I went into “application mode” yesterday. It’s a weird mental zone teachers must enter to fill out their pages and pages of job applications. Adults in other professions, give me some perspective. Do job applications in other fields come with an average of 12 essay questions attached? (That’s a literal number, not an exaggeration.) In addition to the standard questions about training, work history, and individual strengths and weaknesses, do you have to elaborate on things like educational philosophies, disciplinary and instructional strategies, and hypothetical interpersonal situations for pages at a time? Or are teachers alone in this? And of course, the questions are just different enough that I can’t simply copy and paste answers between one application and another. I shudder to think of the number of hours of my life I’ve spent simply on job application essay questions.
Subbing in three different schools at once offers some unique insight into the teaching world. I think I notice it more now because the three schools I’m in now vary so widely in size and demographic. Between my observations of teachers in each setting and my conversations with my personal teacher friends, I’ve thought a lot about an individual teacher’s ability to do their job well. What factors separate a good teacher from an average one? What’s the balance between training, setting, and natural talent? After letting these thoughts percolate for a few weeks (yes, I’m behind on my blog posting, I know), I’ve reached two conclusions.
It’s teacher appreciation week, when excess (and excellent) food appears in the teacher’s lounge and Chipotle offers a free burrito to anyone with a valid teaching ID. It’s a good week. Some of the parents at my school are ordering Chinese for the whole staff tomorrow, and yesterday a stack of papers covered in notes from my students appeared in my school mailbox. It’s nice to be appreciated.
In the spirit of teacher appreciation week, I want to take a moment to reflect on the individuals who constantly inspire me to be a better teacher. I am surrounded by amazing, quality teachers. Yes, I have seen my share of less-than-inspiring teachers, too, but I am honestly awed by the caliber of individuals that are also in this field with me.
Set the scene: The clock is ticking, winding down to 3:30. Students anxiously watch the second hand slowly tick by, waiting for the bell to ring. They have their hands on their already-closed backpacks, ready to bolt as soon as the clock sets them free. And then it does. But instead of heading out the front door and to their cars, free for another day, about a good number of the uniform-clad, private school student body heads for a single classroom. The lucky ones get there first. The rest form a line that winds around the corner and down the hallway. And they’re restless. They know Mr. Lund only accepts a certain number of people in his club, and it’s first-come, first-serve. They worry the sign-up sheet will be full by the time they reach it. They count the number of heads in front of them, some relieved, some disappointed. Within 20 minutes, the sign-up sheet is full, and the students that didn’t make it turn away disappointed, already wondering about next year.
And what club was this, that teenagers anxiously stood in line for, disappointed to be turned away?
Opera Society. Continue reading