I’m Not Afraid of Lightning! And I Get Summers Off!

by lisa st john

I’m Not Afraid of Lightning! And I Get Summers Off!

Yeah. I tend to forget about that fallacious perk when a kid comes in with bruises all over her arm because she “ran into a door.” For the eight weeks that we are not in the classroom with kids most teachers I know are working a second job to help pay the mortgage or taking graduate classes to keep their teaching certificates. But the point of this little tirade is this: Why is the field of education so inexplicable to anyone not in it or closely tied to it? What is so hard to understand?

Perhaps because we think in metaphor and analogy, and there really is no comparison to teaching. Plug the business analogy in. Do cubicle workers go home wondering if their clients are hungry? Or contemplating suicide? Do they wonder why J_____ wears the same clothes every day? Do they loan money to their “clients” who “forgot” their lunch AGAIN? Do they take into consideration that their “client’s” parents are either in rehab or jail or both and they are busy taking care of their siblings which is why they did not hand their paperwork (homework) in on time? Oh yeah. That analogy does not work because businesspeople are not also in loco parentis. That’s right.  We are not in a business, per se. I mean, is it reasonable to ask you, as an office worker, to track the progress of each and every client (while teaching them the beauty of mathematics), to find out why they are crying (since it probably does not have to do with differential equations), to hug them when they need it (for good news or bad), to answer their questions about sexuality or love or life in general when your masters degrees are in calculus?

Let’s try another popular analogy—that of the “professional” (like a doctor or lawyer apparently). Let’s pretend that educators have multiple degrees from academic institutions of higher learning like other professionals. OH WAIT! They DO! So. How often have you gone into your doctor’s office and demanded to know why she thinks your daughter has strep throat? How many times have you gone into a lawyer’s office without an appointment demanding to be seen? Have you ever asked for a meeting with your dentist just to question their judgment or demand that they take a pay cut? Why are their certificates more important than ours? Because everyone knows how to teach? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s so easy.

We go to graduations and weddings. But we also go to hospitals and funerals. We wake up early and work late so we can create meaningful lessons, assess the students’ work, and complete all the paperwork that any bureaucracy demands. We also spend evenings calling parents and going to concerts and games and meetings, and OH WAIT! I forgot. No we don’t. We all get out at 3:00. Oops. We don’t study and research and collaborate so we do what is best for kids—OH NO! We do that so we can show off the expensive cars and boats we get from getting paid extra for all of our time outside of 7AM – 3PM. Oh wait. We don’t get paid extra for that. Or for advising clubs or staying late to listen to a student heartbroken over … whatever teenagers are heartbroken over at that particular time because it is important to them. They are important to us. That’s why we do it.

During an interview, if a rookie ever answers the question, “Why do you want to teach?” with any response other than, “Because I love kids” they are out. I have no time for anyone who was not born into this profession—who has not found teaching as their Jungian calling. Teaching is not about giving students some information that you have and they don’t. That’s boring (at best). It’s indoctrination (at worst).  It’s about learning with them and sharing the joy of new perspectives, not showing them what they could learn all by themselves with a valid library card.

Content is just that. English, biology, calculus, algebra, studio art, drama, music, history, second languages, digital editing, consumer science, freaking basket weaving—we teach human beings how to be human beings. We don’t just teach content. We teach people. Make an analogy for that.

Talk to a teacher or someone close to a teacher.

Volunteer in a public school.

Shadow a teacher for a day.

I dare you.

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Erika Kneeland
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I loved this, and that you tagged it Nurse Jackie.

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