In Season 5 of Wonder Years, Kevin is in 11th grade. One episode refers to “The No-Man’s Land of Public Education“. Sometimes this is where I find myself when I’m subbing. I’m a teacher, but not a teacher. Many days I feel like a glorified babysitter, and that’s not what I want to be. I try to be an authority figure as well as a friend to the students. I strive to be pleasant, knowing that for some kids school is their safe place. But, some days, I just see this broken system and feel helpless.
“Nothing seems to fit anymore” – this thought from the same episode is one I can relate to on many levels. Literally, as I am fighting my clothes these days. Figuratively, as I once more face a summer with no work. My drive to be a teacher may never go away, but I just can’t see my way to going back full-time. My drive to write will never go away, but I can’t find a way to steadily earn money with my writing. Even being a mom doesn’t fit the way it used to. But, to everything there is a season.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven – Ecclesiastes 3:1
Wonder Years Fun Fact: KEVIN AND WINNIE’S FIRST KISS WAS THE REAL THING.
“I’m a teacher, but they won’t let me teach – not the way I can. It’s just not worth it.” – Miss Shaw, the Wonder Years, Season 5
I recently binge watched the entire Wonder Years series. I’d say I teared up during about 80% of the episodes. But, I must reveal that Kevin, the main character, was just two years my senior. I’m talking the character, not the actor. So, all that 70s stuff, all those family issues, the clothes, the culture – that was my world.
Instead of my teen-self, one episode got to the heart of my teacher-self. Miss Shaw was an unconventional teacher. She loved what she was doing and it showed. The kids knew it and her fire lit them up. I’m not saying I agreed with all her methods. But, when she said, “…they won’t let me teach – not the way I can”, I felt like she was speaking for so many other teachers. I recently talked to a teacher who is certified and experienced in one thing and has a desire for it, but she is being forced to teach something else. That’s just sad.
I’ve been in four different school systems in the past few years as a substitute and I’ve seen the mindless test prep and the daily wasted hours in “study hall’ where maybe on a good day five kids were studying. I’ve been in middle schools where seventh graders can’t write a lucid paragraph; in high schools where students spent more time “googling” an answer on their phones than it would have taken to read the article in front of them to find the answer.
I’m not saying there is no good teaching. I have come across pockets of creativity and solid math lessons; I have met some very caring teachers. It’s not usually the teachers, but it’s the system, the “they” that Miss Shaw referred to, that is killing education in our country. And every June, there are teachers who decide, like Miss Shaw, “it’s just not worth it.”
“…So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…” – from Both Sides Now by Judy Collins
I’ve seen teaching from both sides now; as a full-time teacher and as a substitute. I wish I knew how to make a change.