Teaching is hard work. And unless you are a teacher (or married to/related to one) many people don’t realize the day-to-day challenges we face. This is why so many teachers wash out of the profession. I remember being told that if I make it to year five, I’ll be a lifer and I’ll be able to teach in my sleep. Well, I’m entering year six and I don’t think this year will be any easier than the past five.
Sure, I’ve become pretty good at classroom management and I can grade essays with more ease, but teaching is always challenging. And some of those challenges never go away – like lack of collaborative time. In many cases, there is no time built into teacher’s schedules to collaborate on a weekly basis. This lack of time can make teachers feel like they are teaching in a vacuum. In fact, a colleague once compared it to working in a mall. She explained that the teachers are the shop owners who pop in at the same time each morning, say our hellos, but interact only with our “customers”. Never the other storeowners around us.
This comparison has stuck with me, partly because it’s completely true, and mostly because it goes against everything I know to be true about good teaching.
For one, I know I am better when collaborating with others. Sharing ideas, building curriculum, true professional development. Bottom-up teamwork. Instead of the one-shot top down variety. I have successfully implemented dozens of great lessons because I have the support and collaboration of my peers (both in my school and outside). Yes, we’ve hard to carve out time to meet on our own (often int he summer), and yes, this is difficult for many, but perhaps this is where Teacher’s Podium can help.
Teacher’s Podium is a blog created my 4 teachers as a way to start challenging that mall-like climate too many high schools face. A way for teachers to talk about their teaching and hopefully break down some barriers. It started with four English teachers simply talking about their teaching and it’s morphed into a blog where we write about it. None of us on Podium claim to have all the answers. Or any answers. But we have all found that working together not only energizes our teaching, but enhances our classrooms as well. We are better together. We learn together and from each other and I know that with their continued support I am a better teacher.
On Podium we write, we peer edit and we hope to practice the skills we teach in our room. For me, blogging about my challenges as a teacher makes me reflect on what I’m doing in my classroom and that reflection makes me a better teacher. When I read blogs from other teachers and I see their challenges, it does two things for me: first, it scares me because I see that this craft never really gets “easy” (who really does this in their sleep??), and I also see that I am not alone in my challenges. Other people are struggling with getting kids to love reading, or to write a stronger conclusion. It’s not just me. This makes me feel part of a larger community, instead of locked in a mall all alone. And community is the heart of teaching.
We all strive to build community in our classrooms. It’s time that community spreads to the larger school as well.
Who wants another mall anyway?
I love TED talks.
I often find myself consumed by the wonders of TED. Technology. Entertainment. Design. In fact, before sitting down to write this blog, I logged onto TED and watched an hour’s worth of videos. TED truly is a teacher’s paradise. I mean, when you think about it – isn’t that what we do? We teach with technology, we entertain for engagement and we design our own lessons / units / projects. Teachers are, in a sense, artists.
Do we all see ourselves that way?
For the rest of this article, please check out Teacher’s Podium!