Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Am Not a Hero

In This is a call to all my past resignation from Stop Trying to Inspire Me, Tom writes,

“I'm supposed to be a professional. Being a martyr isn't professional. It's pathetic. I don't think that teaching is a calling. It's not a job, but it's just what you ... well, what you are. You have a job at a school, a career teaching a certain subject, but you ARE a teacher. That means that job or no job, you're still a teacher, much like a writer is always a writer no matter how old or how many jobs or books he writes. Teaching is a craft that you hone for years and years, and nowhere in that craft is anything that tells me that you should nail yourself to a cross. Because if there is, then I've made a huge mistake.”

I totally understand and agree with what Tom is saying. Whenever I tell people that I was a special education teacher (after they finally figured out that I didn’t mean that I taught “gym”), they would tell me that I was amazing, or call me an angel, or exclaim that I was a saint! This really made me uncomfortable. I don’t think I do anything special other than specialize in an area of teaching. This is a lot like an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist. They specialize in a certain area of the medical field but they trained for this, just like I trained for my profession. Of course I don’t get paid the extra money for my specialty like they do. I could only wish!

I taught special education for almost 30 years and learned something new all of the time. I learned as much from my students as they probably did from me. Even when I had many parents tell me how much they appreciated how much I did for their child, I didn’t feel like I did anything special. I did what I had to do. I did it because it was necessary in order for my students to be successful. In fact, I have a confession to make. I was in constant contact with the parents because it made my life easier. Since I had established a rapport with the parents, they supported me and backed me up when I was having problems with their child. When I felt discouraged, they were there to encourage me and boost me up. Other teachers would shake their heads at me or look at me disgustingly when, during parent conferences, parents would ask other teachers to contact them like I did. Needless to say, I was not always the most liked member of my faculty. I actually had some teachers come to me and tell me to stop contacting parents because it made their lives difficult. Well, I didn’t because it made my life easier!

I love to hear when former students contact me and tell that they are successful in their lives. This makes me feel good until they tell me that I did something special to make this happen. I believed in them. I don’t know how to tell them that this wasn’t anything special that I did. This was something that I think every teacher should do. It is like being a coach to a baseball team. The coach doesn’t give up on the team before they even start the game. He has to believe that they have a chance to win or they might as well not even play the game. When I teach, I believe that these students have a chance and it is my job to find what they need in order to succeed. If teachers don’t believe this, they need to either retire or resign. If a teacher doesn’t believe this and wants to continue to teach, an attitude change needs to happen or more harm than good will happen.

No, I’m not a hero. I don’t wear a special cape or have super powers. I just teach. I teach because it is the job I have chosen to do. I teach because I knew I would be happy in this profession and I had to have a career that I loved. I teach because I love it. I teach because I feel I can make a difference. But please, don’t think I’m a hero, because I’m not.

Original image: 'Supergirl - DC Anime Heroine Series' http://www.flickr.com/photos/52388909@N00/2874125162 by: Daniel Chan

7 comments:

Kobus van Wyk said...

The sentence towards the end of the posting sums the matter up nicely: "I teach because it is the job I have chosen to do." It is pathetic when teachers constantly complain about their lot in life - it is a career they have chosen. I wish more teachers would have an I-am-doing-what-I-ought-to-be-doing attitude.

Nicole said...

AMEN!! I get so tired of "oh it takes a special person to do what you do" - well, doesn't it take a special person to do anything? I personally think it takes a lot more patience to teach regular ed (those kids KNOW BETTER! My kiddos don't, most of the time!) - and I think it takes a special kind of person to come unclog my toilet when it won't flush ... or to crawl under my car and change the oil ...
I do my job. I enjoy it. I am also not a hero :-) As a matter of fact, the only cape I own is part of my witch costume for Halloween lol

Teresa McNamara said...

I've been lucky enough to catch up with some of my former students and their parents over the past few months and it is wonderful to hear what successes they have gone on to. It helps to balance out all the negatives!

loonyhiker said...

@Kobus: I don't mind teachers venting but also mix it with a healthy dose of good stuff too. It's the whiny teachers that never have anything good to say that drives me crazy!

loonyhiker said...

@Nicole: You are so right! When the plumber comes to fix a broken pipe or a roofer fixes the leak in my roof, I definitely see them as my heroes! Everyone has their individual strengths which is why people are so different in this world.

loonyhiker said...

@Teresa: It does warm my heart when I hear how wonderful my students are doing!

TGrant said...

I too feel I am only doing what I have chosen to do. I see the kids I teach as no more or less "special" than any of the other kids in the school, and, for the most part, society is not going to see them as more or less "special" either. I've taught regular education and now special education classes and they are both challenging in their own ways. If I didn't want the challenge I wouldn't have chosen the profession. I didn't chose the challenge of figuring our what's wrong with my car. I leave that to someone who chose that challenge. Special education teachers are simply taking on the challenge they chose (and enjoying it - at least I am).