Let’s discuss for once some opinions I have had for ages and just now have decided to share. I’m not looking for a lot of people to necessarily agree with me, however, I read other people’s opinions on multiple subjects that I don’t always agree with. I read information to gain new knowledge on a subject and to acquire a different perspective than my own. So please give me the same courtesy.
Throughout the eighteen years I have been an educator, I have been around countless other educators in various positions in the schools I have taught in. To make this very clear, not all of the people I have worked with have been in the school-related positions they held due to wanting to be there and liking children. Many, but not all, told me they did not enter the teaching field because they liked children. Those people told me they entered the field because they thought it would be an easy career. Again this is not every educator, but it is in fact, true for a certain number of people who chose a career in education and became teachers. I admit that at the time I was being confided in by these people, I was really taken-a-back by what they were saying to me because that is the polar opposite of why I became a teacher and why I am still a teacher. Yes, I admit that I was naive enough to believe like many other members of our population, that people entering the field of education as a career choice do so because they truly love children and want to be a part of positively influencing the next generation. I entered the field because I’ve always loved children and wanted to make a positive influence in their lives. And I don’t really care if there are people out there, like one of my former principals, that thinks I see things through “rose-colored glasses”. Yes, you read right, one of my former principals did not like being a teacher let alone a principal. To her, the job was merely a status symbol and a position of power that meant she could do harm to others while hiding behind a position in which only people with good intentions for the school community as a whole should hold.
To me children are people. They deserve the right to learn and grow into competent, productive, influential people that will carry our country in the future. Children do not deserve to be around educators who do not really enjoy, respect or care for their chosen careers. Children do not get to choose their teachers or the school they attend for the most part. So to me, it is that much more important that people entering the field of education do not do so just because it is a job, but because it is a real career with far reaching impacts on young and impressionable minds. While I was earning my master’s degree one of the hot topics was the painful experiences we all had as children in schools. Many grad students like myself did not have positive formative school experiences. Many of us faced prejudices of all kinds and bullying from not only fellow classmates but teachers too. A lot of tears were shed during my grad school experience by my peers remembering some of the horrific experiences they lived through and were still dealing with the harmful emotional aftermath at that time in our lives. We were all children once and we all know very well that traumatic experiences are remembered and impact us throughout our lives whether that be in a positive or negative way. After all, children are not separate entities, children are people just as we adults are.
When I read current articles surrounding “Common Core”, I am still saddened to learn that public education will always be a big business before it will be an institution of learning. As a young adult I never really knew or understood at the time that schools, especially public shool systems, were really just big businesses and that educating young minds was the last goal on their agenda. I’m sure many people who read this statement will question this, because, after all, school is school, isn’t it? Wrong, schools are businesses that need money to run. Hense the times we have to vote on whether to give schools more money to allow them to continue functioning as mini-cities, while other aspects of our community that need public funds reap only a trickle of much-needed financial support. Yes, children are important, yes children need the monetary support of their communities to make sure they have all the benefits of education that will enable them opportunities to be successful as adults. However, whenever there is a new approach to teaching and learning being implemented wide-spread, there is a ridiculous amount of panic. I realize I just said that public school systems are big businesses first and institutions of education last, however, they still are institutions of education. That means that there still are people out there trying every day to create a curriculum that reaches all children and not just the 50% that is so common for our country. New approaches to education should not be received so negatively. Any new ideas that are designed to help reach all children should be understood completely before we jump ship and start screaming about how unfair the “new ” way of learning is to children. Don’t we owe it to the very children that will be learning this new system to at least learn all we can about the “new” methods being implemented? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to keep learning and helping to establish better and better educational systems?
Now I’m not on board with the whole “let’s keep testing” idea. I am all for holistic learning. Children need the outdoors, art, music, and any other creative, hands-on, interactive approach to learning that is possible to implement. What is so easily forgotten by the “powers that be” is that young minds are concrete thinkers for quite some time before they are abstract thinkers. Children are social beings first and they each require time to explore, question, manipulate, investigate, discover and utilize any information they gain during those very concrete and real ways that we adults engage in throughout our lives. Taking away a child’s natural developmental need to gain knowledge is ridiculous and should always be questioned. If any of you have been noticing the Facebook posts of concerned educators and parents out there fighting to keep recess and the arts in their respective schools, you know very well how easy it is for the “powers that be” to forget that children are not yet adults and need this time in their young lives to truly be able to explore and interact with the environment to gain understanding of the world they live in. All of us adults had those real and concrete opportunities, so why do they keep wanting to take that away from the generations coming up? I’ve noticed that question is never answered by the “powers that be”.
My second to last point or soap box is that I wish more people entering the field of education could find the confidence to be there because they enjoy, like and respect children. If you are going into the field of education just because you have some misguided imaginary concept of this being a position with an imaginary ladder to climb, maybe you should rethink why you want to be a teacher. Or ask yourself why you want to be a principal. Stepping on your co-workers, your teammates to climb an imaginary ladder is not what being an educator should ever be about. There is no ladder to climb in this field! Being in the classroom is not being on a pedestal; it is working for our future. Being a principal or superintendent is about being the liaison between the educational system and our community. Questioning yourself as to what your end goals are for entering this field should come before any imaginary and superficial ideas you may have. And it doesn’t matter what career choice there is, no one should be stepping on others in order to get ahead. Those in positions of authority should have enough common sense to see right through “bullies” and not give them the time of day. Respect your staff and respect the positive things each brings to their working environments each day. Respect children and do not enter a career that is all about children and their futures if you don’t really like or respect them as people with the right to learn and be happy learning. Children should not be traumatized while going to school ever! The formative years should be ones filled with happy memories to pass on to the next generation and the next. Children should not have to face teachers that yell and scream at their students. Teachers like that should never be given a free pass to abuse their students. I say this because I witnessed this behavior from some former co-workers and was “bullied” by those very people. And my principal at the time looked the other way and then joined in the harassment.
So I not only was a victim of abuse as a teacher in the public school system, I witnessed young innocent children being bullied by their teachers and the principal and those around looked the other way and by doing so endorsed the behavior. Any person in the field of education that witnesses children or fellow co-workers being bullied and harassed should not stand their silent. They should stand together and stop the abuse. Remember that a victim of bullying did nothing wrong and there is never any valid reason for the harassment to begin with. I lost a lot of respect for most of the staff at that particular school because of their cowardly and ignorant attitudes and behavior that supported the emotional abuse of not only young children but of a co-worker of theirs.
Again, I say to those entering this field, please really think about whether being an educator is for you and if so great! If not, make sure you discover this before you do harm to others with the idea there is some imaginary platform you want to stand on or some ridiculous praise and recognition you are seeking. Maybe being an entertainer would be more fitting to those who want to climb an imaginary ladder. Remember the classroom is the best place to be because that is where several young minds are eagerly waiting to learn and learn and learn! As an educator I have always seen myself as a team member; someone who wants to work with and not against. I am partners with parents and fellow teachers, so I see each of us with different strengths and weaknesses. How can we learn if we are all the same and how can we be positive and influential role models if we are all carbon copies of each other and not happy with our chosen profession. Be an educator because you are a good person and you want to be a positive life-long influence on the children you meet each year! 🙂
Heidi Scott, BA & MIT