After many years of work and countless moments when I thought my personal life would stop me from finishing my Elementary Education degree, I'm a mere 10 weeks away from completing my student teaching assignment and starting my career as a teacher.
In the last 6 weeks I have seen teachers at my school belittled by parents and I've watched them cut many "unnecessary" subjects like Social Studies and Science out of their teaching day for the sake of getting their students to pass the state and federal testing. (Testing that, by the way, is making sure the students know everything they're supposed to know at the END of this school year, yet we still have a full trimester to go.)
I have watched students have tons of concepts and assignments dumped in their laps so that they can absorb even the smallest bit in the hopes that they won't tank the test.
I've watched students struggle with concepts they have no hope of understanding because the pre-req skills were glossed over so the teachers could at least touch on the skills that are going to be tested.
I've heard people say that teachers are paid too much for what they do, and then I've watched my co-op teachers forgetting about their families and staying at the school until 6 and 7 pm to get everything ready for the next day, because if the students don't pass the tests, the school doesn't make AYP for the second year running and that, as administration has made very clear, is unacceptable.
All of this is truth. And here's a little bit more truth.
I can't wait to be a teacher. I can't wait to have my own classroom and I can't wait to watch kids' faces light up when they finally get a concept they've been struggling with. I've seen some of the realities of classroom teaching in the last 6 weeks and I am still undaunted.
I will deal with a lot of crap. I will be told that I am terrible at my job if I have students who don't pass the tests. I will have parents tell me that staying late after school every night is not enough and I should be doing more for their children. I will have parents who are completely uninvolved in their child's educational life expect me to be teacher, mom, counselor, and tear-drier. I'm OK with that.
I will have students who I will want to bring home with me and I will have students who will tell me stories about life at home that will make me cry and wonder how people can be so awful. I'm OK with that, too.
I will be applying for my teaching license in 11 weeks. I've been told that I'm crazy, that I'm overly idealistic, that I'm a glutton for punishment, and that I'm an idiot for going into the educational field. Maybe I'm all of these things. But whatever.
When I walk the stage in May with my family and friends cheering me on, I am going to cry. Not out of regret for choosing a career as an educator, but out of joy, relief and hope. I'm not afraid to be a teacher. I am going to be a damn good teacher and when the pendulum of our educational system starts swinging in the other direction, I will be hanging onto the bob with my fellow educators, involved parents, and everyone who is currently working for change.