Saturday, April 9, 2016

Conversations with Teachers Who Have Taught For Two or Three or Tweny Years - Um, Theory vs. Reality

Richard Stein's "A Romantic Enters The World"
We are thigh-deep in Invitational Summer Institute interviewing and have another round of conversations today (only one more week to go to narrow down the pool of participants). I am amazed, again and again, as I talk with teachers who have worked for 20 years, even 5 years, in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, community colleges and Universities, how "upside down" they turned when first having a classroom of their own.

"I was naive." "I was fresh." "I was optimistic." "I had a grandiose idea of the change I could make." "I had a house full of books." "It was a career change, and I thought I would be touching lives."

The words repeat themselves (repeat themselves, repeat themselves, repeat themselves) as interviewees seek out CWP-Fairfield (any National Writing Project sites for that matter) looking for rejuvenation, hope, a rebirth, and excitement.

"I feel so isolated as a classroom teacher." "Our administration alienates." "It's a culture of testing, not teaching." "I know what the kids need. The kids know what they need. I'm policed so severely that none of us are getting what we need."

It's the ubiquitous hum of in-practice educators looking for an alternative to the brow-beating, exhaustion, and misery they report experiencing in the field.

"I don't need credits or a stipend. I just need to feel like a professional again."

I'm heading back to the office for another round of interviews and was there late on a Friday night conducting a few more. Here are people who give up nights and weekends to hopefully give up a summer with the support of the National Writing Project model.

"I've heard the work will save me in my career." "I'm looking for a way to believe in the profession again." "I want to connect with other educators who are fighting against the anarchy politicians are making in our schools."

I couldn't help but think of Richard Stein's "A Romantic Enters the World." K-16 schools can, indeed, be a pack of wolves. I, however, like to bring optimism and possibility (call it naiveté and stupidity) of the magic that is possible if you learn to take a different path. Don't live in their worlds, because they will eat you alive and there will be someone to replace you. Rather, live in the head, in books, and with other dreams (you're not the only one) and keep the attitude on the positive.

And with that, time to go.

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