Reading Between the Lines of the Teaching Profession
To Teach or Not To Teach?
Ever since I was a small child, I have wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps and become a teacher. As a child, I loved going to her classroom after school and hearing her stories about her students. Through watching her enjoyment of teaching, I began to realize that teaching was something I might would like to pursue. During my senior year of high school, I worked as a teacher’s apprentice at Reidsville Elementary School. Seeing ABC’s and math facts covering the walls, hearing the little giggles of children, and watching the satisfied expressions on children’s faces when they completed tasks were some of the many things that I loved about working in an elementary school classroom. I thoroughly loved my job, and the experience helped me to look more towards becoming a teacher. Teaching is something that seems to come naturally to me. I have always enjoyed spending time with children, and when I am in the classroom I do not feel like I am working because I love being there. I especially like watching the children grow and become excited about learning new things. I am strongly considering becoming a teacher; I want to motivate my students as my mom has done.
I struggle with the decision as to whether or not to become a teacher because even though the pay is low, the enjoyment is worthwhile. Teachers receive love from their students, the satisfaction of seeing growth in their students’ academics, and making a positive impact in a child’s life. I think one of the most important things with any career is that you enjoy what you do.
My goal in researching a local elementary school is to make sure that I want to become a teacher. I want to view the teachers’ workload and their enjoyment of their job. They are the experts in the profession, and I want to take advice and knowledge from their many years in the field. I am curious to know if they had known the demanding pressures and requirements of becoming a teacher, if they would still choose teaching as their profession. I want to know their personal pros and cons of being teachers while I observe them in their classroom.
I want to further research the teaching field to make sure that I am making the right career decision for myself. I do not just want for my admiration of my mom’s career to lead me into education. I want to make my decision based on what is best for me. Throughout this assignment, I want to take a good, personal look at what teachers do and discuss with them how they feel about the teaching profession. I hope this immersion project inspires me to head in the direction of the career that I am meant to pursue.
My fixed and experiential positions put me at a cultural advantage to study the teaching profession. The fixed positions that I hold include being young, Caucasian, female, and the daughter of an educator. The experiential positions that I possess relate to my field of study with Early Childhood Education. Females are predominately hired as elementary school teachers, and young adults who have recently graduated from college are needed to take the place of teachers who are about to retire. I am very knowledgeable about the teaching profession because of having watched my mom teach 2nd grade while I was growing up. Also, I have experienced first-hand the day in the life of an elementary school teacher by being a teacher’s apprentice. At various times when I was a teacher’s apprentice, I was left in charge of the students. I read aloud stories to them, taught short lessons, and provided one-on-one assistance. I feel that working in the classroom helped me to become more knowledgeable about the teaching profession which gives me an edge as an insider. From having first-hand experience being in the classroom, I have seen some of the positives and negatives that affect teachers. I feel that my fixed positions will help because I resemble the average elementary school teacher. I also believe my prior knowledge of teaching will help me to provide in-depth research of education. I need to take another look at the environment of the elementary school and talk further with some of the elementary school teachers to determine if the positives outweigh the negatives.
Through the Eyes of an Observer
When I come for my observations under Mrs. Angela Parker, a 2nd grade teacher at Reidsville Elementary School, I arrive at noon. My informant, Mrs. Parker, is about 5’7”, with a bronzed tan, medium build, shoulder length dirty blonde hair with highlights, and a welcoming smile. Her eyes are the color of sapphires, her face is roundly shaped, her cheeks are rosy, and she has a slight southern accent. She is welcoming because she has a bubbly personality; she is always making someone laugh. The children have just come back from lunch, and they are walking into the classroom as I arrive. Whenever I walk into Mrs. Parker’s classroom, I am blown away by all the details, supplies, and color throughout the room. I first notice that the students’ desks are arranged in two vertical rows: ten desks in each row with five on each side. The students’ chairs are aqua blue and they are attached to brown, wooden desks. Math problems, language arts, standards, the date, and the students’ homework are written on the dry erase board. Above the dry erase board ABCs are hung with a picture underneath each starting with the indicated letter. Next to the dry erase board, a smart board is hung on the wall. A smart board is an interactive whiteboard that projects images from the computer; it is also touchscreen. Next to the smart board, the children’s cubbies hold their graded papers from throughout the week. The bulletin board includes multiple standards written in several different colors (red, blue, green, orange), a large calendar with a jungle theme, and the behavior chart.
