back.

Maybe it’s the Marine in me.

Or, maybe it’s just the undying belief in the potential of human beings–of teachers, of children.

I am inspired every time I walk into a classroom and watch a teacher control a squirmy group of kindergarteners or actively engage a classroom full of “too cool for school” young adolescents.

The great ones are a joy to watch. They love kids, are passionate about their content, and work tirelessly to maintain a classroom that is safe, positive, and inclusive. They set high expectations yet take time to laugh and have fun. I always leave these classrooms with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a teacher and school administrator. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am so glad I stuck with it and followed my dream. And I am thankful to have had great mentors like Jan, Pam, and Charlotte who helped me survive the first year and come back stronger (and smarter) the second.

After 23 years, education has become my purpose in life. The circles above overlap perfectly for me and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

How about you?

How about that young teacher down the hall?

And what can you we do to help?

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