Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NYC Educator: Happiness and Teaching

NYC Educator: Happiness and Teaching:

Happiness and Teaching


Yesterday I wrote about a young teacher who was happy when she ate lobster. Today I'm going to look at something a little more broad--what exactly makes teachers happy? That's a tough question, because there are a lot of variables. I know a lot of unhappy teachers, and the reasons for their unhappiness are varied, with some more valid than others.

I like my job a lot, and I feel blessed for that. I'd like to share this happiness, but it's very much about circumstance and point of view, so I'm not always able to do it. It's a little easier to give students optimism than it is to give it to adults. Because I'm happy with my work, I try to show them that they can be too. I try to show them that they have choices. That's important to me. Alas, it's not important to the politicians who make the laws, or the bureaucrats who regulate my work.

For example, I wrote a few days back that I will be rated based on the NY State English Regents scores of six beginning ESL students. This is awkward because my main role is not to teach them whatever it is they do on the English Regents this year. My main role is to teach them to speak, understand, write and read English. If that means teaching them, "My name is ___________. What's your name?" then that's what I do. I want them to be happy here, and it's hard for me to see how they do that if they can't communicate.

If I were to judge myself by the same standard the State does, I'd be very unhappy indeed. I do not expect those six students to pass that test, and I will not waste one minute of my time preparing them to do so. They will pass that test when they are ready. I judge myself differently. Little things kids say to me mean a lot.

I have had one girl in my class for a long time. She arrived toward the end of the 2014-15 school year. In 2015-16, she didn't manage to pass my tests, and was very quiet. This year, for some reason, she started talking. She started making jokes. In fact, she recently went out and got herself a job as a cashier somewhere. I congratulated her, and told her how happy I was with her progress.

"It's great to see you speaking English like this, " I told her. "How did it happen?"

"I don't know," she said. "I was surprised too."

But it was her time. I may or may not have had something to do with it, but regardless, I'm very happy about it. This means a lot more to me NYC Educator: Happiness and Teaching:



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