What Teachers Do Every Day Is Nothing Short of Miraculous

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!

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11 thoughts on “What Teachers Do Every Day Is Nothing Short of Miraculous”

  1. I agree with all you wrote.

    I’m also amazed by YOU who state at the beginning that you are retired. You could be gardening, traveling, visiting museums…the list could go on and on of all the things you can do now that you have the freedom of retirement.

    But instead you still want to learn more about how to teach children well. So you attend a workshop to hone your craft.

    The teaching profession and children are very lucky!!

    And you remind me of my life come 15 years from now when I’m at the age of 65…I can keep reading and writing and learning. Once a teacher, always a teacher!!!

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  2. I was very touched by your response. Yes, it does seem a bit crazy that I’m still at it. But then again, this is my “home,” my favorite community to be with, so therefore not so crazy. And now I will get back to reading, gardening, etc. At least until the next great workshop!

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    1. HaHa! I find it hard to believe that you don’t go out trolling the educational venues looking for the next thing to learn and expand your knowledge! You, Barbara, are a sponge and will “find” a great workshop even if it is hiding from you! I feel lucky to have met you and have the benefit of all your expertise!

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  3. The subtleties of teaching are tremendous aren’t they? As I read this piece I wondered if even teachers know and understand and appreciate how much they do, how much they think, how deeply they care.

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  4. True teachers find it very difficult to walk away from teaching. Often in retirement, we are teaching ourselves rather than daily student contact. Teachers are amazing!

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  5. Hooray for us, indeed! Your post makes me smile – my summer is filled with teacher learning, too, and I am so grateful for all my colleagues who make this possible.

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  6. I have been fortunate to serve as a coach at the Eastern Illinois Writing Project for the past few summers. And although I am working and not participating as a fellow, I find myself reinvigorated after each summer because, as you said, what teachers do is miraculous.

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    1. I am sure you will feel very invigorated by your experience. My experience has been that those teachers who choose to do professional development over the summer are the people I want to get to know! Thanks for your enthusiasm about my post.

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  7. I’m so thrilled to know you in person, Barbara, and get to work with you at the Long Island Writing Project this summer! It was so moving to hear you read this post at the LIWP this morning as our shared reading. We wrote in response to Barbara’s blog. Here was my free-write after listening to this post:

    I’m always half-surprised when a paycheck with my name on it is sitting on the counter every other Friday. I sometimes forget that I get paid to be a teacher. I’ve had jobs that I’ve only done to get a paycheck ( cashier at Waldbaum’s), and the only joy those jobs brought was the paycheck! But teaching has never been something I do for the money. I’m very lucky that my life’s passion does afford me a decent salary that helps support my family. When your passion and skills line up with your occupation, and you can make a living at doing what makes life worthwhile, then you- and I- are the lucky ones.

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  8. Barbara, the profession has lost a fantastic teacher as a result of your retirement. Here is my free-write in response to your post:

    So much of the power of the NWP is that it honors the work we do as teachers. We are considered to be experts in our field. Trusted to have knowledge of, and engage in demonstrating, best practices. What I find to be so ironic about this tenet that grounds the NWP is that so many participants of NWP sites come to the project not realizing how many strengths they have as teachers, the brilliance they bring to the group, and the leadership skills buried within them (among many other things). I remember participating in the NVWP ISI for the first time in 2008. I presented the last day of demo lessons, and for the entire three-plus weeks prior to my demo lesson, I had a fiery pit in my stomach, petrified by one: presenting to a group of adults and two: exposing myself at the risk of being rejected as an “expert” teacher. I remember stuttering through the first twenty minutes of my lesson as my heart pounded against my chest…

    But as I prepare to present that demo lesson, as a three-hour workshop next week, seven years later, as well as a briefer demo lesson tomorrow, I am stunned at the influence the NWP has had on my confidence as a teacher. This is the NWP. And the LWIP does not fall short either. Regardless of geography, the NWP produces and honors teachers as leaders. As more should.

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