Instead of asking me to do a review of their book, Mission Possible offered to sponsor a post in which I discuss some tough issues in education. What they wanted to know is why I think stagnation is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale and why I think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions.
Tough questions, to be sure, but questions I have thought long and hard about and discussed with my colleagues extensively.
One particular exchange always comes to mind when I think of this issue -- of teachers being unable to accomplish their jobs at the highest levels and feeling "burnout." Several educators were discussing what they do to recharge when they are feeling burned out so they can get back on track and feel unburdened and enthusiastic again. We were all sharing tips, when someone stated that we were being ridiculous, since our jobs were not that hard compared to others. This individual said we should consider people with "real" high-stress jobs -- those who face mortal peril or physical harm on a daily basis -- and see how good we had it that we were simply frustrated in being unable to help every student achieve their greatest and reach their full potential.
I think this is a big part of the problem.
Yes, I agree that people who work in coal mines and go to war have very difficult jobs, some of the most difficult jobs in the world, but does comparing what I do to what they do make it any easier for me to teach people who at times seem to not want to learn? Does it make it any easier to hear people say that I am not making a difference in students' lives because not every student in America has received/retained the same level of education?
Part of the reason educators often feel they have reached the end of their ropes or that they have no one to reach out to, or there just isn't enough time in the day to accomplish what they need to accomplish and then also reach above and beyond and find new techniques and curriculum is because of the perception many people have of educators. Many people are unafraid to voice their beliefs that educators spend their day recycling their same old lesson plans and sitting at their desks, counting down the days until their "free" summer vacations.
I agree that there are people in every profession who are just phoning it in. I'm sure there are teachers who make copies of the same worksheets they found in 1978, have the students grade each others' work, and call it a day. However, I haven't actually met any of those people. I have taught at every level of education, from Nursery school to college (my current gig), and I can tell you there are angry educators out there, there are frustrated educators out there, there are ones on the verge of giving up, but none of these people are sitting around and doing nothing about it. They are sending extra e-mails, staying later, coming in earlier, spending their paychecks on materials for their classrooms, and constantly asking others for advice and tips and guidance. While at times it seems like there are too many students who don't want to hear what they have to say and parents and administration who can do nothing to help, they are not saying "To heck with it. These kids will never learn, so why bother trying to help them?" Instead, they are trying new ways to help them, but still have to hear at every turn that they are lazy and ineffective.
Being an educator is a hard job, and many times a thankless job. Sure, I get a handful of e-mails at the end of every quarter thanking me for being a great teacher, but it doesn't feel like much compared to all the complaints, the yelling, and the whining. It's a hard job, and it's made even harder by people telling you that you not only have an "easy job," but you're bad at it if even one student doesn't reach his or her full potential. That's a lot of pressure. It might not be as much pressure as someone facing enemy fire, but it's stressful nonetheless.
I would like to thank Mission Possible for sponsoring this post, and am happy to tell you that I also have a copy of the book to give to one reader! If you would like a copy of this book delivered to your front door, all you have to do is ...
1. Be a follower on Google Friend Connect
2. Leave a comment telling me why you are interested in the book
3. Leave your e-mail address if it isn't already attached to your profile (so I can notify the winner)
I will choose a winner at random on Friday, August 10th. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about Mission Possible, click HERE, and if you'd like to learn more about the author Eva Moskowitz, you can check out her facebook page (https://www.