Civilization's Centurions

Before I came to realize that my future resided in the classroom, I took two education classes in my senior year of college.  I'd already completed most mandated courses and taken more than the required units of English.  So to help fill out two remaining semesters, I joined some fellow English majors in their educational theory and adolescent psychology classes.  They wanted to teach.  I wanted a break from courses with multiple outside readings and research papers.

At the same time, I took a job as a teacher (one class at noon) at a local Catholic parish high school.  I'd worked my way through college at a variety of part-time and summer jobs, and the $25 a week the principal offered was on a par with my usual school-year employment.  What could be easier than standing in front of high school seniors and letting them bask in the glow of my newly acquired literary sophistication?  They'd be duly impressed, and I'd be spared any heavy lifting.  Besides, I was taking two education classes -- easy peasy.

What I immediately discovered, however, was twofold: (1) I was not Socrates dispensing wisdom to knowledge-hungry acolytes, and (2) I had found a career.  I knew in my bones that the disappointment and embarrassment I felt at the end of that first class paled in contrast to the possibilities the process offered.  The prospect of someone with knowledge to offer standing in front of younger people in need of that knowledge intrigued me.  Transferring that information looked simple enough from then-outside, but all my initial assumptions about how to accomplish the task were naïve and ineffective. 

After graduation, I began a teaching career which spanned four decades, every year of which I learned more about the profession.  At the beginning I was still convinced that education classes and teacher conferences imparted vital information.  That's what everyone in charge said, but I just couldn't see it.  As a consequence, for the first five years or so, I felt less than qualified to teach.  All the buzzwords and theories bandied about at in-services seemed erudite and scholarly enough, but I couldn't find any real application to the day-to-day reality of my classes.  I nodded and tried to appear as impressed as those around me, while I waited for a teacher-fraud SWAT team to kick in my classroom door and arrest me for impersonating an educator.

What I gradually learned to be the truth, though, was that all the "expert" speakers, how-to-teach textbooks, and additional education classes mandated by the state for permanent certification were useless.  Teachers are born, not made.  If you're not suited for the job, you're either going to choose another career, or worse, learn to game the system and rob students of a meaningful learning experience.  Not only are the required courses, paperwork, and red tape involved in primary and secondary teaching today without merit, but they also take away significant time from good teachers -- time they need to research, to prepare, and to correct, as well as to devise real strategies for the classroom.  These obstacles also preclude taking meaningful class-content graduate courses.

If you are among the willfully misplaced in the teaching profession, a regulatory labyrinth of paperwork and red tape can provide you with credentialed cover.  Make sure that your State Department of Education internet courses are up to date, submit state standards-laden lesson plans to your administrators on time, and stay awake during mind-numbing in-services, and no one, except perhaps your students, will question your authority.

Before I came to realize that my future resided in the classroom, I took two education classes in my senior year of college.  I'd already completed most mandated courses and taken more than the required units of English.  So to help fill out two remaining semesters, I joined some fellow English majors in their educational theory and adolescent psychology classes.  They wanted to teach.  I wanted a break from courses with multiple outside readings and research papers.

At the same time, I took a job as a teacher (one class at noon) at a local Catholic parish high school.  I'd worked my way through college at a variety of part-time and summer jobs, and the $25 a week the principal offered was on a par with my usual school-year employment.  What could be easier than standing in front of high school seniors and letting them bask in the glow of my newly acquired literary sophistication?  They'd be duly impressed, and I'd be spared any heavy lifting.  Besides, I was taking two education classes -- easy peasy.

What I immediately discovered, however, was twofold: (1) I was not Socrates dispensing wisdom to knowledge-hungry acolytes, and (2) I had found a career.  I knew in my bones that the disappointment and embarrassment I felt at the end of that first class paled in contrast to the possibilities the process offered.  The prospect of someone with knowledge to offer standing in front of younger people in need of that knowledge intrigued me.  Transferring that information looked simple enough from then-outside, but all my initial assumptions about how to accomplish the task were naïve and ineffective. 

After graduation, I began a teaching career which spanned four decades, every year of which I learned more about the profession.  At the beginning I was still convinced that education classes and teacher conferences imparted vital information.  That's what everyone in charge said, but I just couldn't see it.  As a consequence, for the first five years or so, I felt less than qualified to teach.  All the buzzwords and theories bandied about at in-services seemed erudite and scholarly enough, but I couldn't find any real application to the day-to-day reality of my classes.  I nodded and tried to appear as impressed as those around me, while I waited for a teacher-fraud SWAT team to kick in my classroom door and arrest me for impersonating an educator.

What I gradually learned to be the truth, though, was that all the "expert" speakers, how-to-teach textbooks, and additional education classes mandated by the state for permanent certification were useless.  Teachers are born, not made.  If you're not suited for the job, you're either going to choose another career, or worse, learn to game the system and rob students of a meaningful learning experience.  Not only are the required courses, paperwork, and red tape involved in primary and secondary teaching today without merit, but they also take away significant time from good teachers -- time they need to research, to prepare, and to correct, as well as to devise real strategies for the classroom.  These obstacles also preclude taking meaningful class-content graduate courses.

If you are among the willfully misplaced in the teaching profession, a regulatory labyrinth of paperwork and red tape can provide you with credentialed cover.  Make sure that your State Department of Education internet courses are up to date, submit state standards-laden lesson plans to your administrators on time, and stay awake during mind-numbing in-services, and no one, except perhaps your students, will question your authority.