Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Just an Elementary Teacher...

A friend of mine recently attended an informational meeting about enrolling her son in dual credit classes. During the course of the presentation, the college representative said something along the lines of, 

What we don't want is for some of these really bright
STEM kids to end up just as elementary school teachers.


Quite the slap in the face of the audience members who were, in fact, elementary school teachers. I could tell that even recounting the story to me left my educator friend feeling a little dazed and confused, even though she was trying to laugh it off. As someone who has devoted my entire adult life to elementary school children, and more recently to elementary school teachers, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. 

I have been a teacher since I was 21 years old, and have always been enamored with the work, even though it hasn't exactly been monetarily advantageous for my family. I have written on this blog countless times about the juxtaposition of love and hate, strength and weakness, the hilarity and despair that this work often exposes. I love the technicality of the work we get to do each day. I'm fascinated with miscue analysis, constructivist learning theory, and how technology can be leveraged to connect students with a broader audience for their complex voices. What I do not love is how the system continually puts elementary teachers in a box, speaks about us as though we are less-than, and perpetuates the myth that since we can't, that we teach.

Possibly even more problematic about the entire exchange for me is that my son is a "really bright STEM kid," who wants to be a teacher. My 14 year-old was in a STEM program for 4th and 5th grade and has continued to pursue classes that will help him achieve a STEM endorsement from his future high school. He is fascinated with science and math, with engineering and process, and all he wants to be when he grows up is a teacher. 

As a, "teacher kid," he has grown up with a lens for education that often leaves him questioning some of his school experiences. He has a great BS detector when it comes to assignments and activities. While I have always required he stay respectful, I have encouraged him to question, wonder, and maintain an open dialogue about education and how it may constantly be improved. His STEM background and his desire for an engaged learning environment are the very things that would make him a wonderful teacher, and it's definitely not something I would ever discourage.

Dr. Latoya Dixon, in her new book, Burned Out, Beaten Up, Fighting Back, says, "It’s time to give the profession the respect it deserves and reshape the narrative on public education." I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Dixon for the #StoriesinEdu podcast that I co-host with Josh Gauthier. It was a fascinating discussion, and this recent exchange highlighted that we still have so very far to go in earning the respect (even within our own profession) of our society.

Several years ago, I watched this video from Taylor Mali entitled, "What Do Teachers Make?" What I know for sure is that even though what I make does not equate with what I do, that the difference elementary teachers (and all teachers) make in the lives of our students can never be measured, and that is worth more to me than you will ever know.