Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Those who can't teach

I was truly lucky this past school year to have a student teacher from the U. Some would probably argue that I wasn't lucky at all, and that I might have been being punished. I don't see it that way. Sure, he was a little... quirky. Sure, some would call him strange. I liked to consider him just a "little" socially awkward. He came to AK from the East Coast where he studied and worked as an engineer. The position he had was downsized, so he decided to become a teacher in order to stay in Alaska. I don't necessarily understand this line of thinking, but it made sense to him that teachers can find work anywhere, especially in Alaska... ?

So, when the University came to me asking for a personal favor, I was intrigued and flattered that they knew I was the man for the job! Even after meeting him, I knew that I would be one of the few that would give him a chance.  The first semester he spent observing my classroom. He asked a ton of questions.. sometimes multiple times.. in the same conversation.. all during my prep! :) I was as honest as I could be with him without telling him that I didn't think teaching was for him. Because, I honestly believe that if you want to teach (I mean really WANT to teach) you will be just as effective as some people who are already teachers, so you deserve a chance to see what it is really like. And I really thought he could do it.

At the start of second semester, I started handing over classes to him. I did everything I could to give him all of the control. I don't want to say that I threw him to the sharks, but I wanted him to see what doing this "job" is really like. I'll admit that he was at an immediate disadvantage considering I'm a well liked teacher. My students were not the most receptive to him taking over for me, but I had given all my confidence in my student teacher to help ease the transition. He had made a lot of progress and truly showed that he wanted to make teaching happen.

Ultimately, about 2 weeks into having all of my classes he looked at me with sweat on his forehead and panic on his face and said,"This is so much harder than I thought it was going to be." And I found that very... as bad as this is going to sound... satisfying. Not that I was happy to see him struggle. Far from it. I just knew that teaching for him was going to be difficult, because there are simply a lot of people that can't teach. Sure, some of them already have the title of teacher and earn a paycheck doing something they are not at all good at. But there are plenty of you out there in other career fields that just wouldn't cut it. Could you still get a job as a teacher? Sure, as I just said there are plenty of current "teachers" that can't teach. The hard part for me was that he had come a long way, and was making progress. I really thought he was going to make it happen. But, I think in the end, an opportunity presented itself and it was better for him to take it and move away from teaching.

This experience helped me to my conclusion about teaching which is that the best teachers can do just about anything. The best teachers sell a topic to students within the first 5 minutes of a presentation. We give the best customer service when dealing with parents. We are counselors to our students providing advice and support when they need it. We are leaders within our schools encouraging our teaching peers to meet the standards by which we teach. We are quick thinkers capable of reading an audience and turning a train wreck of a lesson into a masterpiece or taking a major hiccup during a lecture and smoothing it out as if it didn't happen. We think on our feet, and tackle all issues as they happen. So, really, those of us that can teach do so because we couldn't handle the mundane life of doing another "job." I've been there. I worked in customer service, sales, and management out of college. I was great at it, but what I get out of teaching (other than exhaustion) is a challenge to provide a positive impact on society that isn't out there for most of you sitting cubical-side.

In the end, there are still so many people out there that use the statement, "those who can't, teach." So, if you hear someone say that, send them my way. I'm always willing to have visitors in my classroom to hang out and observe. I'll even let the person have a shot at doing a presentation on a topic of his choice within his career field. Just as long as he knows that I'll judge him on his professional ability to do his job based solely on how well the students test on the content presented. Oh, and that test, will be one that I create or will be created by someone else on what we think should be covered. :) ... what? no takers? :)