Teaching.

Standard

Ok…So technically it’s about 3am… But in my world, it’s still Friday night, so I’ll count this as 3 for 3 on my “10 days of blogging” personal challenge. It was a good (but busy) day.

In my time at my new apartment without cable, but with internet, I’ve enjoyed my Netflix membership to the fullest. Always a sucker for documentaries, I’ve thoroughly indulged that love this past week. Clearly, much of my time in my apartment is also spent on the computer- hunting for jobs, revising cover-letters, and sending out applications/ resumes via e-mail. Of course, if you are spending any time on the computer, you’ve got to factor in a bit of Facebook time, too, right?

Well, take all these factors and throw in a documentary called “American Teacher” (which profiled several fantastic teachers from struggling schools in our country), the teacher strike happening here in Chicago, no job yet and you get a VERY weepy Tara…

Granted, the day began with me reading the Choral Journal that came in the mail, renewing my ACDA membership (despite not being a conductor presently), and listening to the Eric Whitacre Pandora channel for a few hours longer than I’d like to confess to… I had hoped the choir auditions would help “cure” me of this feeling, but it hasn’t (although I AM excited to begin rehearsals next week!).

I came to a realization that kinda freaked me out. …A personal truth I have denied for a LONG time, to many people, including myself:

I LOVE BEING A TEACHER.

I *think* I miss being a teacher.

I definitely miss “my kids” and having students.

I miss preparing for rehearsals, conducting rehearsals, following up with the kid who missed my rehearsal, prepping a kick-ass psychology lecture, having a lively discussion with students who are thinking about things in a way they never had before, and just getting to peek into what it’s like to be a teenager… Seeing what makes them motivated, what makes them laugh, what makes them happy, or what they really struggle with. I’m missing introducing a topic or a piece and getting that groan or that “seriously?!?” look on their face, only to have them say a few weeks later, “that was cool” or “that was hard, but I’m glad we did it… I keep telling _____ about it!”

I don’t miss the meetings, the grades, the grading, the paperwork, the discipline office, the teachers who sometimes act like students too (self included; no judgment here!), the fighting with the copy machine, or any of the other “stuff”… Nope, I want what I had last year (plus a section or two of psychology): Go in, teach, rehearse, leave. No B.S., just the stuff that most teachers actually enjoy.

It was an idealized version of teaching I never should have had.

But, after my strong reaction to the film and having stated this was what I was going to write about today, I began to think, “Is that really it?”

Nah.

As I thought more, I thought about my earlier memories of teaching- my awesome teachers, from Kindergarten through college… a list of names comes up instantly: Ms. Levenhagen (who I tried to convince to stop smoking cigarettes, unsuccessfully- 1st grade); Ms. Cook (who I was scared of, but ended up loving; she inspired me to go to space camp- 4th grade); several middle school teachers who just accepted me for all the wackiness and awkwardness that I was; Ms. Frey (who had teaching as her 3rd career at 30, and taught me lots about literature, but mostly that I could live my own life, and should… and that I didn’t have to be “one thing”- 11th grade); and basically every acting and music teacher I had in high school and college… the people who pushed me to my limits but wholeheartedly embraced me at the same time and encouraged me to grow and explore- not just my talents, but my world and my whole self. Mike Major, Val Lovisa, Kim Ernst, Elizabeth Matthews, and Bob Musikantow- psychology professors that taught me much, inspired me through their work, and led me to connections and experiences that helped me develop my own clinical views and judgments.

That paragraph could go on for days, and list probably HUNDREDS of people. And honestly, I could do a similar paragraph for students… with HUNDREDS of names… Some of y’all read this- so I’m not name dropping any of you, crazy chickens! But I have learned and grown so much over the past 6 years from “my kids” and their families. It’s unbelievable. It just humbles me.

As a kid, I liked to play teacher from time to time, as I think most kids do at a certain stage. However, what I’m not sure every kid did (that I DID do) was get really pumped about one particular TV special…. I don’t even know if I’ll get the name right… But the Disney Channel/ ABC had this show and awards program for Great American Teachers. Pretty quickly, I got much more excited about this airing than Miss America (which I also enjoyed, and emulated as I watched).

I watched this program intently; feeling so privileged to see the magical happenings in their classrooms… wondering, “What would it be like to be THEIR student?” and “What would it be like to be THEM- to be a world champion teacher?” and “Which of my teachers SHOULD be on this show, but isn’t?” Sadly, I don’t think the program exists anymore; and even if it does, I’m pretty sure the show doesn’t air any longer… and what a shame. It was 1 show (2 hours a year) that literally made some great teachers look like celebrities and rockstars…. Not the “those who can’t do; teach” people society often bills educators as. (That saying disgusts me, by the way.)

As I pondered this, I found a common theme… all of these teachers in my life, and featured on this program, did ONE thing the same: they really connected; they really cared; they went beyond the course content and let their students know that they mattered and the work they did together mattered. They conveyed value and respect, and they inspired and encouraged. They were passionate about their subject and their vocation as an educator.

These teachers (in my life and on the show) often weren’t the “normal” teacher in the school- they often were the ones that were a little different, or took a new (or sometimes old-school) approach, or just less conventional. This inspired my own teaching when I unexpectedly found myself being a teacher after Katrina. I could be good, but be different. I didn’t HAVE to figure out how to be some archetype in my head of what “teacher” was supposed to be or look like.

So, I’m just putting it out there… I may be the weirdest, wackiest, most unconventional, unqualified person out there… But I liked and loved teaching.

I never took any steps toward certification, and I don’t intend to.

But I miss having students and having the chance to teach and challenge and inspire.

…And I miss students.

…And I miss the learning process.

While it is certainly one of the hardest jobs I can think of, it’s also one of the most rewarding (for both points; at times!). There are few other things like it.

Unpacking the other day, I found a scrapbook one of my choirs made for me at the end of my second year of teaching… a crazy time warp! Some of those students are now married, many are in graduate school, or early in their professional lives. A few I even now call my friends and colleagues.

Some of my favorite teachers have become friends and co-workers and mentors… and practically family. I have passed on some of my favorite students to some of my favorite teachers… It’s like a big ‘ol educational “Circle of Life”/ Lion King thing!

It’s cool.

I want back in the circle.

Just not sure how, or in what way.  (I’m open to any magic ideas you may have)

To all my friends (and possibly readers) who are teachers- THANK YOU for the great work that you do.

To everyone else- THANK A TEACHER. Pick at least one, and let them know how they have affected you in a positive way… we all have at least one.

Well, I’m off on my first trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo tomorrow; and I’ll be back in the evening with a post for Saturday… about what? Not sure yet. We’ll both be surprised.  : )

Have a good one!

-TM

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2 responses »

  1. It’s funny that you talked about Mrs. Frey. I was thinking about her and Mrs. Kersh a few weeks ago and how their classes were difficult but rewarding.

    • Haha… Too Funny! Yes- agreed about BOTH of them! Great teachers! I used to run into Kerri Frey all the time when I was at Loyola- she lived up there, had a baby, was writing and teaching fitness… Haven’t seen her in years! Ms. Kersh retired from MCA just before I started teaching there… Crazy! Thanks for the comment, and hope you’re doing great!

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