To teach or not to teach

A month ago I wrote about why I decided not to teach. Now I would like to tell you a little bit about why I’m changing my mind.

After graduating college I keep getting a feeling that there is so much I don’t know about who I am and where I want to go in life. It has officially been one year since I graduated college and instead of dwelling on what I don’t know I wanted to share what I do know.

I have been lucky to work closely with incredible educators (including administrators) that have given me insight into their worlds and I am fascinated by the work they are doing to shape the future. I know I am passionate about providing supports, systems, and tools to educators; I like the idea of creating a system that supports those doing “the work”.

Educators are professionals and I want to help create policy that supports them as such. Right now, I think that there are too many people in the administration of education programs with little to no classroom experience. Many educational entrepreneurs enter the field with little regard to the barriers facing educators today. They can climb over these barriers with monetary or time investments governments are not yet willing to put into our schools. They think they solve the problems with a few schools without realizing their methods cannot easily be replicated across the nation.

Despite a somewhat grim outlook, I am overall optimistic about the future of education. I think we can celebrate the victories of our schools while working towards solutions to the many problems they face. It’s not going to happen overnight but neither is my career in ed policy or non-profit management or wherever the world takes me. I’m just looking for continuous improvement; not a silver bullet or Superman.

The world of education is constantly changing but a large complex system isn’t built to fluctuate at the drop of a pin–on purpose. It is important that the system be flexible and adaptable but I don’t think we want a system that bends to every will of “the market” or whim of a government administrator. Unfortunately, this makes any change hard and years of focusing on the wrong target have led our system to, what feels like for many, a breaking point.

I don’t buy into the “US Schools are Failing” rhetoric. If all you ever look for is crisis (often demonstrated by “low test scores”) then that is all you are going to find. There are crises facing schools today but they have more to do with the governance of our schools than the students being educated in them and the professional educators serving those students.

We have defunded schools to the point where trained professionals are spending hours photocopying and monitoring recess playtime instead of using that time to collaborate with peers, research the newest teaching methods, or catching up on grading students’ work. I honestly don’t know how some teachers do it all and at the end of the day still strive to do more.

I want to see inside their world first hand. I want to understand the balancing act that is managing administrative systems in the classroom while teaching a child how to read while answering to the shy voice of a student who has had an accident while explaining to the students why we had to have a lockdown on an otherwise normal day at school. How can one capture the importance of this job in a written policy? Is there a way to rethink our schools so that they work for all students? So that our schools be safe engaging places for children of all races, genders, abilities, and home lives?

How can I begin to answer these questions? Overwhelmingly lately, the answer is teach.

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