Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Day Musings: There Was a Time...

... when I looked forward to starting school again. I loved getting ready -- planning the authors we'd read; developing lessons that were fun and creative; searching for new video clips or ideas to incorporate into my classroom; and, seeing students grow and learn about themselves in a new way.

That feeling is gone.

Now, lest you think I am wallowing in self-pity, I am not. Okay. Maybe a little. But, more than that, I am thinking about why the anticipation has been replaced by dread.

It comes to this.

Education has become a one size fits all. Instead of decisions being student driven, it is motivated by funding, government rules, or political beliefs. It has become a forum for making "everyone feel good about themselves" rather than challenging one to grow beyond their comfort level. It has become yet another forum for pop psychology instead of one of standards and the recognition that we need garbage collectors AND doctors. (Frankly, I adore my garbage collector every week; my doctor, well, a few times a year. Both have their place and role. One is not better than another, yet, in academia, there is a snobbery that the garbage collector has unrecognized potential and should aspire to more.) This is yet another reason the passion is gone; the failure to acknowledge that there are limits to ability and that some folks, to be honest, just aren't college material. And, by the way, that is perfectly okay.

Reporting - completers, retention, financial aid, assessment, recruiting -- are just a few of the ways an institution can spend time looking at itself and find ways to self-aggrandize as well as a way to avoid confronting the real issues -- academic freedom, academic standards, not to mention faculty salary and professional standards. Those instructors who are most popular carry teaching loads twice their colleagues, yet those colleagues remain mediocre because they tick the right boxes politically or through their academic rhetoric. There doesn't have to be substance, just compliance.

The jargon, the philosophies are more important than the ability to effectively meet a student where they are and lift them. Gatekeepers to programs or student goals impede success rather than inspire it. No one can say what power human desire and motivation can have over a low placement score or underdeveloped critical thinking skills. This hamstringing of weaker students destroys potential and, ultimately, deprives society of perhaps the next Einstein or Emerson. Neither were stellar students either, by the way.

And, so, here I am, one day from reentering a world that I feel I no longer belong, in which I feel I am a minority. I want to teach and be left alone by all the outside distractions. I want to spend this first week back on campus meeting with students, working on lesson plans, building enthusiasm for my content. I want to have my time respected. I want to feel appreciated, necessary, in a meaningful manner rather than spending my time checking the box for seeing so-and-so video or attending such-and-such meeting.

Teachers have a saying that, "what really matters is what happens when you close the door to your classroom." I am trying to hold on to this thought, this belief. I feel what a drowning person must feel. I gasp the air, hold my breath, and push up again.


  1. Amen and well said. I so admire what you do xox

  2. i can totally understand your frustration. So much in our culture is this way. Substance does not matter; using the "right" terminology is the meausre of progress. I will be praying that there will be some unexpected blessings in your week that will reaffirm your choice of career! (I wish I could take a literature of yours!)

  3. That is why I stopped sad.

  4. Too bad there aren't more teachers out there like you Matty. I'm afraid every career has become all about the politics these days. Have you ever read The Deliberate Dumbing Down of American by Charlotte Iserbyt? She speaks of many of the things you wrote about. You can always be a mentor, in spite of all the rules and regulations.

  5. Matty, this sort of thing has crept into everything everywhere in our North americam culture. I hear it's in the nursing/medical profession too It's sad. So, I can well imagine why those cute sneakers you showed us the other day drag themselves to school of a morning. As my mom used to say when I was growing up, it takes the joy right out of living.

    I'm agreeing wih Sandy for blessings to arrive from out of the blue to give your heart a boost of joy and that you will be able to find the time for what matters -- your students.


  6. I came by to return the blog visit and have to say this is an excellent post. These are exactly the reasons why I homeschooled my kids!


Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!