Later, my 16-year old looked on while I read accounts of text exchanges between parents and children, choking as I tried to read one aloud to her. "The longest twenty minutes of my life," one parent said of the time that elapsed between messages. I cannot begin to imagine. My college freshman, my high schooler, and my sixth grader pull me into three different spaces mentally and emotionally when I cannot be there physically at a moments notice on a typical school day.
Then, as a former middle and high school teacher, reading reports about the fallen educators in Florida took me back to those teaching days again. "In loco parentis" refers to a teacher or other adult responsible for children in place of a parent. In some cases, schools provide a safe, welcoming, and food-secure environment that students might not find elsewhere. In other cases, safety means protection from natural disasters and other outside forces. We huddled in hallways during storms; we grabbed our record books and marched outside for fires or, yes, bomb threats; we locked our doors and hid in darkness during lockdown drills. To parents of former students I can say I was prepared to put myself in harm's way for your children.
My job now is to prepare future teachers to take on these responsibilities above and beyond the content they teach, the strategies to teach that content, and the planning, behavior, accountability, and administrative demands. My methods candidates are fortunate to have class in a high school each week after their time observing mentor teachers, and throughout the semester, candidates try to apply pedagogical theory while presenting to peers and teaching mini-lessons in their mentor teachers' classrooms. We discuss student engagement, classroom management, and--perhaps most important--relationships with students.
On February 15, one of my secondary graduate candidates texted:
I wasn't going to observe today [because] the kids have a half day and this fog was really scary to drive in, but after what happened yesterday in FL, I wanted to see how at least one teacher handles it. I'm glad I did. She led a lengthy class discussion and students were very knowledgeable about details of what happened. She related the shooting to [their] school and the purpose of rules. Today all math classes were devoted to mental health and making student aware of resources available through the school. It was sad but fascinating to watch.As teachers, we must be prepared to have difficult conversations like these.
This profession offers such fulfillment and personal growth. But teachers cannot stay for only these two reasons. During the educator preparation meeting that ended with news alerts, the director had discussed a professional development alliance she attended with superintendents and other educators. They brainstormed the causes of teacher shortages and came up with seven "Ps":
The next day, I sent the director some additional "Ps":
- Pain (in spite of passion)--it's just so heartbreaking and painful at times to be a teacher.
- Protection (or lack thereof)--teachers do not feel protected in this current climate... Protected from top-down policies. Protected by or from legislation. Protected from shooters. Protected from media.
- Prepared is another--teachers may be prepared in theory and know how to use best practices and build relationships in the classroom, but who is truly prepared for every other aspect of teaching? We are parents of 20-120 students during the school day. How do we prepare candidates for that kind of weight, that kind of responsibility, especially in light of what happened yesterday?