Over the past twenty-four hours, my mind has been overwhelmed with things going on with my students and my classroom. I have been on an emotional roller coaster. This school year, I seem to feeling things very deeply when it comes to my role as a teacher. This morning I was thinking about the job description of a teacher and, after twelve years in the classroom, am convinced that the official descriptions are, at best, humorous.
While this job description for a classroom teacher is quoted from Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools‘ website, it is consistent with what you would find across the state of North Carolina.
“An employee in this class provides direct instruction to students. A wide variety of tasks are performed in the teaching-learning process for students, the primary one being to help students learn the subject matter and skills that will contribute to their development as mature, able, and responsible adults. A teacher performs his/her duties under the supervision of, and reports to, the principal.”
This morning, I’ve been thinking about things people need to know who are interested in the teaching profession. These things will not be listed on any official job description, but they are things that quickly become part of a day-to-day routine.
1. Attend more athletic and extra-curricular events that you can imagine. Have you seen a kid’s face light up when they spot you in the bleachers at their pee-wee football game? Parents and students respond to you in a whole new way when you go out and meet them in the community. Teaching is not a classroom position; it is a way of life. Besides, you actually do have to convince children that you wear jeans and baseball caps and that you can exist outside of school.
2. Have your heart broken… on a regular basis. Teaching is not for the faint-hearted. I cried my eyes out last night over a few of my students. The things we hear and know cannot be faced with a stern outlook all the time. You have to feel it, take it in, live it with your student, feel helpless and then figure out how to conquer it. I often cannot relate to the pain many of my students have faced (and face on a regular basis). It is hard not to want to carry their burdens for them. We cannot. We can only try to find small ways to lighten them and make school a safe haven.
3. Live it. Breathe it. I don’t know very many effective and influential teachers whose minds are on work from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm. If I could get it all done and shut it in the room behind me when I leave my classroom at 5:00 pm, I would. But I don’t. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering what I am going to do about that kid who just cannot figure out how to subtract. I worry about whether or not to call a child’s parent about classroom behaviors because I’m not sure what is going to happen to her when she gets home. I antagonize over why a student, who I know is having difficulties at home, is absent from school.
4. Listen. Teacher job descriptions are often filled with things they need to teach and do. One of the most critical things that I do is listen. I listen to kids who just have to tell me about what happened on Spongebob last night. I hear extended stories about the five-point deer they shot this weekend. I cannot tell you how many made-up knock-knock jokes I have heard. Yet, intermingled in these webs of words, I often find critical clues as to the needs of my students. I listen to parents. They do not want to be “talked at.” They know their kids and what their kids need or struggle with. Parents cannot be told what they are doing wrong. Many times, they need as much guidance as their children. One of my first principals told me “All parents are doing the best that they know how and loving their kids the best that they can.” Keeping that in mind helps me focus on listening and not on blame.
5. Motivate. The difference between legendary coaches and those whose names we will never know is not an understanding of the X’s and O’s of sports. Instead, it is a special ability to motivate individuals to achieve greatness through their own effort and self-discipline. Likewise, the teachers that we often remember so vividly didn’t do anything ground-breaking in terms of instructional strategies. Rather, they present the curriculum in a way that students feel inspired and compelled to absorb and succeed on their own.
After adding these five things to a typical teaching job description, I am chuckling at the fact that none of them actually relate to content-delivery. Hmmmm.
What would you add to the job description of a teacher?
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