Friday, February 26, 2010

What I want to do when I grow up.........

When you think about the teachers who made a difference in your life, whose manner, messages and presence continues to influence the learning spark inside you,  don't you wonder how they managed to do it?  To be "on" day in and day out in front of a group of people is almost impossible to fathom, and that's what it takes to be the kind of facilitator who inspires students. Their enthusiasm for the subject matter as well as their desire to spark the fire in the hearts and minds of their brood of students must waver from time to time, but somehow they keep it tucked inside while shining on.  Sadly, our educational system is littered with more ho-hums and burn outs than passion.

Every time I step into the classroom to teach, my respect and appreciation for the passionate instructors re-ignites.  It gives me that unique opportunity to stand in their shoes and to recognize just how difficult it would be to engage like that for an extended period of time.  They deserve far more that what we pay them, and earn every single summer day off.

The type of facilitating I'm involved in however is different because it has a short beginning and end, which allows for me to burst with energy rather than find an ebb and flow pace one would need to survive for an extended period of time. In order to be in a classroom every single day, you'd have to find a completely different balance or you would burn out so quickly.  It's been 20 years since I pulled off full time teaching.  I loved it then.  Thrived even.  At that point in my life I was in a much different place in my life...... no children, MUCH younger, less responsibility outside of the classroom.  I wonder if I could pull it off now.  I wonder if I'd like to.  

This is where I am in my thinking tonight as I sit here reflecting on just how exhausted I was at the end of the workday.  For the past two days I taught a program called "Non Violent Crisis Intervention."  It's a "canned" program designed to be delivered exactly how its laid out in a manual.  With the trademark terms and the specific techniques leading the learning, its the kind of training I find the most demanding, because it leaves very little wiggle room to facilitate with the kind of freedom I prefer.  

Usually after I wrap up a workshop I'm pumped. Tired, but pumped.  Instead, I came home tonight completely void of any energy.  I felt used up and wordless..... not a good thing when you have loved ones in your life who deserve more than a person whose only focus is on finding a good comfortable spot on the couch to crash into lalala land.  Ok, I fed them first.  But, I did it in silence.  Then, I crashed.......slept through the early evening time when I should be focus on my family.  

Granted, I'm just getting over a cold and I have so many other thoughts pulsating inside my head vying for my focused attention.  I was also teaching a topic I wasn't too keen on or felt completely competent with the subject matter. Still,  I wonder if I would be up for the challenge of taking on a classroom of learners full time.   It's difficult to say.  As much as I love teaching, the other component one has to consider is how taxing it is on one's freedom. Though the counselling I am involved in on most days is intensely draining and there is little down time, I have control over my schedule. Leading a group of students through a full program is very structured time wise.  Would I be able to surrender those reins at this point in my life?  Would I want to? 

I think I would like my cake and eat it too.  Half time counselling, half time in the classroom.  The way I see it, this combination would be the ideal fit for me.  I could see how it would balance as well as challenge my skills.  OH,  who am I kidding.  If I had my choice?  I'd be rich enough not to have to work full time in any form of structured environment.  I would write, travel, teach when I wanted to, counsel when I wanted to.  And if I wanted to walk endlessly beside the calm tide of a warm body of water, I'd do that too................. Friends and family?  Please join me. :)   The first round of umbrella drinks is on me.


Susan Deborah said...

Glad to know that you are a teacher, counselor and many other things. I taught for two years and now with my doctoral programme after which I plan to continue teaching. Those two years were a ball. I miss teaching and find researching a bit drab when I think back to those two years.

You post is also a fitting tribute to teachers.

I like the way you write. You start off somewhere and in the process add several layers of thoughts and positions.

I shall be glad to join you to walk endlessly beside the calm tide of a warm body of water.

Joy always,

Jen said...

I'll have a margarita, please.

I admire spit fire teachers.

I was thinking about my favorites just today...those that pulled me up when I was down, saw that I was struggling, and knew that I had gifts that nobody else saw (even me).

I am forever grateful for those men and women. I thank God for them.

Oh, but I'm sure they were drained after long days of dealing with kids like me who could go one way or another. How could they not care? A loving teacher cares, even when she's tired.

I guess that's what Spring Break is for!

Is it time for a second round yet?


Brother David said...

Very similar story this side of the pond. Spent last Wednesday with a bunch of teachers at a conference on "Extended Schools". Nice to see some passionate people in our education system who really care.

Managed that walk on Tuesday; it was wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Our city is lucky to have someone like you Dana.
I admire you.
I'll take that walk anytime beside the calming waters


LL Cool Joe said...

I trained and qualified as a teacher, but I didn't enjoy it. I admire anyone that can stand in front of a group of disinterested kids day after day and keep their enthusiasm and try inspire them to learn and grow.

Canuckguy said...

"If I had my choice?" - Dana
If I had my druthers, I would win the lotto.

Anyway, I went through the school system as a baby boomer (1956-1967) and what I recall was how orderly and well behaved we were. Like drugged sheep. The very few troublemakers(the rebels I guess) were swiftly dealt with. In the younger grades, I was aware of the principal, an all powerful fearsome entity man who had the dreaded strap which I manage to avoid through good behaviour. I realized later that I had a sense of fear and that kept me and the others in line.

