|Renowned author Michael Herr is back guest-blogging on this awesome Aloha Friday talking about the teaching profession and what it's really about... Make sure and check out Michael's website at; http://www.michaelherr.com/|
It's Aloha Friday.
"Those who can do more ?"Aloha folks,
An old saying goes, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
I believe that the saying should be "Those who can, do. Those who can do more, teach."
I began teaching in September . . . 1965. I hung in there for thirty-four and one-half years. Probably more like forty if you count in overtime, for which I did not get paid. When I was teaching, teachers were expected to show up for Carnivals and Fun Days and spend the entire day working in order to raise money for the PTA or similar group. It was enjoyable, but it was time spent away from my family. I was also expected to prepare my classroom for Back-to-School night and I stayed after school for Parent-Teacher Conferences. It was what I had signed on for, and I fulfilled all my duties. Even sitting there in my room waiting time after time for a parent who didn't show, and didn't notify me that they weren't coming.
I've heard the word 'idealistic' applied to teachers many times. I started off idealistic, but I lost a great deal of my idealism in my first year of teaching. I was working in San Francisco, teaching students from the Bay View and Hunters Point areas. I was hired to teach English to 7th thru 9th graders in a middle school. When my students couldn't read the texts assigned by the District for their grade level, I did some quick testing of my own. I soon found that my average 9th grader was reading at a 3rd grade level, barely. I junked the District text (Robinson Crusoe) and began buying paperback books, high interest, low reading level. A little of my money; some free books through sales of Scholastic books to my students (one free book for me for every 4 or 5 books my students purchased). I gradually built up a library of easy to read books. Together my students and I made progress.
Then other things started to take my interest. Like the fact that we had to chain and padlock many of the doors leading out of the school, because too many bad guys were using them to get into the school to sell drugs and do other bad stuff. We had riots in the area, and they spilled over into the school. We survived them. But I finally had enough of inner-city schools when one of my 7th graders didn't come to class. At first none of the other students would tell me why he was absent. Finally I found out that he had cut school, gone to the elementary school next door, and had raped a 3rd grade girl in the bathroom there. I copped out. I applied for a job in the suburbs and moved my wife and son there with me. I figured things would be better teaching kids in the suburbs. Wrong. There were still lots of problems there. In my first year in the suburbs I discovered that the pudgy twin 5th grade girls in my math class were being regularly sexually abused by their father. In my third or fourth year an estranged husband came on site and shot his wife to death as she waited in the parking circle after dropping off their Kindergartner. About six years into my service at this suburban school a 6th grade boy killed a female classmate after she refused his sexual advances.
But there were also the good kids, the bright kids and the average kids. Kids who were just kids. Who were willing to learn, sometimes even eager, if you just helped them a little. Some of my students went on to become enormously successful. I'd like to think some of their success was because of my work with them. But I also know that most of those who succeeded would have succeeded even if I'd never met them.
There are still lots and lots of good bright kids in our schools. But they aren't going to learn if we keep cutting the school day, cutting the school year, cutting the school budget.
We have lots of truly wonderful teachers, though, as with any profession, there are some real duds out there. Some who are not dedicated, or much less idealistic. But we have good people in oh so many of our classrooms. It's just too bad that so many of those good people get pushed into Administration. Why? Because they can make more of a living wage as a school administrator.
We have some really big problems with our schools here in the USA. Solutions to those problems are hard to come by, and aren't accomplished overnight. But we keep working at finding answers. And one day we will.
In the meantime, this does apply to so very many of our teachers — "Those who can do more, TEACH."
Okay folks, see you next week.