Playing School

Today I feel like teacher Barbie. Please notice her neon 1995 outfit and classy red tie. Believe it or not, those are not the reasons I feel like her–even though I did own this doll back in ’95.

Some weeks I feel like I’m just playing school. These feelings spring from two different sources. On the one hand, I feel a very surface-level sense of inadequacy with my own age and my own career. I’m only 23, I’m only 10 years older than my students, and I’m only a second-year teacher. Most days I’m amazed that I’m even allowed to be an adult. Last night, for example, I had a hot dog and Easy Mac for dinner. Talk about sophisticated culinary tastes. 23 is an awkward for a lot of reasons, none of which I’m able to write about right now. Suffice it to say that 23 and single doesn’t feel very “teacherly.”

On the other hand, I’m growing more and more convinced that a lot of what I do every day is a shiny, plastic version of school. And it’s partly my fault. I’m constantly confronted with standards that are asking more and more of my students. At the same time I’m confronted with plans for interventions and accommodations that are asking more and more of me. We, the teachers, are the ones jumping through hoops for our students while at the same time being told that the students should be functioning at a more advanced level. It’s all very confusing! When I was in middle school and high school I already had critical thinking skills. I don’t remember having to learn those skills. Yet with my students, critical thinking–even just regular old thinking–requires a Herculean effort. Are we raising a generation of teacher-dependent students? I’m not sure. I certainly hope not. That’s not what I want for my students–I want them to read, write, and think like educated citizens.

I feel that somewhere there is an intersection between these two sources of teacherly discomfort. Does my inexperience with my career impact my view of my own ability and the ability of my students? Certainly. Is it discouraging to constantly be confronted with more and more to do and less and less time to teach? Without a doubt. I’m sure some of my concerns can be chalked up to inexperience, naiveté, or idealism. I’m also beyond sure that some of the problems I face on an almost hourly basis are slowly wearing away at that idealism. At what point do we expect teachers to give up their passion and idealism for pragmatic, data-driven task lists? Is that a sacrifice I am willing to live with for much longer? Is there a way to keep the passion and excitement alive when the odds don’t seem to be in my favor?

Lots of questions on this cold Friday night.

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