Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Am I a Bad Teacher?

Maybe it's only the bad teachers that never ask themselves that question. But today, it seemed to be on my mind, and the minds of three other friends who are teachers. George Bush can say that he's implementing policy to hold teachers more accountable, the media can write headlines about the expectations of our schools, and our own favorite mayor can claim responsibility for the success of our students without a mention to the teachers he employs; but in truth no one sets the bar higher for teachers than the teachers do themselves.

In my last job, I would often leave work with a pile of files waiting for me to get to the next morning. I would go home, and work would be completely off my mind. Now, if I so much as get five minutes behind on one lesson, I am internally beating myself up. In one of my graduate classes last year, the professor emphasized the importance of wasting even ten minutes per day and shared his calculations that ten wasted minutes per day adds up to six full days of unused instruction time over the school year. That has stuck with me.

I am almost always still at the school one hour or more after the students have gone. And when I do leave, work is still on my mind. It is the kind of work that never really leaves you. Even now, I am angry at myself for yelling at a student today, trying to figure out how to reach out to a student who is refusing to participate this week, and mentally working out the pros and cons of possibly recommending a student for an inclusion program (a less restrictive setting.)

Am I a bad teacher? Mostly, I think not. But I am almost constantly analyzing ways in which I could be a better teacher, while also trying to support my friends who are struggling with the same question.


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Bad teachers are teachers who don't care. Bad teachers are people who don't feel a need to improve and who believe they have laurels upon which to rest.

Burned-out teachers are teachers who don't cut themselves a break now and then. Keep focusing on one to three things a year to work on, and learn to accept imperfection in yourself as much as you work with your sstudents not to give up when they struggle.

Your students will flourish under your care and guidance, but they also will have many other teachers who will fill in any gaps left over from their time with you.

Teach like there's no tomorrow-- but give yourself that fresh start when tomorrow inevitably comes.

Michelle said...

I ask myself that, too!

It is, as Ms. Cornelius stated, because we care!

We may not be able to "save" each and every one of the kids but we certainly give it our best.

And, every now and then, we make a HUGE difference even if only with a small act like a smile or word of encouragement.

Keep on keepin' on!

Anonymous said...

Isnt it true that more people remember their teachers than almost any other professionals?

Have you come across the writings of writer / teacher:

John Taylor Gatto

Best wishes. Thanks.