I Quit My Job Today

Excellent post on leaving teaching from Suzie81, a music educator for nearly 10 years. What if more teachers stopped doing everything expected of them?

Suzie Speaks

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Throughout my life I have done everything that I felt was expected of me. I worked hard in school, achieved good grades in my GCSE’s and A Levels, went to a respected music conservatoire and then was lucky enough to find myself in a full-time job as a Learning Mentor almost immediately after graduating. Within a year, I was offered an opportunity to train as a teacher, and I’ve worked as a qualified music teacher for nearly ten years. I’ve always played it safe, followed the expected path, and never taken any risks. I can say that I’m happy to an extent, but not as much as I know I could be.

At the beginning of 2015 I made one promise to myself: if things were going to change, it had to be now – I was going to take the risk.

For some, teaching is a vocation. It isn’t…

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15 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself on the First Days of School

Whether you’ve been back for a few weeks, or just a day or two — you did it!

You made it out of bed at an ungodly hour, rocked a fresh first-day outfit, and presented your Teacher Self to a new crop of kids.

You’re taking attendance, writing those first parent e-mails, planning lessons, doing lunch duty, attending meetings, assigning first homeworks, and collecting first homeworks.

Maybe you’re teaching a brand-new course this year, or taking on a new responsibility as coach or advisor, too.

Through all of this, you’re delivering instruction to multiple groups of differently abled, very distractible kids.

So, please remember — it’s OK if…

1. You don’t know most of your students’ names yet.

2. It takes you a full five minutes to remember old students’ names when they say hello in the hallway.

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It’ll come to me…

3. Your desk is already a mess of papers.

This week's grading

100% authentic piles of grading

4. You didn’t have time to make that perfect bulletin board / seating chart / welcome letter like you’d planned to do.

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I’ve never made a bulletin board this pretty. Ever.

5. You already had to change a lesson because the copier was jammed or occupied.

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Sad sight for sore eyes

6. You already had to change a lesson because the computer / projector / DVD player / TV / internet didn’t work.

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“Hey, who here is good at TV stuff?”

7. You forgot to turn off your phone during class.

8. You forgot to go to the bathroom, even when you had a minute.

Imagine going to the bathroom when you need to...

Should’ve gone during prep!

9.  Your perfect “first days” lesson was not the raging success you’d envisioned.

10. You haven’t had time to catch up properly with your colleagues because of all the work that needs to be done.

11. You’re already grading or playing on your phone during the first full faculty meeting. (Do as I say, not as I do…)

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Official story: teachers don’t have friends or use Facebook.

12. Your second-day outfit was not as polished as your first-day outfit. (Soon, you’ll be proud to have made it to school with matching socks!)

13.  You didn’t have time to make lunch and/or dinner.

School Food - Chicken Nuggets

School lunch it is…

14. You didn’t have time to make that doctor’s appointment.

15. You’re already falling asleep on the couch when you get home!

It's OK to be dog-tired!

It’s OK to be dog-tired!

Remember, teachers do heroic things, but you’re still human!

Rinse and repeat if you’re a first-year teacher.

Also: what would you add to this list?

Meet a Real Teacher: Karen Trindle

I’m pleased to introduce Karen, a music teacher in Newark, NJ. When she’s not spelunking in her school’s basement for instruments or orchestrating student productions, she’s playing the harp and hosting Edith Wharton book club meetings.

Type of School: public K-8 school; 100% of students are eligible for free lunch

Years taught: 3

Number of students this year: 550 (and she knows all their names!)

 

Last week, you staged a production of “The Wizard of Oz” with your kids. How did it go?

I thought it was a complete success — the kids really performed well and had a sense of pride about their work. This year, we had an evening performance just for parents and family members, and the audience that night was packed. My favorite moment was when the boy playing the Scarecrow spotted his family right before “If I Only Had a Brain.” You could tell how excited he was to sing and perform for them.

There’d never been a play before at my school. Adapting two hours of material into 45 minutes turned out to be the easy part. What I hadn’t anticipated were things like the treachery of the Munchkin sequence, and needing to remind the kids not to turn their backs to the audience over and over again. It was totally worth it, though, and I would do it again. I’m thinking of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella next.

What’s it like to teach in Newark, a city that is such a poster-child for failing schools that Mark Zuckerberg has pledged millions of dollars to rescue it? And, how do you feel about being “another” white teacher in a predominantly black school district? Did you have to fight resentment or suspicion from your students?

Some of the stereotypes about teaching in Newark are true, and some I haven’t experienced. The poverty is very real. Coming from an upper-middle class background myself, it was very different and surprising to see children who don’t get the same access to their parents and level of support from them that I had from mine. I grew up in an area where children were indulged. The children I teach worry about things I never worried about. Many students eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the school.

On the other hand, I have seen a lot of kids who represent themselves as hard and street-smart, demonstrate tremendous potential. I think the idea that teenagers in this kind of setting grow up faster, and aren’t children, is untrue. If you give them instruments and scripts, they very much want to play. They like to use their imaginations and want to have fun.

A lot of people thought I would quit after the first year. People could tell it was a different environment than I was used to, including large class sizes and very difficult classroom management situations.  When I came back the next year, I noticed a lot more openness from my co-workers and students. Because my students know I care about them, that has changed how they respond to me.

As far as donations, they could make a difference if the money were used to address the needs of the community as a whole — I wish it could be used to help parents with resources to take care of their kids. You can get every kid a laptop, but if their parents aren’t home, then the money won’t have much impact.

Why did you become a teacher?

I always loved being a student — particularly the beginning of the year, and the excitement of new notebooks. In college, I was a music major, but by the time I finished my senior year, I realized I didn’t want to be a performer as my sole source of income. I also liked the idea of serving a community.

I was torn between music and history as well — those were always my favorite classes. In the end, I could picture myself as a music teacher, working with kids with instruments.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

I really like it when the students get excited about something I’ve taught them, and I love hearing about them pursuing it outside of class; that makes me feel like they’re really listening to me and it really matters. I’ve gotten a lot of kids interested in independent instrumental study, including one 8th-grade student doing very poorly who got a lot of negative attention from teachers, including myself. I taught her how to play the chords to “Someone Like You” by Adele on the piano and lent her a keyboard. She came back from winter break really excited; tried out for school play, and got a lead role. She also applied and got accepted into Arts High, a very competitive school. In total, seven of my students were accepted there this year.

What’s the biggest misconception about what you do?

That it’s always a fun party, and that I’m always sitting cross-legged with a guitar in a circle. I do do that, but there’s a lot more to it. Something I despise is when someone asks me  what I do and when I tell them, they say, “That is so cute.” There are cute aspects of the job, but I would not call it “cute.” I think elementary school teachers, especially, experience this misunderstanding. Teaching kids can be a war zone.

What teacher made the most impact on you and why? What would you tell him/her now?

I’ve had so many great teachers, but the one who influenced me most is Mr. Morris, my 5th- through 12th-grade orchestra teacher. During my first violin lesson he said, “You’re a natural at this.” I remember going home and showing my mom the one string I knew how to play and thinking I was the coolest. . I always felt really comfortable and confident playing in front of him, and am happy he was my teacher for so many years. Now, I tell kids they’re naturals at playing. I would tell Mr. Morris, thank you for getting me so excited about becoming a musician.

What advice do you have for aspiring or beginning teachers?

Teaching can be the best, but in a way you won’t expect. It’s not financially rewarding, but it can be very wonderful.