The behavior chart is vertical and the colors going downward indicate the behavior of the child. Purple indicates (Awesome), Red (Way to go), Green (ready to learn), Yellow (make better choices), Orange (teacher’s choice). Several students are on green, a few are on red, and a few students are on yellow. Above the bulletin board, there are several posters about the writing process. The teacher’s desk is in front of the bulletin board. Two computers are against the right side of the classroom. Along the back wall of the classroom, racks are available to hang book bags, lunch boxes, and sweaters. When I arrived, the students had just returned from lunch and they were beginning to read a story about cowboys.
Before lunch the children had started drawing their own cowboys. Before completing their cowboy drawings, the teacher read a chapter from the book they have been reading. The story was about life on the prairie. The children sat on a colorful rug of the United States; it was very colorful and each state was represented by a different color. I believe this is the focal point of the room because this is where the entire class congregates. The children sat close together “crisscross apple sauce” as Mrs. Parker read in front of them. Mrs. Parker joins the children on the floor and she too crosses her legs, places her elbows on her knees and has the book in her hands.
As Mrs. Parker begins reading, and the children become mesmerized. The children go from being fidgety with their hands to zoning in and listening attentively to their teacher read. Her reading is soothing to the children; it relaxes them. Their hands cradle their faces. They are completely absorbed in the story. She fixates the children by reading each character’s dialogue with a different tone of voice that matches each character. For example, when she reads the dialogue of a young child, she speaks in a high-pitched squeaky voice. The children love to hear her tone change as she reads. As she reads, she continually pauses and asks the students questions to make sure they understand the story and also to make sure the children are paying attention. The boys are more interested in the story than the girls because Mrs. Parker is mostly discussing tools, mechanics, and how things work. There are twenty-three children in the classroom. There are twelve boys and 11 girls. Their races are very different. Children’s descent runs from white, black, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and mixed races. Mrs. Parker reads for about fifteen minutes to the children, and then her mouth becomes dry. She asks the students if they would like to read out loud, and then they scream with excitement. They all shoot their hands in the air; they act as though a string is pulling their fingertips upward. The students all have looks of “pick me” on their faces. They want to be called on so badly. She calls on the student to the left of her, and he begins to read loud and clear.
America the Beautiful
Every time I walk into Mrs. Parker’s classroom, I feel happy. Her room feels like an excellent environment for learning. The children come into the room after lunch, and they are always excited to be starting on their reading lesson. The room is illuminated and inviting with bright, overhead, lights. The classroom smells of pencil shavings and hand sanitizer. I become cheerful by hearing the children’s giggles and seeing the smiles beam across their faces. They enter the room nice and quietly and pull their next chapter book, Skinny Bones, out of their desks. The children always look forward to story time.
Skinny Bones is a story about Alex Frankovitch, the smallest boy on his baseball team. He has been awarded Most Improved on his baseball team for the past 6 years. He feels that by getting the Most Improved award every year, he begins the baseball year being the worst on the team. This year, he strives to be the best player on his team. The children sit with their legs crossed, their elbows on their knees, with the book in their hands. They continue to sit on the colorful rug of the Unites States every day during their reading time. The background of the rug is in midnight blue, The United States of America is written in mustard yellow, and every state in the United States is a different bright color. The rug is made of soft carpet, and it is very comfortable for the children to sit on. It is a much better alternative than sitting on the nasty, white tile floor. This rug is the center point of the room; it is the focus. This is where the class congregates every day. Once you walk into Mrs. Parker’s classroom, your eyes fly to the rug. It looks comfortable. Instead of having a bare, white tiled floor, a beautiful rug is in its place. The United States of America rug is not only a place of comfort, it unifies the classroom.
