Tune out the Negativity: Teaching is Still a Great Profession
By about mid-July, after the hectic final days of the school year, I finally have a chance to decompress enough to sit back and think about why I believe that I work in the world’s greatest profession.
And, seriously, that’s not hyperbole. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I still believe, regardless of all the negativity about our profession, that I have the best job in the world. What’s interesting is that when I tell people I’m a school administrator, most non-school people roll their eyes and say something to the effect of, “Well, how do you deal with the (insert parents/teachers/students)?” And I always point out that the people that I work with every day are decent, kind and hardworking people; they just have difficult days from time to time.
And when I really think about it, I keep returning to the reasons teaching is still a great profession. For instance:
The view from 30,000 feet is excellent
If you want to feel good about the state of the world today, take a good look at American schools. Sure, there will always be areas that need improvement, but bear these points in mind:
- Our schools enjoy the highest high school graduation rates in history.
- Students who were traditionally marginalized in our schools are enjoying higher levels of inclusion.
- We’re having a national (though occasionally cantankerous) conversation about how to make our schools better.
Whenever we examine something very closely, it’s human nature to dwell on the wrinkles and blemishes, but if we step back and observe our national efforts, it’s easy to see a lot to be proud of.
We have a clear roadmap
For the first time in the history of our schools, teachers across the nation have access to a common set of curriculum standards. The Common Core State Standards lay out in precise detail the various benchmarks we want our students to reach and the age we want that to happen.
Yes, there is a strong debate around the quality of the standards and whether they are consistently developmental appropriate for our students, but we could not have created a document that would have pleased everyone. Now we have the chance to offer all of our students, regardless of school setting or geographic location, the opportunity to meet and exceed the same standards in almost every state.
Our colleagues are close by
I’ve written previously about the classroom isolation that I experienced as a novice teacher over 20 years ago. My world consisted of a textbook, a seating chart and a class list. With the huge growth of our information economy through the Internet and rapid cultural changes in schools, rare is the teacher who has to go it alone today.
Instead, all teachers can find colleagues either in their building or across the world who can collaborate with them and advise them on improving their professional practice. I would have loved the resources and support today’s teachers enjoy.
Teachers are growing in dedication and skill
For a long time (including when I began my career), the bar to enter the teaching profession was relatively low. Over the ensuring years, states have made college grades, standardized tests and residency programs more rigorous, and it’s never been this difficult to earn your teaching license.
Tightening the gateway into our profession has enabled young teachers to feel confident that not only have they earned their role as a teacher, but also that their colleagues have done the same. Being part of a well-prepared and dedicated team is an incredible source of inspiration and enthusiasm for anyone.
The sacred trust still matters
There is no more serious or sacred task than to be entrusted with the care of society’s young. Yes, our profession far too often looks like a factory or assembly line to many people, but at its very core we have a tremendous responsibility to the most vulnerable and needy members of our communities. Knowing that such faith has been placed in your performance should serve as inspiration that builds your dedication. I encourage you to keep these things in mind when the “toxic talk” pops up within earshot.