So You Think You Know Teaching

            I needed a job. Right out of college my father informed me that I had six months to get one or get married. With no marriage prospects on the horizon, I signed up to substitute teach at Old Rochester. It would keep Dad off my back, and with the military draft looming, my plan was to wait it out, then pursue my artistic career.

            I am still indebted to the many teachers who feigned sickness enough times that I was able to work 140 days before Uncle Sam called. Much to my surprise, Sam did not want me. Something about my eyesight. But that’s another story for another time. Suffice it to say, my “real” career beckoned. If the art thing didn’t work out, I could always fall back on teaching. Ya, right. Little did I know that years later, I would choose to become a teacher.

            Education has taken heat lately in the culture wars and teachers are feeling the burn, so I feel obliged to offer up a few thoughts on my second profession.

            Everyone went to school. Right? So, it follows that everyone thinks they can teach. After a successful 30-year career in the “real” world, I taught some 21 years at all levels except elementary school. (Those kids ask too many questions.) I have been away from the hallowed halls of academia for a while, but I know this: Kids are smart, and the job is tough! If you think you know teaching, you don’t.

            If you haven’t memorized Bloom’s Taxonomy or paid $80 bucks for a paperback copy of “Skillful Teacher” (required reading for professional advancement) or studied the State Frameworks, you don’t know teaching.

            If you haven’t endured a two-hour meeting with an irate parent who thought their son should have gotten an A grade instead of a C, you don’t know teaching. (The son later apologized for his parent’s behavior.) Or mourned the death of four of your brightest and most talented students in car accidents, you don’t know teaching. If you hear on the radio that grief counselors will be available, and you’re told you are the counselor though you’re not trained in psychotherapy, you don’t know teaching.

            If you haven’t had your art-supply budget rescinded halfway through the year so the principal’s office could buy copy paper requiring you to teach 100 ways to be creative with newspapers or been told not to display your students’ best work in the hall showcase because it might discourage the less-talented kids, you don’t know teaching.

            If you haven’t experienced the indignity of your superintendent leaving a pencil in your mailbox as a gift on Teacher Appreciation Day; if you work through the anxiety of budget season waiting to see if your job is cut in a RIF (Reduction in Force); if you haven’t sat in a meeting with the principal telling you are doing a great job, then finding a pink slip in your mailbox on the way out of the meeting, you don’t know teaching.

            But it is not all gloom, doom and hard work. Sitting outside the restroom on bathroom duty is a real joy. Walking to your classroom on a Saturday to do some extra work to find it is being used as a dressing room for a body builders’ annual competition and filled with nearly naked men covered in lotion is enlightening.

            When you experience the joy on the faces of your students when the theater sets they helped paint get a standing ovation and an award, or one of their paintings wins a national prize and is hung at the U.S. Capitol or when they get accepted at their dream college, then you’ll know teaching.

            Editor’s note: Mattapoisett resident Dick Morgado is an artist and retired newspaper columnist whose musings are, after some years, back in The Wanderer under the subtitle “Thoughts on ….” Morgado’s opinions have also appeared for many years in daily newspapers around Boston.

Thoughts on…

By Dick Morgado

One Response to “So You Think You Know Teaching”

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  1. Nancy Sylvia Paquin, Poet/Artist says:

    Oh, this was delightful to read! I especially like the humor. I enjoy reading The Wanderer, on-line because I am living in New Hampshire although I vowed one day to move back home. The Pademic has put those plans on hold. A former resident of Mattapoisett, I graduated from Old Rochester in 1963. And of course, as a former Teacher there are the recognizable tie-ins! And yet, the expense back home is beyond my present means. Aha – I sent in a poem and wanted to send additional pieces. It’s a long story, but it’s almost too ridiculous and when I wake up each
    day I need to ask myself if this is really happening. But it did, it has. I’ll have to type from my CD in order to send additional pieces because when I was out and about one weekend, someone stole my computer at the lodge. They thought they were just getting a computer. Unfortunately I had 6 books on it. Someone told me if I bring the code on the Computer to the Police Station, they will be able to track it down, but that’s not possible at the moment. The one piece I would have liked to send is “Impact America” which would be a splendid piece for students in the 8th grade to read. It’s several pages long “From our New Harbor Liberty entreat to California Shore glide” and takes in all the peoples, worship modes, ideals, and strengths that make America what it is. Smile, I gave a copy to President Biden before he was elected and said he could use any line in his speech (I have always worked at campaign headquarters.) Well, I thought he might use the line “…Learn from each ethnic island” Instead he chose to use part of the last line of the poem, which goes, “We can do it America, the moment is now.” He said, “Now is the moment,” and then, “the moment” became the political buzzword all over New Hampshire! Smile – what Mattapoisett can do for an eager student! At any rate, I’m happy that Mattapoisett may be building Affordable Senior apartments. When it does, I’ll be down! Of course Dad’s house has been on the market a few times – so I go to the agent’s sight and take the road down and sit and dream. Keep your thoughts/ideas coming! And thank you. Nancy K. Paquin PS My CD is/was at the Mattapoisett Library, “Wait Till You See the Rainbow I’ve Planned” The jacket is a painting of mine.

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