Fifteen teachers, all at the top of their craft, all leaders in the district and their schools, cast their eyes down at the Department Chair meeting this week. They wrote notes and nodded lightly as the Content Area Coordinator outlined our lack of funds and increased standards in our departments. Once in a while, from my seat in the back, I noticed a teacher look to the left or right, no doubt wondering if we were all feeling as defeated.
If I took a barometer reading of the room, it would no doubt register “change.” But the change wasn’t exciting; it was debilitating. Even though we aren’t used to getting more funds, it’s disheartening to work so hard for so little. Even though we know about the new standards, there is no money for professional development and very little time in our large classes to immerse in studying strategies to meet them.
I’m known as a bit of a rebel out west, so maybe I have it all wrong, but I couldn’t help being frustrated at our meeting’s mood. Why do teachers expect a pay raise, enough training, and small classes? Since the beginning of our careers, these issues have incited riot, strike and career change, yet the same issues have cycled through every generation. If we love teaching, why do we not face change with the resources we DO have?
Here’s what I have:
- I have a curiosity that killed a schoolhouse of cats. I’m constantly looking for a new way, a better way. I don’t need additional funds to be creative.
- I have a sense of humor that suits the most sarcastic middle school student. I didn’t have to pay for it. Some wish I would.
- I have at least one teacher colleague who shares my dreams, my frustrations, and who is always willing to share, vent, or unpack the new standards.
- I have students who walk in every day, aching to be blessed with information, a new perspective, and a smile.
- I have a coffee pot and chocolate in my room.
If I gave a “state of the classroom” address it would sound a little like this:
Things aren’t much different; find a different way.
Take what you can from the stores of goodness that are deeper than the paycheck, the class size, the technology. Sit in your teaching space and look around. Breathe it in, then close your eyes. It’s likely you have a lot.