August 15, 2014

Classroom Teaching

It has begun again.

I have been back inside of those school walls again over the last two days. We won't have any students in our classrooms until Monday, but we are participating in our annual, obligatory institute days within the district. This is that time of year when all teachers find themselves sitting in meetings and sessions... attempting to learn how to accomplish all of the priorities that the government has sent down the proper pathways so that they can ensure that they have done everything they are supposed to do to turn teachers into good teachers... while simultaneously, these same teachers are attempting to create to-do lists of all the actual priorities that are immediately necessary for them to really be a good teacher. This can be exhausting.

Every once in awhile, during these institute days, there will be a presenter at one of these sessions who has been a teacher and remembers what it is like. Well, actually many of them have been teachers, but most only think they remember what it was like to be a teacher but they have forgotten, or quite possibly the reason why they "used to be teachers" is because they never should have been a teacher in the first place and they got out of it because they weren't very good at it, but now they are instructing other teachers how to be teachers. It's a mad, mad world.... Anyway... Every once in awhile there is a presenter who is actually a good teacher currently, and you can tell that he (or she) "gets it" ... not because they tell you such, but because they actually do "get it" and you can tell. Well, we had one of those presenters today. He presented information that we have heard before, but it made sense this time. He was interesting, he was enlightening, and most importantly for myself, he presented pertinent information.

During the presentation, he shared a quote from a guy named Lee Shulman, who is an educational psychologist. Here is the quote that he shared (I Googled it right after it was on the powerpoint):
Classroom teaching…is perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding, subtle, nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented….The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during a natural disaster.
~Lee Shulman, the Wisdom of Teaching
Now, obviously I don't think of teaching as something that we invented. Being a teacher is a characteristic of God that we might call communicable: It is an attribute that can also be applied to us. You could say that Classroom Teaching, as we know it, is an invention of people, but I believe that the good aspects of teaching can be traced back to the Great Teacher. But I am sharing this quote, not because I agree with the entire thing, but because much of what he says is quite accurate, especially in today's modern society. Teaching is challenging and complex, to say the least.

What always surprises me is how often one might encounter different people who love sharing a great quote about teaching or teachers... sort of like this quote or maybe even like that video where the guy talks about what teachers "make" ... but the ones who tend to talk in this positive, uplifting way are also the first in line to throw a teacher under the bus. Most specifically when their own children aren't performing well. Surely it was the teacher's fault! It is almost as if people love to glorify the occupation of teacher in a very general way, but with teachers that they actually know, they can only see their shortcomings and deficiencies. Besides... we all get the summer off every year anyway... right?!?

Well, I share this quote and my surrounding thoughts, not for my own sake, but for all of those teachers out there. It is a challenging occupation, more than most people will ever know, but it is also one of the most unappreciated jobs by those who are closest to a teacher.

Keep at it teachers!  You are giving the occupation a good name, whether those closest to you realize it or not.