The Idea of falling back on teaching

I’d like to specifically address my friend John Holland, who, as many of you found out, went back to teaching. When I first learned of the event, I almost pulled a Rod Tidwell over the phone, I was so excited for him. I knew how passionate he was about teaching to begin with, but sometimes […]

I’d like to specifically address my friend John Holland, who, as many of you found out, went back to teaching. When I first learned of the event, I almost pulled a Rod Tidwell over the phone, I was so excited for him. I knew how passionate he was about teaching to begin with, but sometimes when one grows within their profession, they’re pulled outside of the classroom, ever distancing themselves from the kids they love teaching.

John Holland put his foot into the throat of that idea hard.

What people ordinarily said about teaching (unless they’re truly passionate) is that, if their original profession didn’t work out for them, they’d go into teaching. When prompted further, they may say that, although they’d like to give back to their communities and work with the potential leaders of the future, they have a hard time sustaining the modest salary while fulfilling that passion. It seems that, as the economy has taken a downturn, many people look at teaching as a secure job that provides them with some consistency at least until they figure out what to do with their lives.

A part of me wonders how many in this set of teachers actually end up staying in the job and loving it, and how many of them would actually stay in the profession if they saw it as a profession we ought to highly regard rather than an in-between.

The idea of falling back on teaching, then, is problematic for me because the quality and quantity of teaching (and learning) shouldn’t change depending on unruly external factors. People shouldn’t back their way into this, but run forward and into it with the idea that they’re valued for their expertise and social worth.

John Holland’s move back into the classroom demonstrates this almost to a tee. One might wonder why someone who has so many accomplishments and got the title of “child development specialist” would go back to a simpler title of “teacher.” People who acquire the former title often get even fancier titles, promotions, and salaries. With that comes the knowledge that they become virtually non-existent to any students in their districts. They might have set out to “help kids,” but they never interact with them. Thus, “help kids” often means staring at an Excel spreadsheet all day for only a small differential in salary.

As a math coach, I completely understand; the prospect of losing touch keeps me grounded, too. So when John told me the news, it gave me hope. Maybe I’m not crazy for thinking that John and I would rather interact with students and work on policy. We would rather teach kids lessons and work on district-wide initiatives. We would rather have the fancy title and the more meaningful title of teacher.

Why not both?

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