A Dream Deferred (Part 2)

My previous post was really kind of a prologue for this post, the one I really wanted to make about teachers. You see I was reading an acquaintance’s blog in which he directed people to his wife’s new blog. I have met his wife a few times, and I knew she was a teacher but I don’t think it really sunk in until I visited her blog. She didn’t really have more than an off-handed reference to her career, but I suddenly thought, “What if she reads my blog and is offended by my anti-schooling sentiments.” So I felt the need to clarify a few things.

In general, I am anti-school. I think schools are broken things, and have been broken ever since they were made compulsory. There is too much bureaucracy, and I think schools are used too often as job-creation programs and soap boxes for politicians. Compulsory education was developed to make an obedient and apathetic working class, not happy and critical thinking individuals. I understand, though, that some sort of place for the transmission of basic education is necessary, especially for those families who are truly unable to live on one-income alone. I just lament how such places are arranged and used today.

So where does that leave teachers in my estimation? Well, in general I feel sorry for them and all of the crap they have to put up with. It’s like being middle management. They have to deal with all of the impractical nonsense being handed down from the politicians and administrators, and then they have to deal with all of the issues of their students whose parents tend to veer towards total lack of involvement.

I’ve seen and known a variety of teachers in my life. Teachers that were good at teaching their academic subject but not at relating to their students as people. Teachers that were good at relating to their students but not very proficient in their academic subject. Teachers that were enthusiastic, and teachers that were burnt-out. And many that were in-between on every spectrum. I’ve even come across the Really Good Teacher has both academic knowledge and respect and compassion for her students.

Talking to friends and acquaintances who are becoming teachers, have been teachers, or currently teach I see a variety, too. There are the naive ones who think they are going to change the world once class full of students at a time. (That was me in college.) They often morph into the jaded ones once the reality has set in. Then you have the ones who strictly see teaching as a job. Then you have the ones who have no illusions about their ability to revolutionize the future with their teaching skills but hope that they can make the school year pleasant and educational enough for their prisoners within the constraints they have all been given, teacher and student alike.

Now I should clarify that I am talking about elementary, junior high, and high schools and teachers, not college. College is not mandatory, even if it is advisable for the majority. And I tend to see a difference in attitude between college instructors and school teachers. For instance, I have received nothing but positive feedback from college instructors with whom I’ve discussed our intention to homeschool. Whereas from elementary school teachers I’ve heard things like: “I’m a math teacher; I could never teach my child to read” and “I teach fifth grade; I could never teach kindergarten.” And there is often the implication that many homeschooling parents hear that we either must have super-powers or are seriously deluded to think that we can educate our children without sending them to school.

I don’t know if this “could never” response is because they really doubt their ability to teach their own child or a prevarication because they would really rather not. I mean I would rather be doing junior high and high school level things with my children, but that does not mean that I am unable to teach my kids their ABC’s and addition and other basics until they get to that level. Studies of homeschooling families are showing that a willingness on the part of the parent to learn new things plays a bigger role in homeschool success than any official credentialing they have.

And maybe these “could never” teachers are having a hard time “surrendering to motherhood”. Most jobs outside the home offer a certain amount of immediate gratification in the form of quick feedback, short-term deadlines to be met, and small sphere of focus. Being a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooling mom can be very tedious and very overwhelming. Housework can be so mindless and repetitive, and it never ends. Plus, home-making skills are one of the most important things to learn in life but they are not taught in schools and when I was growing up rarely taught in homes, either. It’s hard to embrace something at which you feel incompetent.

Then you throw on homeschooling. It’s Extreme Parenting. Because in the end, whether your child succeeds academically and socially depends completely on you. You can’t blame it on bad teachers or bad schools if your child doesn’t live up to basic societal expectations. You can’t just teach your group of current fourth graders and pass them on to the next teacher at the end of the year. As a homeschooling parent you are responsible for every aspect of your child from start to finish. (Now you could say that all parents are responsible for a child from start to finish, but in reality most parents delegate at least half their child’s formation period to day-cares and schools.)

So I have a mixture of respect and pity for teachers. I believe they are completely underpaid for what they are expected to do and be. Teachers have just as important of a role in society as doctors and actually I would say more important than lawyers, yet they get paid in peanuts and bullshit. I think this is why teachers unions have often advocated programs that are in the best-interest of teachers but not of children; the unions are holding on to what little rights they can get. I also have a certain amount of contempt for teachers incapable of thinking outside the book as in this anecdote about “friendly and unfriendly” numbers.

In the end, I realize that teachers are just people like everyone else with the same ups and downs. They do hold an awesome amount of responsibility, though. So I hope any teachers I know will not see my anti-school tirades about them personally. I really just don’t like schools the way they are commonly set up, whether they are public or private. Some people may want to dismiss me as a disgruntled “teacher school drop-out” or just one of those homeschooling weirdos, and that’s fine. But in the end, I get to be what I always wanted to be…a teacher, to the three most important students I could ever have. (Incidentally, this was something I realized after my husband and I decided it would be in the best interest of our children to homeschool them.)

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3 Comments on “A Dream Deferred (Part 2)”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Sounds a lot like my philosophy on hospitals for birth. The hospitals should not be so screwed up that people choose homebirth because they don’t trust the medical care in the hospitals. Hospitals should be a perfectly safe place for people to give birth, and people choose homebirth as an equally safe option that is preferable to them personally.

    People shouldn’t be choosing to homeschool because the school systems are so bad.

  2. Laura Witten Says:

    What you are suggesting that many mothers do – delegate at least half the childcare to daycares/schools – is true, and I include myself in that. It hurts because its true, and you’re right on the money with your reasoning as well.

    Although I have our entire future invested in our business and I know I have to work in it, I still have trouble giving up my son for that many hours a day. BUT…when I do have him all day, I wonder how full-time moms do it! It is tedious, often unrewarding, stressful, and more. Then at the end of the day he says “I wuv you mom, see you wait-er” (that’s later, btw), it just melts my heart.

    Basically, I want to reach the point of mothering where you are…but then again I don’t. Clear as mud.

  3. barboo77 Says:

    Well, Laura,
    I didn’t mean that as an indictment of working mothers. But it is a fact of life, and I think it further shows the importance of teachers and daycare workers and how under-appreciated they are in general. They have half the responsibility of helping form children with about a third of the authority.

    And it is an adjustment moving from a pre-dominantly outside-the-home world to a pre-dominantly inside-the-home world. What I was trying to say is that I wonder if most of the teachers I meet who say “I could never teach my own kids” are not to the point where they can really think of themselves as “just a mom” even thought they may have not taught in a classroom for a few years. They kind of see themselves as being sidetracked from their careers by kids, and they’re just waiting for the kids to go off to school so that they can go back to their job. They would rather pass themselves off as incompetent than entertain the thought of having to remain at home with the kids.

    You have to keep in mind, too, that kids sometimes go through an adjustment period when they come home from daycare and school. They’re used to being told what and when to do all day; they are often more demanding at home because they don’t know what to do with less direction. After a while, though, parent and child get in a rhythm of together and “alone” time. It’s also much harder with just one kid than two that can play together. It’s a little quieter, though, because an only child can’t fight with himself. 😉

    I am not supermom or better than anyone else. And we have those tedious and stressful days around here, too. The rewards, though, are when you’re there for the best moments of your kid’s days and you can see you relationship with them developing regularly. And even, stay-at-home moms have their share of self-doubt and mommy guilt.


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