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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 17 2010

I am not a teacher, I am a superhero

So, my two year commitment comes to a close in May, and the job search has been underway since October.  Of course, as one can imagine, any of life’s great transitions, especially that of a career shift, requires a great deal of reflection and discernment.  I have come to realize a few things in my own period of discernment:  (1) once you’re a teacher, you’re almost impossibly ”stuck” being a teacher, and (2) I am not a teacher, I am a superhero.  Let’s further analyze how these pieces ”fit” shall we?

First,  there is a definite stigma towards any educational profession, which holds that once you’ve entered education, there is no way out.  Transitioning out of or into the teaching profession is treacherous and rare.  The only ways out of the classroom are to assume the role of an instructional coach, which doesn’t dismiss you from the classroom entirely, or to climb the narrow, singular ladder to an administrative role.  The odd and most predictable thing about this one-way educational ladder is that some people aren’t meant to teach forever, and they’re not meant to be a principal either, so, they inevitably haunt the classrooms and wander the halls of academia purposelessly clinging to their tenure for dear life.  This sad and gloomy portrait of a relatively decent portion of educators is a whole other discussion in and of itself.

Second, I am not a teacher, I am a superhero.  This absolute, irrefutable fact is regrettably a well-kept secret, an unsubstantiated myth, an urban legend.  And, the concealment of its accuracy is one of the greatest contributing factors to the stigma described above. 

What follows will undeniably shock all those not fortunate enough to have been initiated (by fire) into the superherohood of educators.  As a teacher I wear an innumerable amount of hats. 

  • I am a teacher.  I am responsible for providing comprehensive instruction of seven subjects to 51 students over the course of 180 days. 
  • I am an extreme planner.  I have highlighted, sorted, grouped, and manipulated intense lists of state educational standards with diligence to develop and create a unique and tailored curriculum. 
  • I am a goal setter.   I have set a summative goal for my students and I have planned all 180 days of the trajectory to achieve that goal, from the last day of school to the first, according to the laws of backwards design.  And, what’s more is that I have done this four times.  One for each of the four language arts subsects. 
  • I am an organizing macine.  I organize the resources to be distributed for nearly 14 lessons and 28 activities each week.  I then, similary organize the collection and confirmation of receipt of the previous day’s activities.  It does not end there.  I am not only organized as an independent professional, I must also be responsible for the academic organization of 51 students who have not yet mastered the fine art of organization.
  • I am an operational manager.  I manage the behavior, manners, and attitudes of my 51 students.  I dictate and implement dozens of time-saving procedures to ensure that learning time in my classroom is maximized.  I manage interactions, seating charts, and groupings of students strategically according to knowledge of demeanor, skill levels, and preferences.  I manage the fair disbursement of consequences and rewards to promote positive behviors and suppress negative ones.
  • I am a director of communication.  I meticulously communicate the key points of every lesson with the most concise language imaginable.  I provide my students with a clear picture of exactly what they must know and understand with simple, relatable examples, while veering away from verbose drivel destined to solidify confusion and frustration within their minds.  I anticipate misunderstandings in order to avoid them at all cost.  I break down directions into manageable, clairvoyant, and fool-proof steps.  I communicate with the parents and guardians of 51 students and document each interaction to avoid the catastrophic forces of hearsay.  I appropriately communicate a single message to 3 different audiences within a single hour.  For example, two students get into a fight.  I receive the message, usually in fragments, decipher the message, translate it to the students.  I then contact parents and transmit the message again (often in Spanish), this time catered to the parents.  I then, write the message on a referral form to be submitted into permanent records and hand-deliver the message to my administration.  Upon delivery, I verbally describe the situation yet again, only this time, to my supervisor. 
  • I am an innovative problem-solver.  I avoid most calamities with creativity and flexibility.  I manouver through obstacles such as inadequate curriculum, unexpectedly broken photocopiers, teacher absences, and unscheduled meetings.  I repair most of the damage afforded by my students and their parents as a result of administrative errors.
  • I am a clerical worker.  I track attendance twice a day for 51 students.  I track student progress and data in my gradebook and in an Excel spreadsheet.  I maintain parent contact information and communication logs.  I record and document all student behavior to be conveyed to parents at quarterly conferences.  I submit weekly lesson plans to my school.  I constantly complete stacks of various ELL forms for bilingual students.  I record the hours of special education services received by some of my students according to their IEP’s.  I record how many disruptions (i.e. phone calls, intercom calls, uninvited guests, etc.) inflicted upon my instructional time daily. 
  • I am a designer.  I design curriculum.  I design activities.  I design PowerPoint presentations.  I design templates, answer documents, and graphic organizers for student use.  I design discipline systems and student tracking graphs.  Most all of which I design is distributed to numerous teachers and implemented in countless classrooms.
  • I am a miscellaneous other.  I am a therapist.  I am a nurse.  I am a diagnostic physician.  I am a police officer.  I am a mentor.  I am a mentee.  I am a mandated reporter for child protective services.  I am a nutrionist.
  • I am crazy.  On top of my full-time superhero tecahing profession, I am a full-time graduate student, an americorps member, and a religious education catechist. 

(deep inhalation)

Now, to conclude.  I am superhero.  I would like to tackle the perilous mission of exiting the classroom someday.  Maybe soon.  My superhero skills are undenaibly transferrable to any other professional situation, but they’re unfortunately held captive by stigma.  So, to anyone who believes me to be young and inexperienced in various other professional fields, I say “I had no experience as a teacher, and I was thrown into a classroom in one of the nation’s most under-privileged, under-performing districts with only five weeks of training.  I out-performed many twenty-year veteran teachers.  I was put in an impossible situation and drew forth success.  I am a superhero.  I will do whatever it takes to get the job done, and I will do the job well.  Please consider hiring a superhero to join your team.” 

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    Just another Teach For America blog

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    Subject
    Elementary Education

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