Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Slice of Life: A Breath of Fresh Air

I worked today.  All day.  I am not used to spending so many hours inside.  I have spent the summer trying to soak up as much sun and breath in as much fresh air as possible.  Here in the northeast we haven’t seen much of the sun in the past few days.  Finally, the clouds broke mid-morning and the sun shone.  I snuck outside for a beach chair lunch break, but other than that I did not see much of the sun at all.  Inside the air conditioner was too cool.  I sat behind a conference table for much of the day.  I definitely wasn’t used to it, but I have no right to complain.  I was lucky this summer to have so much time to lounge at the beach, ride my bike, and eat lunch outside – to soak up the sun and breath in the fresh air.

I also won’t complain because I got to spend the day talking to potential substitute teachers.  In my district, those who apply to become substitute teachers are interviewed before they can be put on the substitute list.  Since administrators are busy with other school-related matters, there is a group of teachers with administrator certifications who have been asked to complete the task.  Being one of those teachers, I had the opportunity to interview about a dozen individuals interested in substitute teaching in my district.   The questions asked during the interview are basic, intended to find out information such as the applicant’s experience working with children and knowledge of classroom management strategies.  The purpose of the interview process isn’t to choose the best candidates, but to ensure that those who are being hired are suitable for the job.

My favorite question today, easily became this one: Why do you want to become a substitute teacher in our district?  This is the question in which the applicants’ passion and enthusiasm showed through the most.  I was told, “I love working with children” and “The classroom is the most rewarding and enjoyable place to be.”  One woman, with children of her own in the district, who I interviewed told me she started volunteering at her child’s school and realized she wanted to be a teacher.  A recess monitor in the district explained that she started working at the school she’s employed and then, “fell in love with the children.” A teacher out of the classroom just a year after retiring stated, “I miss the children.”  These responses felt, to me, like a breath of fresh air. 

Not too long ago, I read an article about a survey that was done and the results showed that teachers’ morale was at an all-time low.  There is no shortage of reasons to explain this if it is true.  Teachers in my district have been overloaded with new curriculum.  There is the pressure that comes with high-stakes testing.  New evaluation systems are placing more emphasis on test scores.  I could go on, but I won’t.  The interviews today reminded me of the ultimate positive of the teaching profession.  Those who I interviewed want to do a job for which they will not get paid much.  A job, in which they will not know what they are being faced with day-to-day.  A job that many days they will receive very little appreciation.  But they all want to do the job and for a similar reason: the children.  The response to this one interview question is a reminder of the passion that surrounds teaching and the necessity of focusing on the real purpose.

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