The reality of teaching is that being a teacher means so much more than just building a workforce. It is so much more than creating workers for businesses. Teachers already know all the facets involved in their jobs, and they teach anyway. In all my years serving as an elementary school teacher and as a principal, I have dealt with so many situations that were not in the career/college department. Here are just a few actual experiences:
Working with a young child in the classroom who was dealing with trauma from being shot in the foot.
Visiting a former student at home and in the hospital that was diagnosed with leukemia. Later attending his funeral; he was in middle school when he passed away.
Grieving with a young child whose mother passed away. The mom had been a weekly helper in our classroom, one of those mothers who helped wherever needed and valued education. She died suddenly and unexpectedly.
Listening to students tell me that a family member was in jail. They missed them and loved them. I remember one student drawing a picture with a jail cell and her father in it. She was so excited because he was to be released that day.
Comforting children as CPS would come to the school and investigate. Talking with CPS if they had to remove the child from the home, and asking that if at all possible that the child be allowed to remain at the school and not have to change schools. Through all the sadness of the situation we wanted to provide a sense of stability and consistency. CPS was always good at working with us.
Valuing the needs of students who had a parent in the military, and who were far from home.
There were tragedies such as a fire in the home, car accidents…
A student coming into school crying because she saw her dad taken away by police for beating up her mom.
Dealing with nasty custody battles - so many stories that could be shared. One story: Shortly after my family and I moved to a new state, I received a phone call from a parent from the previous state where I had taught asking me to testify in a custody situation. I did not want to be involved, but was then subpoenaed and was flown back to give a deposition.
A child reporting that another student had shown him naked pictures. I called the other child into my office – the pictures were of his mom who was a stripper.
Contacting CPS over reports of abuse.
Working with and advocating for students who were English Language Learners - hearing some of their stories.
Suicide of a family member.
Students dealing with drug use in the home.
Homelessness and making sure that kids were provided transportation to stay at the school.
These are just a few of the experiences that teachers and schools deal with on a daily basis. My experiences cover many years, different states, different cities, different schools…
So excuse me when it seems I don’t value business and creating a workforce that will meet their needs. I DO see this as ONE of the jobs of a teacher. Teachers are dealing with academic achievement, closing the achievement gap, safety, character, social-emotional well being… Career and college ready is one aspect of our job to prepare students for life. The reality of teaching is that we are doing so much more than just building a workforce for businesses. Sometimes I would go home and look at the reality of my day and feel so overwhelmed. But I would continue to go to school each and every day, hoping that my work would make a difference in the lives of children. The reality of teaching is that it is so much more than building a workforce. The reality of teaching is dealing with the whole child.