I’ve been a lucky and mediocre teacher
I am incredibly lucky. Two years into my teaching career underpaid and, in my (wrong) perspective, underappreciated I resigned my teaching job. A month later, I landed a different teaching job. This is how I ended up teaching middle school for three years. Let’s put this in context. The housing bubble had just burst. People were trying to hold down any sort of job and I quit a good job with benefits and then got another one. The arrogance. I was a crappy teacher at my first job and a mediocre one at my second one. I have now finished 11 years of teaching and it is still dawning on me. The epic amounts of privilege. The luck. And also, and more importantly, this: I did not deserve my students. My students deserved better than me.
It’s easy to admit guilt a decade away. It may be harder to write, but still true, that the students I taught 5 years ago, or the ones I just finished teaching two weeks ago also deserve better. In education we have a myth of the teacher and we have the reality. In reality new teachers suck 90% of the time, maybe more. Then through work you decrease the amount of your mediocrity or you begin calling yourself an ‘educator’ and a ‘reformer’ and other vaguer terms and disappear from the classroom, but that’s another essay.
If I ever succeeded as a teacher, it’ll be my students who’ll tell that story, but of my failures I’m quite certain.
It’s true that teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. It’s also true that our students carry the record of our failings, that they know and have seen unequivocally where we have come up short. Most of us in the classroom only ever attempt to teach, our students let us know when we succeed.
So this summer I am going to write about all the stuff I messed up, starting with three sets of sixth graders that gave me the chance to teach them for three wonderful years. I’d like to unpack and dissect the ignorance I visited upon them in the name of education. If I ever succeeded as a teacher, it’ll be my students who’ll tell that story, but of my failures I’m quite certain.
I am going to join a group of teachers this summer in a writing project called #DraftEdu. This will get published as a first draft. I will write about failure not in a hip Silicon Valley way. This will not end like a Ted talk. At the end of my writing I’ll be where I started — in the classroom. I will be attempting to teach, kind of like writing a draft. And though some of us seem to have forgotten, first drafts suck. My apologies everyone, but especially students. You deserve better.
Speaking of what students deserve, they can tell you themselves http://www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com/ Unlike my writing, that is required reading. Bookmark that page.