Walking A Mile In A Teacher’s Shoes
December 4, 2012
They stay up late grading papers, they take endless criticism from politicians and the public, they, day in and day out, strive to inspire young people. So who are these people who are willing to sacrifice so much? They are our teachers of course. What is it like though, to be one of them? To try to answer this, I interviewed a number of our teachers here at Obama Academy, to see what it means to be a teacher today.
The three teachers that I interviewed for this article, Mr. Roa, Ms. Wilson, and Mr. Kocur, have each been teaching for at least ten years. Because of this, I wanted to know if teaching had changed significantly in their careers. Mr. Kocur said that he noted a definite downward spiral in kids’ attitudes over his years of teaching, but that at Obama the students are better than at other schools, where he witnessed behavior so horrific he refused to describe it. On the other hand Mrs. Wilson taught at such a wide variety of schools it’s hard for her to make a general statement. However she did feel as though students seemed slightly less independent in their education than they could be. For Mr. Roa, he mainly noticed a difference not over time, but over the different schools he taught at, adding that Obama has some of the best students that he has ever taught.
Teachers don’t just have to deal with changes in their students though; they also have to deal with changes in administration and evaluation methods. For some teachers, such as Mr. Roa, they welcome the opportunity to have their teaching observed and receive constructive criticism. On the other hand, teachers like Mr. Kocur feel that these observations “Can’t access what a teacher does for a kid,” saying that the benefits of education reach far beyond the classroom.
Standardized testing is becoming very prevalent in the world of education, and also very much disliked by teachers. This is obvious based on comments such as those of Mrs. Wilson who describes the idea of “having one test to measure everyone” as “ludicrous.” or Mr. Kocur, who says that, “I don’t think standardized testing begins to tell the story of a student’s achievement.” We use these tests from high school up through college, so such scathing criticism from the very people who are forced to administer the tests reflects badly on standardized testing’s usefulness and validity as a cornerstone of our education system.
One of the most demoralizing things in the life of a teacher is the constant criticism from politicians and media as the source of our failing students. When questioned about their opinion on this, the teachers replied that education is a multifaceted problem, and teachers who only see students for 40 minutes a day are a miniscule part of that. There are of course bad teachers, but the majority of them try hard to make a positive difference in kids’ lives. According to the teachers Mr. Roa and Mr. Kocur, successful students are made that way by their family and their community, so failing students are made in the exact same way.
With all that they have to deal with, why do these people continue to teach? Mrs. Wilson says it is because it is a great thing to feel like you have influenced even just one student. Mr. Kocur says he started doing it because “I honestly thought I could make a difference in kids’ lives,” and he still feels that way despite everything. Mr. Roa says that “You do it because you love it and you think you can make a change.”