The Importance of Reading
Every time I hear Mrs. Parker read, I remember being a small child and how much I used to love when my teacher would read to the class. On one particular day, the class was reading Fudge-A-Maniaby Judy Blume. I thought back to when I also enjoyed reading other Judy Blume books such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The children in Mrs. Parker’s class love listening to the mischief that the young character, Fudge, keeps getting himself into with his brother Peter. Mrs. Parker has a doll she calls Fudge that holds the book when she is not reading it. Mrs. Parker explained to me that the doll had different colored marks on his face made from magic markers and a bad haircut because the character Fudge had decorated himself in one of the previous chapter books that she had read to the class. She explained that she had already read two previous books about Fudge and Peter and that this book was the third one that the students were working on together. Mrs. Parker explained that the students loved hearing about the characters, and for the third book they were reading, they used individual books to follow along with the teacher. She explained that they reread it on their own and did different activities related to the book. It makes me happy to see that the education system continues to use older, humorous books in their Common Core Standards. The Program states, “The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of high quality academic expectations in English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics that define the knowledge and skills all students should master by the end of each grade level in order to be on track for success in college and career” (“Program”). I feel that these entertaining stories grab the students’ attention and motivate them to begin reading chapter books on their own.
I believe the person who reads books to children, especially teachers, are one of a kind. I personally believe teaching is one of the most honorable professions one can hold. It takes a very special person to help educate and to have such an essential role in our society’s future. As I was listening to the teacher read, I could tell she was a very caring person by hearing the enjoyment in her voice as she was reading. She continually changed her voice to fit the role of each character. For instance, when she was reading the dialogue of the five-year-old boy, she read with a higher pitched voice. I feel that by putting so much effort into making the story entertaining, the teacher must truly love her job.
Positives of the Teaching Profession
Mrs. Angela Parker has been teaching for twenty years, twelve of them in the 2nd grade at Reidsville Elementary School. I spoke with her inside her classroom. I sat in a small, brown student desk, and she sat on top of a student desk in front of me. She had her feet inside of a turquoise student’s chair, and she was bent over with her elbows on her knees resting her chin in her hands. I felt like I was getting an inside look at how a teacher feels about the education system.
I was surprised to learn that Mrs. Parker had always wanted to become a teacher. She is such a people person; she can get along with anyone and has a great sense of humor. I was surprised that she would choose a profession to work with young children instead of adults. When I asked her what her favorite part of teaching is she stated, “Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to become a teacher. I have always seen myself as a teacher. I even knew I wanted to become a teacher when I was a very young child. I always loved playing ‘school’ and I loved the idea of teaching others.” There are so many aspects of teaching that I was very curious to know her personal benefits of the profession. She specified, “I love seeing my students improve in their work because of me. I love seeing their faces when they realize how to complete a task. It makes me happy that I am helping them become more educated.” She explained to me that she loves to see the “light bulb” click with a student and enjoys watching a student come from struggling with a particular subject to excelling. This was not surprising to me, while researching, most teachers said that they loved their jobs because they felt like they were shaping our future society. One blogger states, “Helping children to learn and develop can be highly rewarding, and seeing that light bulb moment when something that you’ve taught has been understood by a student is a privilege. If you are passionate about your subject and can inspire that love in your students, you are likely to have a lot of good days” (Mothsong). Mrs. Parker looked out the window behind me to watch her son play outside as she spoke. She straightened her torso and sat up straight. I could tell that she has great pride in her profession, because she seems to have a lot of confidence in her teaching.
