Saturday, March 09, 2013

Why Do I Love Teaching? It's Seeing My Students Succeed.

My son asked me why I still teach since he hears and reads my complaints about the injustice and incompetence of the DOE and the politicians (Bloomberg, Cuomo, Obama, etc) who rather scapegoat teachers as the cause of all of what's wrong with the school system than the poverty, lack of funding, and unproven mandates that are the main causes of much of the academic shortcomings.  I though about it for a minute and told him it was the satisfaction of watching my students improve academically and mature as young adults.  All the useless nonsense that the DOE imposes on us pales in comparison when one of my students tell me how much I have made a difference in his or her life.  No matter what Mayor Bloomberg says about experienced teachers or what Chancellor Dennis Walcott would like to fire me, if he only had the power, the bottom line is what do the students think of me as a teacher and are they learning? To me that is the reason I teach.

I must admit I have been fortunate this year as I have landed a long-term leave position in my subject area in a highly rated school with a supportive Administration and a well-run department.  However, more importantly the students are eager to learn and try their best in mastering the skills necessary to pass the year-end Regents exam.  I have three ESL classes and two classes with English speaking students and enjoy teaching them all.  With some support, and encouragement from the school I have settled into a routine with my ESL classes and have successfully integrated my teaching style to fit their limited English vocabulary.  The result is that my ESL classes are rapidly improving and I have even used this approach with my English speaking class and it has helped some of my struggling students who have weak vocabulary skills.  However, what I enjoy most is the exchange of ideas with my students and I am especially proud of my ESL students who are now asking questions, a real breakthrough from the beginning of the year.  I feel like a proud father watching them grow academically and becoming more confident in their ability to master the English language.

As much as I like the Principal or the Assistant Principal telling me I am doing a good job and I do appreciate their feedback, it is what the students think of me that counts the most.  To me, what makes teaching so enjoyable is when a student tells me that I am a good teacher and that they are learning in a subject they never liked before, that is what is important.  When a student goes out of their way to complement you it just makes my day and helps me refocus on what are the most important things in life and that is to see the students becoming successful and that I had something to do with it.

The Education Reformers claim they want "excellent teachers" in the classroom and so do I.  However, these so-called Education Reformers have no clue what goes on in a classroom and what makes an "excellent teacher"?  The intangibles that make an "excellent teacher" are many and test scores are only a small percentage of that equation.  If you ask the students what their idea of an excellent teacher is somebody who manages his or her classroom effectively, has passion for the topic, motivates, is caring, has a deep knowledge of curriculum, is nurturing, can be entertaining, and most of all helps them to achieve academic success as they move on in life.  

Why do I teach?  It's because of the students.


I noticed that... said...

Your comment about students is one of your best ever!

Those students are fortunate to have you as their teacher.

Thank you, today you picked up my spirit.

Anonymous said...

Chaz, We teach at neighboring high schools - I'll let you guess which of the two it is. Your post is right on. To me, the greatest gift this career offers is the closing of the doors where it is you and your students. Be well.

Anonymous said...

A great heartfelt article and so very true. It's too bad the media and the politicians don't understand this.

Assailed Teacher said...

This is an excellent piece, Chaz. First, I am glad you have found a permanent position. Second, you are correct about genuine compliments from students being the greatest reward of all. Who cares what a student did on an exam? How many students learned to love a subject they otherwise hated because of you? This is the thing (certainly not the only thing) that deformers and their fellow travelers don't get. You can never, not ever, measure the true impact of a teacher. It cannot be boiled down to numbers. Unfortunately, the ignorant herd hear this and think it is an "excuse" we use to avoid "accountability". For people hung up on no excuses, they certainly have not provided any for why they are so dumb. Nice job.