What are we: teachers of students or content? Is there a difference? Can there be a happy medium there between the two?
Yesterday, across my twitter feed came just a brief exchange between two educators, and the focus of their few tweets was that districts are cutting science, social studies, art, music, etc, to focus more on literacy and math. The hashtag #sad was used in their discussion, and I’d agree 100%. As I look at my schedules from years past, my time for math has gone up from 50 minutes to 90 minutes on a daily basis, my time for science (as of last year’s schedule) went from 45 minutes every other day, to 45 minutes a week. *all gasp in horror* Now, before we gasp too much, I’m able to incorporate parts of that missing science time into SOME of my literacy block. The problem with that, we use a series that we’ve been asked to stick fairly close to, and rightfully so as the district investment should be used wisely, thus that incorporation has to be found elsewhere too.
However, as that general comment of people vs. content comes back to me, so do the first questions that I asked. Many reformists would say we are our student scores, a product of their learning from our teaching and that those scores drive us. Others would say we are those scores and the other evidence of our teaching: notes, lesson plans, observations, and other things.
I would say it’s so much more than that. Much of my teaching happens not because of the content, but because of the relationships built. If my students don’t trust me, know I care, and understand me a little bit, I can teach like crazy and for most ,it won’t make a darn bit of difference. For me, I have to have those relationships, that time to allow my students to know me, and for me to know them. And no, I don’t mean about the always popular survey, but just talking to them, listening to them, playing with them. Of course, there are test scores to look at, previous year’s teachers to talk with to complete the picture, but those students have to know I have their best interests at heart. Along with that, I’ve looked, studied, read and reread many core materials, gaining some sense of the “what” it is that I’ll be doing. A teacher cannot simply be about those relationships, but the content does play a part in what we do. The students can love me, but I’m doing them a disservice if there’s not a plan, a guide of some sort about what we’ll be doing. Balance is key as it is with so many things in life. We talk about that constantly in class, how to balance school and family, sports and academics, healthy food choices and unhealthy ones (I love Pop-Tarts and routinely get heckled because of it!).
So, ask yourself as you walk into your classroom, what are you? If you don’t like the answer, this isn’t a scan-tron, you have the ability to make the changes to be the teacher YOU want to be! I know as I walk in, there will be a healthy balance between the content taught and the students I’m working with and all of us will be better off for it.