One year after retirement, I am still interested in being a teacher. I no longer wish to deal with the Common Core Standards, the Annual Professional Review (evaluation) and the endless testing going on in schools nowadays, but I am still fascinated by how kids learn and how teachers teach.
So what did I do? I applied for a 2-week writing workshop, hosted by the Long Island Writing Project (LIWP) and held at its only Long Island location, Nassau Community College. The LIWP has been my salvation on many occasions through many years of teaching. It is the only place I know of (other than Columbia T.C.) where teachers can attend workshops on teaching writing and are given opportunities to meet in workshops to share ideas they may have about the eaching of writing.
I am back again…but this time is different. In earlier years I didn’t really consider myself a writer, but I always wanted ideas for helping my students to become better writers. This was especially important for me, since most of the professional development classes available to me through my district did not address my needs as a teacher of students learning English, known up until now as English Language Learners. I picked up ideas here and there as I attended LIWP workshops and day-long sessions and created my own practice in my own classroom.
Twenty-two years later, I am retired and now attending the LIWP Summer Institute which offers teachers the chance to learn Writing Project methods so they, themselves, can become workshop leaders or at least leaders in writing in their own schools. My particular interest this time around is in becoming a teacher trainer who can help teachers better understand how to assist the English Language Learners in their classrooms. The new teaching paradigm seems to be shifting toward co-teaching; this means special-area teachers like the Reading teacher, or the ESL teacher will no longer be pulling students out of classes, but will instead co-teach a class with the mainstream teacher with some ELLs in it.
Now I have come to the real reason I wrote this piece. I want to say that “What teachers do each and every day of their working lives is nothing short of miraculous.” I have been asked to create a demo lesson to show my teaching skills to the workshop group of teachers for feedback. I have worked several days on this lesson which I once taught several years ago. Not content with how it was, I have tweaked it and tweaked it until there is nothing left to tweak. I have had little else on my mind for several days and have even passed on opportunities to go to the beach. What’s even more amazing is that the half dozen other teachers in the group have done or will also do the same before the workshop ends. And these are teachers who are under no obligation to be here but are here for self-improvement as teachers!
This whole experience has served as a reminder to me of how hard I worked for 22 years to become the best teacher I could be. It is a reminder of how most teachers go about teaching…they work at it, often for long weekends and lonely nights. They spend weekends and summers voluntarily in workshops, and yes, this can cumulatively result in a pay raise. But why not? They are spending their valuable personal time to become better at what they do. Shouldn’t they be rewarded for that? Finally, it is a reminder of how subtle and complex the art of teaching really is. As I’ve contemplated subject matter, age level, reading levels, curriculum mandates, technology issues, book selection and how to keep up the interest of a classroom of students to prepare my demo lesson, I am once again bowled over by what sensitive, dynamic, creative and hard work teachers do each and every day. Let’s hear it for teachers…we deserve it!