Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Get What You Need

I've been very discouraged with my profession lately, specifically in the last three or so weeks.  This has been an incredibly stressful year at school.  With state standards constantly changing and our student population seemingly not really understanding or caring for a large part, my job as a teacher feels like it's become significantly harder recently, not only with the students, but with the district and the school administration.  Everyone has a common goal of students achieving, but it seems everyone also has about ten thousand different ways of accomplishing that goal.  And someone seems to think scheduling about five weekly meetings for teachers to attend on their off periods will somehow make these children perform at a higher level.  And if you know anything about the work load of a teacher, you can imagine loading down already otherwise heavy-laden teachers with excessive meetings and bureaucratic paperwork that seems to accomplish very little is very discouraging.  And when you have discouragement blanketing a staff of 400 at one school, the atmosphere becomes very disheartening.

And this is only compounded by the fact, that in my view, nationally, regard for the profession of teaching is at an all time low.  Almost every time you turn on the news, or Oprah, you can hear about the horrible state of education in our country (which is a very valid point).  And you can also hear how the teachers in the country are failing American students en mass (which is not a valid point, in my opinion).  And for those of us who have dedicated our lives to not taking the easy road, to not teaching in the desirable school districts where money, parental involvement, and student motivation seem to be much more plentiful, it is extremely discouraging.  We work in excess of forty hours a week planning and preparing and analyzing data to see how we can better teach our students, and improve their achievements in the classroom. Are there terrible teachers out there?  Yes.  There absolutely are.  And some of them are at my school.  I see them daily.  And I absolutely detest that I get thrown in the same pot with them in the national education discussion.

So over the last few weeks, I've begun to feel like I'm at the breaking point.  I know I'm making a difference in a small handful of students' lives, but sometimes it doesn't feel like enough.  Maybe it's because I only suspect I must be doing some good in my head, and I very rarely get any definitive proof of it.  Then I got this email today:

Ms. Cochran -

Thank you so much for being such an incredible teacher.  I don't know of another teacher J has ever had that has worked so hard to help her learn.  J has never had a teacher so concerned about her hearing loss and how it affects her learning...and she definitely hasn't had a teacher take the time to teach her poetry.  J doesn't know it yet, but you are the teacher that will make all the difference in her life.

Thank you!!!!!!

Ms. D
Auditory Impairment Itinerant Teacher
Dallas ISD

(Ms. D is a district case manager for students with auditory impairment.)

On a day when it was 16 degrees outside (and I teach in a portable classroom), traffic was terrible, I missed yet another meeting before school and totally stressed out about it, this was the first email I read.  And maybe, just maybe, it started to fill my otherwise very empty, bone-dry cup back up.  

You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find...

you get what you need.