Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The district I work for has a difficult task in front of it. Student achievement lacks the growth necessary, and teacher turnover rates soar. I can't decide between my desire to influence both the system and the students and my desire to both reduce my stress level and enjoy my toddler daughter.
Last night, I picked up Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. The first few chapters stirred my desire to influence. As I read, my mind wandered to various ways that our district could improve the reading ability of the incoming generation of students. We should influence the parents before their children ever enter our building.
My wife, who teaches fourth grade in the same district, assigned a journal prompt which asked, "1. Who read to you as a child? 2. Who reads to you now? 3. Who would you like to read to you now?" The answers showed why, when these students reach high school, they cannot read at grade level. Only a few students listed someone who read to them as a child.
That is one of our problems.
So, I walked into school today full of desire to influence. But alas, by the ten minute mark in first period, I was ready to influence somewhere else. I've been dragging reluctant students along for over 150 days; I just don't have the energy anymore.
It is a depressing place to be, vocationally speaking, when I feel like those teachers I loathed for "mailing it in."
Is it wrong that I don't want to hear, "This school fucking sucks," or watch a student refuse to turn his shirt that reads, "No Bitch Ass Ness" inside out? Am I a failure, as some education critics believe, because my students refused to complete a sentence starter that read, "Money allows me to...." simply because it was first period and I "shouldn't make us work during first period"?

I'm tired, I guess. This has never happened to me before. What kind of influencer can I be this way?


At 5:26 PM , Blogger Meg said...

Amazing timing, I'm trying to decide whether to stay at my current school, where I love the kids but admin seems set out to stop all education from occuring. I want to be someone who changes the situation, who inspires the students, and helps them grow! But I'd also like to not be miserable thinking about school, and I'd like to feel like someone in admin has ever been a teacher.

Good luck deciding, my friend!

At 7:52 PM , Blogger Dan Edwards said...

You can take a horse to water, but ya can't make it drink. BUT, you gave it the opportunity. Something needs to be done to make many of our young people realize the opportunities they miss by not taking their education seriously. MAYBE a mandatory month of hard physical labor ? I don't know. And this time of the school season, I wonder if I really care right now.

At 8:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you human? Of course you're not wrong to feel the way you feel. You care about your vocation and you have a desire to influence, however you are coming up against a variety of obstacles-the school and education systems themselves, the sense of entitlement that exists in the students of today's generation, and the lack of parents' involvement in all stages of their child's life.

I am a semi-retired teacher in Buffalo, NY currently working in an after school program and while it's no consolation the same feelings you are having are being experienced everywhere. What will change it? I don't know possibly Armageddon, or a complete change in our society and what we value as a whole. Until then you keep plugging away because you want to be an influencer, and perhaps are the only positive influence in your students' lives. Best of luck!

At 5:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you decided to stay and try to be an influencer, in what direction would you influence? What would be your idea of the right way to get things in hand?

It's interesting that you don't want to hear, "This school fucking sucks!" yet in effect, that is what you are saying. How would you make it unsuck for your students or are you mostly concerned with making it unsuck for yourself?


At 1:58 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Joe, the answer is both. From my perspective, there are issues I would change that would affect me, which would in turn free me to affect them. But also, from their perspective, there are issues I would change that would affect them, which would in turn affect me.
Basically, there is much affecting that needs to happen! But the circular nature of it leaves me spinning in a circle of "which came first....?"

At 6:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the great old movie, The Secret War Of Harry Frigg, Harry grabs a girl and kisses her hard but she doesn't return it. She tells him, "I didn't enjoy it and therefore you couldn't." I suppose that goes for teaching, too. If they're not enjoying it, we can't either. Our job, then is to find ways to allow them to enjoy it, so we can. I'm sure you know some--find more.


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