A Skeptic's Guide to
Surviving Teaching in Tough Times
Before you begin a teaching career, you watch movies like "Freedom Writers" and think Hilary Swank's character will be you one day. You will reach the students others have given up on, hand them composition notebooks, and deliver a speech about how they haven’t failed school—school has failed them. And then, as they share their life stories with you in complete, articulate sentences, they will realize they finally have a teacher who cares about them, and they’ll see that learning can be fun, because you’ll relate the lessons to their lives. Then they will teach you to dance, and you can tell your friends that you learned as much from your students as they learned from you.
A few months into your teaching career, you don’t expect students to teach you to dance anymore. Now, you’re just mad that in "Freedom Writers" all the kids actually bring their composition books to class on a regular basis. You’ve also realized something worse: If teaching really were a movie, you wouldn’t be the star. You have papers stacked in the back seat of your car and on your ironing board. You spend less time listening to your students and more time wishing they would listen to you. Your to-do list, which includes contacting parents, has grown to include contacting lawmakers about policies and funding cuts.
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