It’s the Saturday after the last day of school for teachers. I am turning 58 today. I just completed my 34th year as a social studies teacher. Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Looking back over the past year and over the arch of my career, I want to write about the struggles and successes of my time in the classroom, not so much as a personal catharsis, but more so that other teachers out there in the education can understand and feel comforted by the fact that we all share similar challenges, and that we can learn from each other as we celebrate our victories.
The Personal vs. the Professional
No one teaches in a vacuum. We have the currents of our own lives to contend with as we walk into our classroom each day. During this past school year, I experienced the end of a relationship that brought me back to traditional therapy to heal the emotional scars that were opened by the loss. My students never knew that I was an emotional wreck. It would have been unfair and unprofessional for me to share it with them. They saw the best teacher I could be every day while I worked to move forward in my personal life. I have a wonderful new friend in my life now, and I draw on the wonderful support of my family and close friends as well as the input from my therapist to find the strength within myself to go on. I also draw on my faith in God to provide an inner peace because I know I can take God’s hand and walk with Him through anything. I know many other teachers in this world must also perform well while struggling with personal loss, family issues, health challenges, and spiritual crises. Kudos to those who are able to find their way through it.
We have the currents of our own lives to contend with as we walk into our classroom each day. Click To Tweet
Looking into the Promised Land
One professional struggle I deal with every year is the desire to teach social studies at the high school level. I took a middle school position in 2000 in my current district in the hope that the growth in the community would eventually lead to a high school placement, similar to the one I left in my previous district. While I don’t regret the move, that position has never materialized. I have had two interviews in seventeen years as the county has built and opened numerous new high schools. It is not clear to me what the obstacle is to achieving this goal. Is it that high school principals put the applications of middle school teachers at the bottom of the heap? Is it something in my professional history that keeps me from achieving that prized goal? No one has given me the feedback to understand the process, but it can be self-defeating to continue the struggle. Failure to move on forces me to count my blessings, be happy I have a job and continue in my current position.
Teaching Politics in a Political World
Within the framework, 2017-1018 was difficult because of the challenges I have faced with parents who felt my political activism outside the classroom tainted my objectivity within the classroom. As a result, I have been assigned a 7th grade US History position next year rather than 8th-grade civics. I was told that I am being “insulated from the issues” because US History is less controversial than US Civics in the current political atmosphere. I spite of all my efforts to present an object, unbiased, and impartial picture of American government and politics, I was still accused of sharing my political views by parents who were critical of my activities in electoral politics in two states, one where I reside and one where I work. I have curtailed my social media activity as a result, but the damage was done. My goal of teaching students at the older end of adolescence and higher in their intellectual development is being replaced by the reality of focusing on the learning process and student behavior as I take on 7th graders full-time next year. I love US History and have a set of lesson plans that I will work to refine and improve. It just feels like I am going backwards in my professional development, not forwards.
Teaching US History next year has its own challenges and rewards, so I will pledge to myself and my administration to do the best job that I can. I am thankful to have supportive administrators, a great faculty family, and a community that supports education. I will continue to be politically active, but I must also be conscientious enough to keep my political and professional activities separate. Next year is number thirty-five. I don’t see retirement in the cards any time soon because I still have a mortgage payment and bills to pay. As long as God gives me another day to live and the strength to get up, I will prepare lessons, use technology, and keep my sense of humor to reach out to kids, no matter what age they are. My love of learning, teaching, social studies, and helping kids to make this world a better place is enough of a motivation to walk into that classroom next year and get the job done.
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