In my last year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be but I considered the teaching profession, wow, summers off, that was the main incentive for me. However after a few stints of tutoring the less adept, I realized that would be a big mistake as I had no patience. Thus I became an engineer. Much more suitable for my temperment and I noticed that though impatience is still a trait of mine, it's much less obvious.

Anyway, I think a teacher who say left the profession 30 years ago, would be shocked at the classroom scene these days. From what I heard, it can be very unruly and frustrating.

I guess my point is, Dana, maybe the grass is greener where you are right now.

Kay said...

when do we leave?

on a more serious note, I thought I wanted to teach ever since I was a small girl, but as time went on and college choices needed to be made, I realized, to make an effect, to teach, does one actually have to be in a controlled classroom set up? no. We learn and teach every day, if by nothing more than example, we make a difference in our choices.

Is it the same as classroom and university teachers, absolutley not. But, I believe we all make a difference.

Sherry said...

Teaching is a gift, a passion and a learning and to giving. Not every teacher can be "on" every single day -- sometimes they have a slow period, just like the rest of us. But the good ones, the dedicated ones have a way of igniting the spark no matter their own mood. Sadly, as I watch my youngest coming to the end of his high school life I have seen too many who are finished, done, fed up, spent, wrung out and realize that the students are suffering in more ways than just what they are being taught. Very few at this level still maintain that spark that ignites.

Sherry said...

I forgot to add that I come from a family of teachers and my first born is planning to be a teacher when he's finished University. So the hope lives that a new generation of teachers is on the rise that will hopefully keep the flame going.

awareness said...

Susan, it was on of those reflective pieces I tried to let write on its own... starting at one point with one though and letting go of the lead. I had no idea where I was headed. Thank you for your feedback.

Jen....they surely earn a March break! :) I was thinking about the teachers I've had in the past who would rise up above the fatigue factor and still care. They are out there, and surely make a life lasting impact don't they?

David....I'm glad you had that walk. There is nothing more energizing than to be in the middle of people who continue to love teaching, because they also continue to love learning. It rubs off doesn't it?

Mavis.... you are a doll. :) thank you. Our local calm waters aren't too inviting to walk along these days.... we'd have to wear our flashy rubber boots would we?? :)

awareness said...

Joey.... For a long time I thought I wanted to teach young ones. And for many years, my dream was to run a children's summer camp. I don't know how I would've fared as a teacher in the younger grades. But, the economy and job opportunities weren't there for teaching, so I dropped that pursuit. The camp thing turned into something that wasn't feasible. Whenever I spent time in my children's school, I always felt completely at ease and refreshed. I could picture myself both teaching and leading the teachers as the principal.
Most of my teaching career has been with adults and I have loved that part of my career. It is such a RUSH to be in an adult learning environment. Still, I wonder if I really would like to do it full time again, day in and out. I do like my freedom. :)

awareness said...

Canuckguy. I think any good teacher left in the high school system should be presented with the GG award for bravery. I can't imagine working in that bureaucracy nor with so many who have been fed a feast of entitlement.

I much prefer the college or university level, working under the guidance of adult learning. Whether I want to do it full time (which is a distinct possibility in a couple of years because of staff retirement) I doubt I want that.

Ideally......lottery, yes. Then, a BIG old farmhouse on PEI with a view to die for and a massive kitchen with a wonderful harvest table ..... Turn it into a B&B, run workshops in the winter, invite book clubs and groups to use the facilities.....

I think I have a bit of Avonlea in my blood.

awareness said...

Kay, I think you may have the same high freedom need as me. :) There is so much to the structured environment you have no control over and its getting worse. Policies, rules, regulations that are usurped by the so called rights of every individual. It gets skanky when all you want to do is teach. Too many things bind you down.... and you're forced to let go of your own creativity. It truly comes down to who is leading the way.... the Principal and admin staff are KEY to providing a learning environment that is free flowing and enthusiastic as well as supportive of people sharing their true gifts. This is the crapshoot part.

I completely agree with you.... and know enough of myself to see the type of environment where I would thrive. I love teaching....LOVE it. But, if I was to really and truly consider it full time, I would have to do so as a self employed consultant facilitating in the manner I am most comforting, on topics I have passion for.

awareness said... truly is a gift. I have been in a teaching mode since I was 15.... albeit not in the school system. Rather, as a counsellor, instructor, consultant etc. I've taught everything from how to paddle a canoe to lately a uni course on crisis counselling. It is a passion. It energizes and stretches in the most challenging ways.
I totally understand your points here.... there is an ebb and flow that must happen in this field.... and time outside of any classroom to recharge, rewind, reflect.... but mostly "refind" oneself or the spark goes out.

It's so hard to balance every thing in life isn't it?

On a limb with Claudia said...

Ooh what a great idea! I love the idea of 1/2 time counselor, 1/2 time teacher! I really love that you continue to strive for your ideal life - tweak this, move that around - it's impressive.