There’s a lot of talk about the teacher shortage. Apparently, it’s not a problem exclusive to Oklahoma. I hear administrator friends lament, particularly this time of year, of the folders completely empty of candidates for various positions. The conversation about why this is happening typically goes back to any form of the same two points: money and respect. With the focus on battling vouchers, expansion of private charters, high-stakes testing, inequitable evaluation systems (for teachers and schools), merit pay and so many other reforms that seek to tear down public education, you can see how anybody might be deterred from entering our glorious profession. I don’t blame them. The rhetoric implies that it’s a tough time to work in public education.
Well, I’m not going to deny that those issues exist, and that the frustration that ensues isn’t present.
However, I want to spend a little time focusing on some other truths about our profession. Even given everything mentioned above, and any other frustrations that occur, there’s nothing else I’d want to be doing with my career.
I’ll start with this:
It’s never boring.
I remember working one summer as a “technical writing intern” for a certain company in OKC. The handful of people I interacted with on a day-to-day basis were pleasant enough. The money was great…at least for a nineteen-year-old kid. But after six weeks I quit. Six excruciating weeks. I was so bored. Partly because there wasn’t enough to do and I would spend several hours a day staring at the walls of my little cubicle. But also partly because there wasn’t enough to do that was different.
I’m not knocking people who prefer those kinds of jobs. There are individuals who prefer that kind of routine. Maybe they like knowing exactly what’s expected. Maybe they find comfort and fulfillment in completing the same tasks, keeping the same hours, and interacting with the same people. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m so glad those people exist.
But I need a little variety. For me, teaching is never boring. There are new students every year, and sometimes in between. New activities everyday. New ideas to implement. New curriculum to try. New problems to face. New goals to set. New relationships to form. I am, for the most part, the architect of my day. There may be general educational goals set out for me in the form of standards or a school vision, but it’s up to me to determine the tools and experiences for accomplishing those ends. If I’m bored with a particular lesson or skill, I guarantee you there’s another way to teach it that will make it new and fresh again. Tired of the monotony and predictability of your daily schedule? No worries. There’s an assembly, a field trip, or a fire drill just around the corner to keep you on your toes.
Teaching is a total trip, guys. It’s a highs-and-lows, fast-and-slow, turn-you-around, upside-down, make-you-scream, make-you-laugh, topsy-turvy, loopty-loo rollercoaster. The thrill-seekers in all of us can definitely find their happy place in this profession. So get on board, folks. Throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride!