Do You See What I See?
My grandson was pitching for batting practice this week. He was hit in the eye with a line drive ball which broke five bones around his eye. His eye was blood-shot, swollen almost shut and he has temporarily (we hope) lost all depth perception. In the emergency room, he couldn’t even get a straw into his mouth to take a drink without putting his hand on the straw first to guide it to his mouth. He has to wear protective glasses at all times to keep everyone and everything from inadvertently jarring his eye until these fractures heal.
During this same week I was visiting schools to meet newly placed student teachers. These are college seniors who are doing their final practice teaching before hopefully finding teaching positions in their own classrooms next year. The professional teachers who are sharing their classrooms with these novices are called mentor teachers. It took me eight days to visit 20 students in thirteen schools located in four different school districts.
How Are These Two Events Connected?
I see a significant parallel. And I don’t think it was just because I was emotionally experiencing both of these events simultaneously.
It seems that everything you hear through the media about schools and our educational system these days is bad news.
And yet when I walk in schools’ hallways I see wonderful things happening. It appears to this career teacher that the reporters and politicians who are being constantly quoted about the bad state of our American educational system, have no depth perception. They are seeing out of only one eye. Or are they even in our schools’ hallways.
I used both eyes and both ears as I walked the schools’ hallways and talked with the staff.
This is what I saw and heard about teaching.
I saw teachers sitting with students before school hours having breakfast together. This free breakfast was served to everyone, every day to ensure that all students were getting a nutritional start to their day of learning without singling out anyone.
When I asked student teachers to describe their mentor teachers, they used these words:
committed, caring, kind, patient, hard-working, she comes in early and stays late, he answers all my questions and explains everything he is doing for me, helpful, fair, consistent, he has a wonderful rapport with his students, well-organized, enthusiastic, even the students who claim they don’t like English still like this teacher who is teaching English. S/he is exactly the kind of teacher I want to become.
One student teacher was describing the principal in the building where she is assigned. “She had all the student teachers over to her house for a meal. She wanted to get to know us individually. The teachers in the building tell me she offers to babysit their own children. She is always asking the question, ‘What can I do to help you?'”
I saw classrooms decorated and organized with so much care, that the rooms made you want to spend days there learning. I know how much (or more accurately) how little money a teacher is given to set up a classroom. These teachers reach deep into their own pockets to make a comfortable environment conducive to learning. Their classrooms were charming, and exciting places to learn.
I saw so much evidence of beginning-of-the-school-year activities planned specifically to build a positive classroom community. Anti-bullying themes were apparent everywhere. One teacher photographed her students’ feet (shoes, socks and all) on the first day of school and placed these foot photos on their lockers. Each student then wrote a paragraph about what they would do this year to put their best foot forward.
Secondary students were gathered in a circle discussing ways we can make isolated peers feel included.
I had one-on-one interviews with all the student teachers and asked them why they wanted to teach and what they wanted to teach. More than one had tears in their eyes as they explained their passion for the profession. Their enthusiasm was uplifting. It made me feel optimistic all over again about this profession I love so much. One of my student teachers appears to be in his forties. He left the insurance industry to become a teacher because of the way he recognized that teachers can change the lives of young people.
About three weeks ago I had dinner with a couple of former students who are now in the teaching profession. One of them is in a district where her salary has been frozen for five years because the school tax levy was not passed by voters. In addition to her rent and car payment she pays $700.00 a month toward her college loan for her education. She had applied at surrounding school districts trying to increase her pay and relieve some of her financial stress. One of those districts called her for a job interview ten days before the beginning of this school year. She thought it would be unfair to leave her current school district and students so close to the beginning of the school year, so she didn’t go after the job. And yet in the media we only read about the seeming selfishness of teachers who strike for wages. Does the teacher I just described sound selfish to you? Will we read about her? Only here.
Yesterday I was surfing the internet reading stories about teaching. One article had a link to the Huffington Post. I had never been there before. What did I see? Dozens of negative articles about teachers. There was only ONE positive one. And that article was written by a celebrity, Tony Danza. Thank you Tony! But once again, it was driven home to me that only negative or celebrity-written articles about teaching seem worthy of publication.
I’d start a personal campaign to get every parent and teacher I know to write a positive story about teaching and flood the media with them; but I know they wouldn’t get printed. In the media there is a popular expression they use to determine what gets heard. “If it bleeds, it leads.” In other words bad stories, ugly stories attract viewers and readers.
All I can do is stage my own personal campaign on my blog site here or write a book about the positive side of teaching… which I have. If you are new to my site, scroll back through the past couple of months and check out many true and inspiring stories about teaching. Also read, TEACH…To Change Lives.
Available at Amazon.com
One Final Word About Our Schools
If the parents and grandparents of our country could have walked the halls of our schools with me this past ten days, they would have felt so good and been so impressed with the commitment the teachers show to your children. I heard it and saw it and felt it everywhere I went. Take a deep breath and feel good about our schools. This doesn’t seem to be popular right now, but it is the truth.
My grandson goes back to the eye specialist tomorrow. It will be his third visit this week. We know he has five fractures (one of them pretty serious) and a depth perception problem and we are watching it closely. As for the media…I have only one piece of advice.