The myth of the extraordinary teacher.
My good friend and former colleague, Douglas Forasté of California State University at Long Beach, shared this with me today.
Anyone who has met me knows that I love my job. I love teaching. I love my students. Every day is fun and exciting and meaningful – well, maybe not every day but most. However, I am also keenly aware of the privilege I have with my school and my children – my classes are small, my students (largely) well-behaved, and I have ample support and backing. None of my students comes to my room multiple grades in the red.
However, this is the ‘dream teaching job’ and I know it. Many teachers suffer through large classrooms, juvenile delinquency, absentee parents, students who speak no english, children with several learning differences, etc. At the same time, we are living in a culture that bemoans the ‘easy job’ of teachers – claiming that we don’t work in the summer (what I am doing at these conferences and prepping for a year of classes?) or their day ends at 3:00 (why was I on campus at 7, leaving at 4, and carrying about 3 hours of extra work with me?). The mythical notion that a magical teacher can waltz into the worst classroom and change the students into mathematical savants or linguistic wünderkinds is just that – a fictionalized idea. That good, even extraordinary teachers, are hindered by our environment:
To teach each child in my classroom, I have to know each child in my classroom. We teachers need to bring not only our extraordinariness but our flawed and real and ordinary humanity to this job, which involves a complex and ever-changing web of relationships with children who often need more than we can give them.
In addressing the issue of rising classroom size (in Detroi the cap will be at 60), Ellie Herman states:
Our children — even our children growing up in poverty, especially our children growing up in poverty — deserve to have not only an extraordinary teacher but a teacher who has time to read their work, to listen, to understand why they’re crying or sleeping or not doing homework.
I Highly recommend reading the whole article at the LA Times.