In the Suburbs / Despite teaching naysayers, the profession remains strong
I knew that I wanted to teach since I was in 2nd grade. It has been a lifelong dream of mine and it has never been a decision I have regretted. I have had the opportunity to see success in students from Middle School through Adult learners who never thought they could succeed. Those are the most rewarding moments and what inspire me to keep working to be a better educator. Jennifer
Last Sunday on National Public Radio (NPR), I listened intently and with concern to a piece about a husband and wife in Michigan, who had been teachers for more than 26 years and were fed up with the state of their profession. Besieged by legislative cuts, salary and pension issues and negative changes in attitude by parents and students, these teachers were so frustrated, that when their son told them he wanted to teach, they told him to take a corporate position for 20 years before even considering the profession.
At first, the young man, who was also interviewed, told his parents he was shocked by their response. He ultimately graduated with a degree in computer science, but told the NPR correspondent that he still wanted to teach at a later time.
Nevertheless, I can empathize with the Michigan teaching couple, who have given their all and then some to the profession, but was also disappointed in the advice they gave their son. I believe he needed to find his own way into the profession, despite the drawbacks, and I hope that someday, sooner than later, he will.
I remembered the day our older daughter Stacey came to us to discuss her desire to teach. She had been working as a sales associate for the Katherine Gibbs School, setting up meetings in schools throughout Fairfield County. She explained her feelings of exhilaration when she was in front of groups of seniors. My wife and I could see her passion for the profession that I had chosen so many years before.
She was fully prepared to fulfill all the requirements and she knew it would be a long process, but she maintained her focus and completed the Best Project, an enormous credential book, and Praxis 1 -the math portion did her in several times before tutoring paid off for her and she passed, along with Praxis 2. Nevertheless, the road ahead was still long.
Ultimately, Stacey received a Master’s Degree in special education and a reading certification. Today she is a tenured teacher at Kennedy High School in Waterbury with no regrets. Despite the ups and downs and frustrations of working with perhaps one of the most difficult teaching populations, Stacey is in this for the long haul.
She, in turn, decided to kick my butt about two years ago and encourage me to get my Conn. teaching certification. I had been certified in Illinois before electronic records, and I have been a teaching assistant in a Bridgeport charter for nearly five years. I really love working with an urban population.
In 2016, after what seemed like an eternity, I passed Praxis 1 and 2 and was certified in English, grades 7—12. I recently applied for a middle school English position in my own charter school. We’ll see what happens, but I am looking forward to this potential challenge.
I know how much the education arena has changed today, especially when it comes to the measurement and evaluation of teachers, which is based so much on test scores and the demands of Common Core coupled with the pressures of longer days, budget cuts and legislative changes. I decided to ask a few colleagues their opinion.
For example, Mark, our health and physical ed teacher, said he decided to teach as far back as high school after having very rewarding experiences working with and coaching students. He told me after nearly six years, he’s never been sorry.
Jill, our art teacher, was inspired by a middle school teacher, but didn’t decide to enter the field until she was a young mom with four kids. She pursued the credentials and has no regrets.
Elaine, who has become a good friend and who is an amazing English teacher said that she loves the teaching part of her job and being in front of students, but isn’t convinced that she will retire in the profession. She gets frustrated with the grading and the tedious work of grading papers, quizzes and exams. Her real dream, she told me, is to become a public speaker.
I couldn’t begin to name all the other wonderful teachers I’ve worked with over these past five years and during my five years of subbing in Fairfield. But I know they give their all everyday and still believe in this profession and what it has to offer.
I’ve never been sorry that I returned to an education environment after 35 years in business. Today as one of the most senior, albeit newly certified teachers in Conn., I really do want to teach and I can’t wait to begin a new chapter in my teaching career.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.