Mrs. Parker is glad she became a teacher. She replied, “Yes. The hours are great. I also really enjoy the summer vacation time. I love being able to have time with my family, and I love to work with children.” She began talking slower and put her hands on her knees again. She smiled after her responses about her students’ academic development. I also asked my mom if she was glad that she too became a teacher and she replied, “Yes. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I love to work with small children and watch them develop academically.” My mom too loves the many weeks of vacation because she loves spending time with her family. My mom’s favorite part of teaching is interacting with young children and watching them grow and mature. My mom is wonderful with kids, and she plays a mother role to so many children. My mom loves seeing the results of her teaching in her students. She loves knowing that they are learning from her.
As I have listened to Mrs. Parker and my mom discuss their personal benefits from teaching, I have found that there are overall many incentives to teaching. “Teachers get incredible joy in seeing the difference they make as students gain new insights, become more interested in a subject and learn about themselves. Every day, teachers mold the future through impacting their students’ views and understandings. Teachers foster creativity, develop character, give students lenses with which to view the world and provide students with the skills they need to reach their potential and lead productive lives. As a teacher, you see the fruits of your efforts everyday as you use your intelligence and creativity to help students become excited about and learn about the science in their lives” (“UNC-BEST”). Not only do teachers play a beneficial role in shaping our society, they also have a vocation for their career, are lifelong learners, have time to spend with their families, and they also benefit by having many weeks of vacation. Although many teachers seem to enjoy their jobs, I learned that there are many negative aspects of teaching as well.
Negatives of the Teaching Profession
As Mrs. Parker and I began talking, I realized she was discussing more of the drawbacks of teaching than the positives. She stated, “I really don’t like dealing with discipline problems. Especially disrespectful students: talking when not asked, rolling eyes, and sucking teeth really bother me. Having a student being disrespectful puts me in a bad mood very fast.” I could tell this subject started getting her fired up. She sat up straighter and started talking faster. What stresses her about her job? She stated, “All the extra work that comes with teaching: lesson plans, grades, deadline for grades, parents who are not active in their children’s education, especially when they do not take proper care of their children.” I found out that the demands on teachers are continuously increasing. One blogger stated that, “Schools are extremely target-and-results driven, something that is passed down from government pressure. Sometimes, it feels like you are constantly writing reports. Gone are the days where teachers could write a few handwritten general lines about each child’s performance in their subjects. You are now expected to write several paragraphs on what is done well, how targets are being met and things that need to be improved… Assessment takes up a lot of time, as does marking students’ work” (Mothsong). I told her I believe there is a lot of extra work that teachers endure that goes unnoticed.
My mom personally does not like teaching with the Common Core Standards. She stated, “Common Core Standards are vague. The Quality Common Core Standards in the past were easier to follow. Sometimes it is difficult writing lesson plans because the lesson plans have to correlate with specific standards that are not clearly stated.” She feels that the education system should cut out Common Core standards and return back to the older style of teaching. She stated, “Common Core is difficult to follow, and I feel like the older methods of teaching were just as effective but much simpler.”
After thinking how much work teachers have to complete, I wanted to know Mrs. Parker’s opinion of a teacher’s salary. She said, “No, I do not believe the pay is sufficient. To be efficient you have to have a drive to work. I don’t feel as motivated to work anymore because I am not getting paid enough. If I am getting paid, I want to be paid enough to pay the bills and to have some money left over. I feel like for all the hard work I have to do every day, I should get paid more.” She talked louder and faster and became animated by talking with her hands. I could tell she was very unpleased with the pay she is receiving. My mom is also very unpleased with the teacher’s salary. She stated, “I feel that teachers play many roles in their students’ lives. Besides being their teacher, we are also parents, nurses, and counselors to our students. We play many roles and are very important in the development of our future society. I believe we should get paid more because we are so beneficial.” I have lived with a single parent my whole life with a small teacher’s salary, and it is usually hard to make ends meet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median pay of kindergarten and elementary school teachers’ is $53,090 (“Kindergarten”).
