Teacher’s Corner is a monthly newsletter from eNotes just for teachers. In it, experienced educator and eNotes contributor Susan Hurn shares her tips, tricks, and insight into the world of teaching. Check out this month’s Teacher’s Corner column below, or sign up to receive the complete newsletter in your inbox at eNotes.com.
Recently over lunch, a dedicated career teacher told me that she could no longer advise anyone to go into teaching; the joy is gone, she said, with teachers now locked into regimented lesson plans and required to spend all their time chasing test scores. She also worried about what we’re doing to kids in the classroom—demanding more and more of them at younger and younger ages. There’s no time now to let them be kids, she said, or color outside the lines, if they get to color at all. It was a depressing lunch.
I drove home with a lot to think about, especially since I had encouraged my own daughter when she decided several years ago to change careers, earn a second college degree, and go into the classroom. Had I steered her wrong? Remembering our animated conversations after she began teaching, however, I don’t think so. Teaching may be different today—the demands greater and the stressors more intense, but it still engages the heart and the mind in ways unlike those of any other profession. No two days are alike, and every day is a fresh opportunity to achieve something glorious, even for one unforgettable moment.
Students aside—and that’s a big aside—it’s true that our profession is less respected in some quarters than it once was, for reasons that seem to be bound up in politics and publicity. If a teacher is arrested for some terrible offense in any part of the country, it becomes national news; a steady drumbeat of these stories erodes confidence, creating the impression that teachers somehow have degenerated into an immoral lot, not to be trusted. On the positive side, however, every time teachers risk their lives or lose them trying to protect their students, which seems to be happening more and more frequently, their actions make the news, too. Ask the parents of those students if teachers can be trusted.
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In a common core world where teaching is sometimes more concerned with evaluating pupils’ aptitudes for test-taking than with evaluating their well-being, one teacher has developed an ingenious method of tracking her children’s thoughts and feelings, and possibly saving lives in the process.
On Glennon Doyle Merton’s “Momastery” blog, she writes of her son’s math teacher, an unnamed, unsung hero. What makes her so? One afternoon, Merton dropped by her son’s fifth-grade classroom for help on how to better guide him with his homework, and she and his teacher got to talking. After some time they moved on from methods of long division to philosophies of teaching, both agreeing that “subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom,” that we owe it to students to instill in them kindness, compassion, and bravery above all. And that’s when this teacher shared a secret method with Merton.