Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can't, Teach.

I HATE this quote! I'm going to be a teacher, but I can DO a lot of things. I'm good at customer service, I'm good at keeping ledgers (or at least, I am at keeping my own), I'm good at being organized (when I have to be), I'm good at communicating in English OR Spanish. There are a lot of different things I could do. But I CHOOSE to be a teacher. Or rather, I will, starting tomorrow, which is my first day of training--it's a curriculum class for new teachers in the district's Languages Other Than English Department (LOTE Dept.).

This quote kinda pisses me off in that it undermines the abilities of teachers. And that some TEACHERS actually buy into it! I know not many are mentally deficient enough to actually buy into that load of dung, but there are some that are...some who think "oh, you chose to ONLY be a must not have been good at anything else". Which is malarkey. Plain and simple. Teachers are everything from skilled organizers to disciplinarians to amateur psychologists to motivators to subject-masters, the list goes on. That's because you have 30-35 (average) relative novices of varying ages and ability levels and ONE you. Ask any other professional to do this, and they'd look at you like you were crazy. Especially because all of the age groups are 18 years old and under. For me, make that number 30-35 students in each of five 45 minute periods, equaling 150 to 175 students in my entire day. Like I said, ask any other professional--and yes, teachers are degreed and trained professionals--to undertake such a task (especially for the salary a teacher receives!) and they would laugh at you.

The fact is, teachers aren't in it for the recognition or the money. We couldn't be. I've watched my mom and her sisters, my grandmother and her sisters, serve as teachers...we get some of the most thankless jobs out there. That said, we're in it to help kids learn, and not just to learn our subject matter, but to learn how to grow into the type of person they want to be. We try to teach them, in-between state-mandated lesson goals, how to think critically, to develop sympathy and understanding for those around them regardless of and differences, to realize their actions have direct and indirect consequences for themselves and others, to have self-confidence, and many, many more life lessons. All in the space of time we're allotted.

In reflecting on all of this over the past few days, I realized something about myself. I have no real AMBITION, but I have a hell of a lot of DRIVE. And I realized what I hadn't before--though admittedly I should have long ago. These are two very different things. I don't care about the low salary. Sure, it's inconvenient and annoying at times, but if it really irked me, I'd find a different job. I don't care that I'm not in charge of a department or other group of people--1) I'm a first year teacher, and 2) I don't think I ever really want to be. The only "in charge" position I could ever see me liking is curriculum specialist. And that's more over the curriculum, not people. I would be perfectly content to spend the remainder of my teaching career as a high school Spanish I teacher. So, no ambition.

Oh, but drive! I desperately want to be the best teacher that I can. I'm reading books on the subject, asking advice, trying to hack out my classroom procedures, and am completely psyched to go to my training. I want to succeed in helping my students to succeed. I don't want to let them, my coworkers, or myself down. If I fail, it's not just myself that suffers--it's potentially 150-175 kids that go down with me...and that's an enormous responsibility. It's hard waiting for training to start, waiting for people to return my emails so that I have the information I need to start making use of the district's resources. I am so nervous and excited that I'm having a hard time focusing on anything else...heck, I'm even DREAMING about teaching!!! Right now, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. I know that feeling will let up tomorrow, once I've actually had the opportunity to talk with other teachers and ask for their advice and help.

In short, I have drive without ambition. You know, I've actually heard this talked about. It's always with an edge of pity or concern. I suppose that's because, for most in our society, being your best means getting to the highest position you can, or making the most money. To do that requires drive AND ambition. So when someone has ambition-less drive, they are somehow seen as handicapped in their search for being the best. Well, I disagree. My definition of "my best" does not line up with society's definition. I want to help people, I want to give people an appreciation for the Spanish language and the various cultures that speak it, and I want to make a difference in at least a few lives (I know I won't make a difference in every student's life...but if I can reach at least one or two a semester, then I'll be happy). So, my definition of "my best" is fulfilling that desire. It won't elevate me in position or pay, but it will (I hope) enable me to become the best me that I can. In a way, that is ambition...but in a very different light, a light for which most people don't bother looking.

So I will endeavor to employ my drive in pursuit of these goals, these ambitions, and always remember that my abilities are many, regardless of what some stupid platitude may have to say.

Anyways, I was just thinking.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Nice Ramble

I just feel like typing what is crossing my mind in this very moment. It's a beautiful Saturday, even if it is typically-Texas August hot outside. I have the blinds open and the sun is shining through...the trees just beyond our porch are swaying in a gentle breeze. I'm lounging on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table, watching Sydney White, with one dog curled up at my hip and the other sprawled out at my feet chewing on her bone. My wonderful husband is napping in our bedroom, with some jazz music playing on his computer. I can hear it as it filters through the walls, and though it adds a quirky counterpoint to my movie, it perfectly accentuates the peaceful atmosphere of our apartment. I love the weekend.

Tonight one of our friends is coming over for dinner, so I'll start cooking in about another hour. His wife-to-be will move down in another month, and I'm hoping we will become good friends. Another friend is back in town now, and we've already gotten lunch. It was wonderful! I finished my graduate work this last week, and start work in another two. Students come in three weeks. Life is really starting to pick up here.

On that note, I think I'm going to go read my copy the Tao Teh Ching. The poetry of Lao Tzu's teachings really is amazing, and the principles of Taoism are very much centered on being aligned with the Tao, and thus finding inner peace. Now, interpret the Tao to be what you will, but I can't think of a better read for a day like today. I think I'm going to try to make a sort of study of the Tao Teh Ching to try and truly understand the core of Taoist philosophy. I might start meditating again...I do miss having that time each day where I empty my mind of everything but one thought, and then just hold that thought in my mental hands. After my workout will probably be the best time...that way both my body and mind will be fit.

I have such an abiding feeling of peace and happiness right really is amazing. It's one of those feelings that you can really get lost in...your mind can successfully fill with nothing but a sense of peace and a sense of how blessed is your life.

Anyways, I was just thinking.


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