A few of my good friends still teach. I am in awe of the stories they share about the trials and tribulations of their work; as well as the joys of their connections both academically and socially with their students. Unfortunately, though it is the tales that describe how little they actually get to make those connections these days that are keeping me out of the classroom. Perhaps I am a coward and would prefer to live off the memories of the life changing experiences I had teaching in the (real) ACE program in NYC too many years ago, when a supportive administration and the opportunity to be creative with my lessons in order to find the best ways to reach a classroom of varied students was not only permitted, but encouraged. I know that the government must only want what is best for our children, but I wonder desperately how their input of late is going to affect the future of our country as a whole. Ultimately, might I remind everyone, our children and their education are our future? Teachers cannot teach effectively with their hands tied or without love in their hearts. With each negative account I hear, the smaller these teachers’ hearts get; and I grow afraid for our future. Yet, I go into colleges and talk with prospective teachers about how teaching is the most noble job in the universe. “Never be afraid to convey your love for your students, because it will undoubtedly show up in your lessons and your students’ success,” I preach.
Yet, I wonder each time I hear another story from my teacher friends, how long those young teachers will maintain their enthusiasm. I am concerned that our seasoned teachers are longing to leave their profession – and not because of the kids, but rather the stringent new regulations that make teaching robotic, rather than responsive and heartfelt. I won’t stop encouraging new teachers to teach with their heart, nor will I stop hoping that my friends and others like them will hang in there a little longer; but mostly I pray that someone will see the light before we have driven the good that is left in our education system out. We should all open our minds to new methods, and stop stomping on those that already work. I realize I am not offering any solutions here; just a whole lot of hope and prayer. Care to join me or better yet, come up with an answer?