Why Am I Doing This...?

Maura O'Reilly

No, but really. Why am I teaching my students dance moves for an upcoming multi-cultural presentation? I am not a dance teacher and the dance isn’t a part of my culture.


Why am I on Pinterest trying to find a fun science bulletin board when I am not a scientist and it’s a waste of paper?


Speaking of science - I am the worst science teacher. Science is so interesting but it confuses me. To be more specific, here’s an example - balance and motion. Teaching Grade 1 students about a counterweight - I even just looked that up to make sure I was using it correctly here - then got scared and just used ‘a’ instead of elaborating on the meaning of ‘counterweight’. Um…I’m sorry - when along the way was I required to be a scientist? Did I miss something? I teach reading, writing, and math quite well. Why am I teaching about counterweights, cumulonimbus clouds, and the caterpillar life cycle? If I teach you to read, you can learn about this stuff yourself - and I won’t be so grossed out and confused.


Why am I taking a full day to participate in a school-wide event that has little or nothing to do with my own curriculum, has taken hours to plan, and quite possibly will have no lasting benefit for the students.


Now. The warm, fuzzy reason is for the students. We do it for the students! We do a lot for the students, it's true. Sometimes, though, we do it because we are told to. Because ‘that’s what we do every year’. Because the last time someone suggested we change things, the principal flipped out. Because the teacher in charge of it has done it for 26 years and no one wants to confront her about changing it.


Where are we? North Korea? There are not many who are really happy about the state of education - outside of the Finns perhaps. We cannot improve our schools until we are honest and brave. We must be willing to ask for change and to make it ourselves.


Perhaps I could teach reading and writing and a fellow teacher could teach science and math. We could both teach to our strengths.


Perhaps parents could be in charge of bulletin boards and school decorations.


Maybe there could be fewer assemblies and more after-school activities, run by community volunteers.


Maybe schools could invest less money in whole-school PD sessions and instead hire instructional coaches to help teachers overcome hurdles. (That’s a little plug for me there…)


Teachers and principals are hard-working and dedicated! Perhaps we should streamline education so everyone plays to their strengths and there are fewer demands in areas people may feel unqualified to work on. And if educators get overwhelmed maybe it will be because they get to do so much of what they love (developing math activities, helping challenging students, mentoring new teachers) but less of what they wish they didn’t have to do (making costumes, perfecting report card comments, developing behaviour plans.)


I believe everyone, EVERYONE, is very, very good at something. If we can share with each other what those talents are, and be able to focus mainly on those, I think it creates a great working environment. Maybe it can prevent teacher-burnout. And we can return to the true, meaningful reasons we are doing all this. 

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