Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Days of Self-Doubt

Even those of us who are high on philosophy and are rip-roaring ready to teach youth have our days of uncertainty and “what the heck have I done” moments. I’ve been having mine lately, wondering if I can do it – teach, that is – and if I have chosen careers wisely. A monkey can run a classroom, but he cannot do it well. Only the best of us can really teach, in the sense that I think of teaching. Yelling, snapping, controlling, bossing, and harping are not proven methodologies. It ain’t teaching, folks. Babysitting, maybe. Teaching? No.

Sometimes I think I am doing myself a disservice by being a substitute teacher. A school counselor once told me that subbing is not about teaching; it is about survival. Props to him for passing that along as I really needed that bit of information this week.

I find that I have lags in my time between lessons. Lag time is death to the classroom and I am working on fixing that before I student-teach. It is hard to actually teach kids when you do not have a relationship with them. It is hard to teach when you are handed a textbook and told to teach a lesson in five minutes. Some days it works alright, but usually the days are full of worksheets and lag time. Kids test your limits, push, and that is okay because it is what kids do. Pushing is how they make sense of their world. Like it or not, kids do thrive in consistency. When their consistency is broken, then they act out.

Not that I have had any “bad” classes lately. I really hate that term. As a substitute teacher, it is impossible to implement my own philosophical beliefs into a class, yet that causes me distress. I find that sometimes my philosophical beliefs are trumped by the practicality of the real world. Damn that ivory tower! Teachers are not the only ones who struggle with this. Despite the fact that this conundrum is common in many fields, I still feel alone. I want to be better. I want to be one of those teachers who finds the way through the muck and is able to institute those philosophical beliefs into practice. I know it can be done. I just know it, but I am scared that I will revert back to “teaching how I was taught” mentality when I get my own class. It makes me crazy to think of that possibility.

The fact that the stats for teacher retention are worse than the divorce rate leaves me shaking in my shoes. I keep telling myself that subbing is not teaching, that these are not my classes, that I can and will do this. I have to. Otherwise I will be no better than my own fifth grade “teacher”, and I do not want that. I teach for the kids not for me. The classroom is for the students and not for me.

This is what I tell myself. The good thing is that I am good at building relationships with kids. The key to the good classroom teacher is his or her ability to connect with kids first and teach them second. I hope that connecting with them will help me create a wonderful classroom of energetic learners.

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