Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day Thirteen: Thankful for My Education

It has been a tough week.  Not physically, but mentally, and today I want to be thankful that I embraced my education and that I love learning.

From 1987 - 2000, the most important thing in my life was school.  I loved being able to spend time with my friends, playing on the playground, and attending awesome assemblies.  I also LOVED listening to my teachers read, doing lessons, and hearing about stuff I'd never heard about before.  Ever.

Each day was a challenge and also an adventure.  I never knew what new pieces of information I was going to discover, what knowledge was going to be planted in to my brain, or what quirky ways my teachers were going to deliver their lessons.  I have so many happy memories from my school days, and they basically led me to where I am today.  I wanted to become and became a teacher because the teachers I had convinced me that teaching was the most fun, most rewarding, and absolute best job on the planet.

They weren't wrong.

But, back in those days, I was also held to very high expectations.  I would NEVER had dreamed of not turning in homework, or complaining about what I was learning, or "settling" for a mediocre grade because I wasn't all that interested in the first place.  I would NEVER have lied to my teacher, spoke back to him/her disrespectfully, or laughed when I got in trouble.

Not only would my teacher not have put up with it, but my parents wouldn't either.

My parents' expectations for my siblings and me when we were in school were just as high as our teachers'.  We brought home A's and B's.  Period.  We didn't DARE let our grades slip below that, or we would be grounded until our grades were up.  And, by grounded, I mean no TV, no video games, no playing outside, and no phone.  We were allowed books.  Books to study, books to read.  That's it.

Thankfully, I never really had to worry about that, but my brothers had to experience that a couple of times.  I loved school, so it was easy for me to do what I was supposed to do and for me to learn pretty easy.  My brothers on the the other hand didn't have the love and joy for learning as I did.  But, that didn't mean that my parents were any easier on them just because they didn't "get it" as quickly as I did or because it was harder for them to pay attention and do the work.

On a daily basis, I get to witness social media posts and articles written by parents about how bad teachers are doing their jobs.  If a child brings home low grades, it's the teacher's fault for not teaching them right or it's because schools are using Common Core standards.  If a child gets in trouble, it's the teacher's fault for singling the child out or because of issues going on at home.  And, just about every issue a teacher may have with a student is flipped around showing that the teacher should be doing something better or isn't doing something right to cause the child's issue.

I had plenty of issues when I was growing up.  There are TONS of things that I experienced as a child that I don't share on here, because even though I'm an open book, there are parts of my life I'd just rather forget.  But, one thing I NEVER did was use those issues to slack off at school.  If anything, I praise the Lord that I had school during some of those times, so that I had an outlet with which to focus my attention and distract me from the hardship that waited for me outside the school building.

Now, I'm a parent of two children that do very well in school, and one that struggles a bit more than his sisters.  He has had a plethora of struggles throughout his life, but do you think I let him use those experiences as a crutch for acting up or not doing what he's supposed to?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

In fact, any of his teachers and our principals will tell you that I'll gladly march him to the principal's office to have his butt lit up in a heart beat.  I'm actually thankful for corporal punishment, because a few swats to the behind gets him to straighten up.  I'm also in full support of taking his privileges away,  You will never hear me blame one of his teachers for his attitude or his grades.  He is fully responsible and held accountable for those things, and he knows that if his grades slip too far, he'll be yanked from extra-curricular activities, his video games, and everything else until they come up.

A complaint I hear a lot is that kids are bored in school.  They're not being engaged enough.  It's too hard for them to sit so long and pay attention.  They act out because it's the only way for them to stay awake.

Well, I can understand that.  When I think back to my educational days, there are some times I was bored.  I will say that I spent a good part of my day sitting in a row of chairs, eyes up to the teacher or eyes on my paper.  There were tons of exciting lessons and activities in my earlier grades, but there were also tons of days I spent listening to my teacher talk all day and hardly saying a word, myself.  I remember those teachers that would drone on and on and on, and I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep because all I could hear was "Wah-wah-wa-wahh" as they spoke.  And, even though I never cared for that kind of teacher, I would NEVER have thought of being disrespectful or not doing the work they assigned because I was bored.

I try and make the work I give as fun as I can, or deliver the content in an upbeat way.  I like movement, and don't expect my kids to sit with their butts firmly planted in their seats all day.  But, it's impossible to ALWAYS teach fun stuff.  There's just some stuff that is a bit dry or boring, but it's just got to be taught.  But isn't that a part of life?  Don't we all have days where we just want to stick blunt pencils into our eyelids because we're so bored we can't take it anymore?  Boring is just a part of life, and there are going to be days where that stuff happens.

Then, there's the flip side to that.  When a teacher tries to get creative or teach in a different way that requires more critical thinking and challenge, you know what happens?  The complaints start flying in that the expectations are too high, or the the kids aren't used to that way of learning.  So, what I hear from that is the boring way is too boring and that's why students don't do well, and then when the teaching is changed it then becomes too hard or different for the students to understand?  Can someone please point me in to the happy middle?

You know what I think?  There isn't one.  There are just some situations where teachers basically have their hands tied behind their back and anything they do will be wrong.

BUT, and it's a big BUTT, I don't care how I'm perceived from people outside of my classroom.  I don't care what others have to say about how I teach, or what I should be doing differently in order to make life easier for the students.  I didn't get in to my profession so that I can make life easier on the students that come in to my room.  I became a teacher because I have an absolute love of learning, a passion for education, and a desire to help children look to their futures with optimism and success.

If one of my students come to me and tell me the work is too hard, we sit together and work on it together until it's not so hard anymore.  Then, I get to see that AMAZING light bulb go off in their brain, and the look of sheer joy light up their face.  If a student comes to me and tells me he's bored, I will apologize that not everything is fun, and then ask him to offer some suggestions on how he thinks I could make the learning more fun.  I actually have tried and implemented a few techniques that have been suggested by my students.  They are ALWAYS allowed to offer some suggestions.  My students can come to me and talk to me about their grades and what they can do to increase them.  I've never had a student come to me and tell me they're making an F because of something I did.  They'll come to me and ask what they can do to raise that F, and then I'll offer them what I can to get the job done.

You see, in my classroom, they are my critics.  My students.  They are allowed to criticize, offer opinions, and complain.  Will it always do them any good?  No.  But, they know that.  They know I have a "no excuses" mentality and that falls right back on me as much as it does them.  We work together, we compliment each other.  There are tough times, struggles that need to be overcome, and kids that need to act up just for a little attention.  I get that.  I don't expect perfection, I just expect them to want it.  Try for it, work towards it, anything less just isn't something they settle on but a tool to help them progress and learn more.

What I don't want are people that have never spent a day in my classroom, or any classroom for that matter, telling me how I should do my job, what I can do to improve my job, or what I'm doing wrong.  That's just not cool.  I would never call a parent up and tell a parent that he/she isn't parenting right because their child can't follow the directions, so I don't expect a parent to tell me that I'm not doing my job right because their child can't follow the directions.

I know I went off on a big ol' tangent here, but I needed to.

But, today, I am extremely thankful for my education and the love I have for education.  I have not given up on learning.  I have not given up on being challenged and inspired to do better.  I will try harder not to let the negative comments affect me or my love for my profession.  I will keep doing what I do everyday, with the desire to reach each and every child that comes in to my room, and instill in to them the importance of education and how it will impact their futures.

Nobody can take my spirit away.  Nobody can tell me that I what I do isn't important.  And nobody can take away my love of education.

And for that, I'm truly thankful.


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