Nearly two weeks ago two friends sent me a message in the morning cause they were in the neighbourhood and thought they could see me. I was really surprised because both took for granted I was still on holiday and that I would be till the 12th or 14th of September. It seems in general people think that being a teacher and standing in front of a class with twenty five students is an easy task that requires no preparation at all. Moreover, the vast majority lives in the complete ignorance and believes we have just as many days off as our students.
I would really like to see all those naive people trying to give only a sixty-minute class and make them go through the wonderful experience of having to motivate, integrate and learn an entire classroom full of youngsters absorbed with their mobile phones and, in the case of the teenagers I have in my lessons, up to their eyeballs with an explosion of sexual hormones that prevent them from concentrating.
I already commented on a previous post that the profession “teacher” has never been really valued and as a vocational teacher the fact that people despise the task hurts me deeply since it can’t be denied that it is a pillar of society.
Teachers nowadays have little to do, to say the least, with teachers fifty years ago. Those ones used to transfer the same knowledge to children and youngsters sitting down in lines of desks decade after decade. Those students might have bored themselves to death but they kept still and did not prevent their mates from listening and learning if they felt like it.
The classroom of the 21st century integrates students from different social layers and nationalities that make the teaching experience very rich but require from us a role of mediators that teachers fifty years ago did not have to fulfill. Moreover, students come from families in which both father and mother are fully devoted to their highly competitive and hard jobs that take all the energy needed from them to accomplish the most important task: the attention and education of their children. Parents are so exhausted when they come home that they prefer to yield to their children’s pressure rather than struggling with children and setting limits. The result is a whole amount of undisciplined children and teenagers that can hardly adapt to decent behaviour rules in the classroom. The educator’s task is overwhelming and drains you completely. When we teachers come home we need to recover our vital energy.
To make matters worse, we teachers nowadays have, and I am surely underrating the figures, one student with anxiety disorders, one with eating disorders, several with addictions and a vast majority of children that have been over-protected and many more of them who feel completely lost. In order to motivate them and teach them a meaningful content they might need not only to pass exams but for life, we need to analyse our students to figure out first what kind of person he/she is.
Teachers, and I am one, don’t work with bricks one can manufacture in the suitable size to build something. We work with fragile people with different egos, fears, shortcomings, talents and intelligences and we must try to get the most out of them in an environment that is heterogeneous and in little time.
When I talk about different intelligences I refer to the eight ones described by Howard Gardner that should be taken into account in the classroom because students perform differently according to which sort of intelligence is more developed in them.
Effective and professional teaching stuff with experienced trainers will learn quickly how each of the students is and will try to “engage” the maximum number of learners during the lesson but it is nearly impossible to motivate each one of them. We aren’t “show men” or “show women” every day because we would develop a side personality and we would end up as loonies anyway in the long run if we had to act as actors and actresses every day.
Fifty of sixty years ago if a student did not keep pace with the lessons he failed and that was all. Now the teacher’s task is to continuously invent strategies to make students contribute to the class making it more dynamic.
I hope some of my readers have children. Parents know how difficult it is to keep the attention of children and teenagers for too long a time. And yet society makes the mistake: It forces students to sit for six hours a day in classrooms and we teachers, even if we try to make the class interesting, end up having absent-minded learners that see us as oppressors when in fact we are just trying to enable them to face the challenges of our society. I don’t want to sound as an enemy of those who wrote the curricula but in Finland students get better results but they are fewer hours in class. But then again, fewer hours in class would mean that grandparents would turn into slaves because their children wouldn’t be able to attend their own children since parents have to sit endlessly at work. This is again a topic I would like to talk about in another post.
The result of all this is that a great amount of time our children’s and teenagers’ brains and bodies would need to be outside moving around, they are sitting still in classrooms instead. And where they lack the physical movement the virtual world has recreated spaces for them to move in front of screens. Needless to say that the effect on the health is not the same. This is the first mistake and first battle we teachers lose. To adapt to the changing world for youngsters we have made the learning process dependent on technology tools and they have become boring too. It’s a hard world for us right now.
In addition the classroom itself has changed a lot. Teachers sixty years ago taught the same content all their lives. We nowadays have to mediate between our learners and a knowledge that multiplies itself every day and in order to do so we have to be updated.
If someone ever thought that we are capable of starting the 12th of September he or she is completely crazy cause we adapt the curricula to what society requires continuously. We don’t always succeed but we do try. And on top of that I must confess that it is fairly difficult to teach because you have to explain to learners clearly what you want to teach them, we have to increase their self-esteem which, from my point of view, should have been fed in the family, and we do have to end up educating our learners cause parents very often neglected their jobs as such.
Teachers act as sponges that soak up all the bad vibes and vibrations of our students and too often of their parents. We put up with far much more than we should because we are sympathetic and understand that in order to make up for lost time parents always defend their children’s bad behaviour and we are rebuked by them.
I have to be honest about it. This profession wears yourself out. It wears yourself out because we have to take into account a lot of egos and we very often can’t assist all our students at a time. It wears yourself out because we might have a bad day but we can’t take it out on them as they take it out on us. It wears yourself out because seeing out students lost doesn’t let us sleep for nights and it wears yourself out because we care about the personal background of our students.
And sometimes when we struggle in our every day life we are overwhelmed because it requires from us both brain and feelings. This is why sometimes some of us suffer from depressions and feel we are to blame for not being capable to give our hundred per cent because we are only human.
Teachers have long holidays, it’s true. But we have to make a huge effort to understand each one of our students. How many people have to interact with so many different egos every year? I have to deal with some hundred new students every year and I do make the effort to get to know each one of them, to grasp who they really are and what they need. Teachers try to be empathetic to students, to understand their backgrounds and worries and we have to face attacks and offences when we do have enough in our personal lives. And another thing people don’t often consider: we are continuously monitored by students and parents.
I’d like to see non-teachers trying to conduct a class. Once there was a politician invited to act as a teacher in a class for a few hours and after the hard morning he admitted we don’t get enough money.
Teaching is beatiful but hard so I would really wish people to appreciate a bit more the teacher’s task. I have enganged myself so much in the destiny of some of my students that I have arrived home crying. Teachers are people and not machines and we also haver our bad days and need to be on a sick leave to regain lost energy. At the end of the day we deal with the most precious thing in the world: Children and teenagers.
This summer I met a couple with a child from France in my campsite. When I told them I am a teacher they told me French teachers have no energy at all. The man boasted about having hit one of his son’s teachers. It broke my heart. They should see me with ring round my eyes around April when I am exhausted and worn out and hurt due to my students’ and their parents’ behaviour. Is it really so difficult to imagine what our task is like? Or is it that we have become everybody’s scape goat?
I have been teaching for more than twenty years now. I have been up and down and I have been on a sick leave to recover a bit emotionally. I can’t change the idilic idea people have of our professions but I might make you reflect a bit on that. If so many people admit they would not be able to stand in front of a class, why is this profession so underrated?
I leave it here for now. I wish all students in the world a new academic year full of joy and all teachers an overdose of energy because we lose enery with every week. For this reason I have chosen the image for today. We always give more than our students but sometimes we are also really worn out. This is why we have such a long holidays. Take i tinto account.
Have a nice week and a good academic year!