Have you ever bought a new car and then found that, all of a sudden, every car you see on the road is that kind of car? Or sometimes this type of thing happens when people are expecting a child and could swear that, wherever they go, they see pregnant women. Our consciousness is such that we tend to see and experience what we become aware of. The same has been true with my dream teaching job since my initial posting.
Of course, it has been on my mind, and in reading the other posts and comments in this forum, I have felt a sense of camaraderie and connection with my colleagues across the nation. Then this awareness was validated last weekend when a potentially rough day at school went as smooth as could be because I was recognized as a coach on campus. I was substituting at my school’s Saturday Success Academy, a program designed to help students pass the state mandated tests in reading and math. As I walked in the room, I was greeted by a group of 9th and 10th graders who certainly didn’t want to be in school on a Saturday, much less during spring break. As I geared up for “battle,” one of the students shouted “Hey, aren’t you the boys varsity soccer coach?” As I told them I was, another girl said “Yeah, my boyfriend is on the JV team. How can he get on varsity?” Within a minute, the whole feeling in the room changed. Suddenly, I was no longer seen as the “sub.” I was validated as a coach and therefore worthy of the students’ attention. I didn’t have to spend the first hour earning their respect. Insteadm I could actually begin to teach them, infusing lessons with humor and life. We actually accomplished quite a bit that day.
So I just experienced what we have been commenting on: living my dream job, which included a hybrid job description combining coaching and teaching. All in all, I have had a renewed sense of hope and dedication to our profession, which all too often can become a quagmire of demoralization and negative rhetoric.
In reading the other posts and comments, I think all of the ideas expressed seem both reasonable and inspirting. So now I have more questions. Why don’t teachers’ roles change? Why can’t they? The one factor that hasn’t been elaborated on in this forum is money. Certainly that is a vital element of doing anything new schools, but, for purposes of hypothetical thinking, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take that variable out of the equation for the time being. Too often in education, things don’t get accomplished because people say there is no money ... and the discussion just ends there.
One of the things I have done my whole life has been to create things. My stepfather always told me to “make it happen, Lhisa.” So, whenever I wanted to do something, that was always my bottom line. I had the power to make it happen. As a consequence, I’ve been a founder, co-founder, and creator of various organizations throughout my life, beginning when I was in high school. I also give seminars to young people on how to create what they want in life.
So, it seems as though we should be able to apply this philosophy to our career situations. Let’s look at what we can control and take control of it. If we want to collaborate, let’s find a group of teachers who are willing to change the definition of their roles and create pilots within our schools. If such initiatives are successful, as I suspect they would be, then we can take our successes to higher levels. At that point, we may be able to define the financial component of our new hybrid roles.
Certainly there are numerous possibilities that we can create with our colleagues. Teachers are an amazing group of professionals who tend, by definition, to be dedicated to improving education. The hard part is when we are given mandates and told what to do, which sparks pushback. But if we create and control our own mandates, then we can truly help ourselves as well as our students.
Lhisa Almashy is an ESOL teacher at Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Fla. A 2012 winner of Teaching Tolerance’s Cultural Responsive Teaching Award, she has more than 16 years of experience in teaching and administering multicultural programs in her district.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.