4 min read

So You Want my Job - a response

Over on artofmanliness - there's a great series of interviews entitled "So You Want My Job", where they ask people in different professions to answer a few questions. The latest one was from a high school teacher. The website is pretty US-centric, but I enjoy - the cookbook is excellent.

Anyway - I took exception to a couple of comments in the article, and added this to the comments.

Consider it my rant for the weekend. 

As a male teacher myself here in New Zealand, I was looking forward to reading this interview, to my mind, teaching is a noble profession. Society needs men who have these attributes to stand in front of our children, and be their teachers and mentors.

I do take exception to one of Aaron's comments, namely - "elementary/grade school (too much babysitting) or middle school (too hormonal).

Those are the areas that I teach in and with all due to Mr Kurtz, if he considers that those who teach in those areas are simply "babysitters" dealing with "hormonal" children - may I kindly suggest he needs to man up even more.  :-)

How does he imagine that his students who he sees walking up to get their diplomas actually got their start?

They're able to read because a teacher sat with them and sounded out letters, or explained how a metaphor works, or corrected their spelling. They are able to see or imagine another world and feel like another, because a teacher read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' to them. They have a grasp on some basic mathematical concepts because a teacher used some materials, corrected their work, and discussed some strategies over and over and over again. They hopefully have an ability to empathise with another student's plight, because a teacher showed them that it isn't a the cool thing to exclude another just because they look a bit different. They show up to class on time, and are proud of their efforts because a teacher modelled a high work ethic, and took the time to celebrate those same efforts.

Not a babysitter - but a teacher. A teacher who worked damn hard - with all the same compassion and skill and effort that you bring to your own game. A teacher that has to cover the entire curriculum, with the same amount of time as you.

I teach math, literacy, PE, health, arts, technology, science, social studies, alongside coaching 5 basketball teams and being responsible for the IT needs of our 450 students and staff. That doesn't make me some kind of super teacher, or better than a high school teacher - it's just what I do.

Again, with all due respect to Mr. Kurtz - what is destroying the teaching profession is the pissing contest between the high school and primary school sectors. We're teachers - all of us - and our primary concern should be to our students and making sure they are better than us. As a primary teacher I guide them for a couple of years, giving them the basics, and then I hand them on to you - in good faith, to continue their development in high school and university.

To the person upthread in the comments who said "I personally find the whole teaching certification thing pretty ridiculous. As you mentioned it doesn’t really correlate to better teaching. I personally don’t think teaching can be taught-you either have it or you don’t. But I guess I’m eventually going to have to jump through the hoops to be able to land a job."

Take your asshat off and if that's your attitude to teaching - please don't. Or if you do, please don't teach anywhere near me.

Teaching has enough showboating slackers who think that because they watched Boston Public or Dangerous Minds - they can turn up and manage to teach a class of 30 students. Your comments demean a profession that demands professional standards - not just to create a better class of teacher - but to ensure that students are actually ready for the future - not just good friends with the "cool" teach guy.

For the record - forget any of the movies or TV shows you've seen about being a teacher - they're about as accurate as doing anything because you've seen a Tom Cruise movie and think you can drive in NASCAR or make it to Top Gun.

I went back to teachers college at 31 to train as a teacher - after 10 years in the video production industry. I didn't know what to expect from teachers college - some of it was indeed pretty ridiculous. The student teachers who scared me the most, were those who were only doing it for a laugh, in case they needed a job.

Students don't deserve that attitude - they deserve and need committed teachers who want to be better at being teachers. Professional development is a constant as a teacher - as it should be. The days where you could learn one lesson and run with that are long gone - your pupils will know more than you about many things. And most of them will have access to Google - so it's not like you're going to know more than them.

Aaron, your points about compassion are superb. In NZ at least, and I'd imagine around the planet - our society needs compassionate men, who act and speak with strength and honour. I wrote these words to a fellow bloke teacher - who was just starting out. I leave them for anyone who's considering to do the same.

"Max - welcome to the most noble pursuit on the planet. I use noble in the sense that teaching is a pursuit that is decent, unselfish, righteous and worthy. You will be frustrated, challenged and despairing at times. See through the paperwork, the politics, the constant planning.

Be there for your students.
Be the one positive, passionate, purposeful person in their lives.

Give them hope.
Give them dignity.
Believe in them.
Believe in the possibilities that they are.
Every day.

That might be in teaching them how to balance algebraic equations, how to make sense of a piece of text, or just be greeting them with a smile each day.

All that might sound like pablum and hokey to some. But we adults seem to have forgotten to believe in our young people. We reduce them to statistics or put them into boxes.

I showed Apple's 'Think Different' TVC to my students today and we had a discussion about the vocabulary and what it meant. I didn't think the challenge would come from explaining 'round peg in a square hole' - but then how do you argue with a student who states: "You could do that if the peg was smaller than the hole."  :-)

My 12 year olds only recognized Muhammed Ali and Mahatma Gandhi, but when I asked which individual did they think was the most important, several considered, then answered carefully: "The little girl at the end ... because that's us."

The kids are alright.

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