After hearing all of the drawbacks of teaching, I wanted to know if Mrs. Parker would still become a teacher if she could go back to college. Before she answered, she started twirling her thumbs. I wondered if she felt comfortable with answering this question, and then she let out a flat out “NO.” She said that she believes morals have been taken out of the school system and that the discipline rituals have become less threatening to students. Since the school systems are not disciplining as much, she believes poor behavior has risen among students. She feels that when children were immediately sent to the office to get punished, they learned their lesson. Now, teachers are required to give the children multiple warnings, the children are not getting much punishment at home, and she feels that sometimes children’s misbehavior is put on the backburner. In contrast, my mom said that she would still pursue a career in education. My mom specified, “I am getting close to retirement and as I look back on my years of teaching, I have truly enjoyed my job. I have experienced more positives than negatives. I would not choose any other profession.” Although both feel many aspects of the teaching profession should be changed, they are both ultimately glad they chose to become teachers.
As I was observing the teaching profession through Mrs. Parker’s 2nd grade classroom, I also thought about the parents of the children. When the children are not learning at school, they are learning at home from their parents. Parents play a vital role in their children’s development in school. I was interested to understand what parents want from a teacher, and I also wanted to know if parents knew how vital their assistance is in helping their children academically.
Parents simply want teachers to consider parents’ input, for the teachers to be flexible with communication and ways of teaching their children, communicate nicely with parents and children, and show the parents that the teachers are on their side. According to Natalie Schwartz, “Both teachers and parents have valid concerns, and perhaps there is no right or wrong. But one thing is clear, when parents and teachers make an effort to understand one another and work together, the student greatly benefits” (2).
Parents play a vital role in helping their children succeed in their academics. Parents should be actively engaged in what is going on in their children’s lives. According to PBS Parents, parents should be a role model for learning, they should tune into how their child learns, practice what their child learns at school with them, set aside time for reading, connect what the child learns in school with the real world, and lastly to help the child take charge of their learning (“The Role of Parents”). At the comments at the end of the article, I was surprised that many parents did not know that they should be so actively involved in their child’s education. I feel that all parents should take the time to communicate with their children’s teachers and help their children succeed anyway possible.
Mrs. Parker told me that she believes a good teacher needs many qualities. She believes, “They have to love children and love always being surrounded by children. I also believe a teacher needs to be professional, patient, have high expectations of the students, loving, and always expect the best from the students.” After observing Mrs. Parker, I believe she has all of these qualities and many more.
Throughout my time at Reidsville Elementary School, I have not only learned a great deal about the teaching profession, but I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that teaching is the right career choice for me. I truly become happy when I am around children, especially in a learning environment. I love to watch them grow and become more knowledgeable. It warms my heart to think that children will one day think of me as a nurturing teacher. I will strive to be the best educator that I can, because I will want my students to always remember me. I realize all professions have their own personal positives and negatives, and that I should be focusing more on the positives of the profession than the negatives. I have realized that a paycheck does not make someone truly happy but passion does. This has truly been an insightful experience for me, and I am very grateful for a second look at the teaching profession. I believe this opportunity was a wonderful way for me to observe and listen to a teacher’s perspective, so I could learn about the world of education.
Hunter, Dianne. Formal interview. 30 April. 2014.
“Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Parker, Angela. Formal interview. 21 Mar. 2014.
“Program.” CCSSO: Council of Chief State School Officers. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Programs/The_Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative.html.
Schwartz, Natalie. “What Do Parents Really Want From Teachers?” Teaching Community. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/9861-what-do-parents-really-want-from-teachers?page=2.
“Some Pros and Cons for Aspiring Teachers.” HubPages. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. http://mothsong.hubpages.com/hub/Pros-and-Cons-of-Teaching.
“The Role of Parents.” PBS Parents. PBS. Web. 29 Apr. 2014. http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/supporting-your-learner/role-of-parents/.
“UNC-BEST – UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching.” Why Consider Becoming a Teacher? Web. 28 Apr. 2014.