Maintaining Sanity and Motivation in Modern Education
Week after week, teachers across the country sit in faculty meetings for about an hour where we are given new information about how to teach. We learn that everything we knew before must be forgotten, and we must learn the new and most improved way to teach our students. The most popular these days are literacy strategies, compliments of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Veteran teachers let out a groan when a new strategy is introduced. They complain, “It’s just the same thing with a new name.”
I’ve been conflicted with being thankful for the new strategies, and with being overwhelmed by all the new and constantly changing information. I long for the day that I can finally figure out what works and what doesn’t work for my students. Then, I would love to decide on the lessons and curriculum I will teach. Sadly, this will probably never happen because of all the changes on the state and federal levels of education. Presently, the Louisiana Department of Education is battling Common Core, the federal plan for producing more globally competitive students. On the flip side, Governor Jindal’s “Parents Know Best” campaign would offer the option of school choice and public charter schools.
With all the bickering between federal programs, state officials, politicians, and finally on the parish level of administrators and curriculum coordinators, teachers are often left feeling bewildered and confused at the muddled information that is passed down to us. Ideas of progress and reform in education are lost in translation from the bureaucracy of education. Stress, burn-out, and a general feeling of chaos surround today’s American educators.
As a teacher, it is easy to have a negative attitude. I have frequently found myself feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and underpaid, but I know my fulfillment in life is in my teaching. Therefore, I have to keep some things in mind. The first mantra is “all I can do is all I can do.” If I never slept or took time with family and friends, then I could accomplish many things, but that’s not healthy, worth it, or helpful to those around me, including my students. A calm and fun attitude is what draws students toward their teachers. If my students are on my side, then they are going to listen more attentively and perform for me. For all educators there is a common goal: help someone understand a concept. The way in which an educator does this is up to them. As long as there is learning going on in my classroom, all is well. No evaluation, standardized test scores, or mountainous set of new tasks should cloud the view of a teacher getting through to his/her students.
For me, not keeping these two ideas in mind, can lead to a very difficult career, especially in a time where it seems public education will never get any better, but making an effort to see the bigger picture gives me the rewarding sensation that a teacher should get.