Where is the Magic?

What She Wore: Slate blue, long-sleeve tee; charcoal grey cords; black snow boots.  I’d put up pictures of my shoes, but truthfully, they’re really boring these days. 

One of my favorite websites is Postsecret.com   The other day it had the saddest post card on it.  Here it is:

This postcard, combined with Hillary Swank’s upcoming movie, Freedom Writers, has prompted me to say something about teaching as a profession: it ain’t easy. 

Ok, that’s a little trite, but seriously, if teacher’s had batting averages, they’d be horrible.  We step up to the plate, we swing, and nine times out of ten, we miss.  But you have to give yourself a bit of a break on these things.  Kids will come to you hungry, tired, beaten, jaded, sad, and disabled.  Not to mention teenage hormones.  Add all of this in, and you’re supposed to cut through the fog and teach them something about the area of a circle or metapors. 

 

Suddendly, being an accountant doesn’t seem so hard. 

But teachers are gluttons for punishment.  We press forward and hope that we reach ONE kid in a class, or ONE kid in a year.  Doesn’t sound that great, but you’re fighting history, peer pressure, family, and social circumstance.  No easy task.  This year Mr. K and I brought up math scores 2%.  Was that good enough for the Federal government?  Not even close.  Was that good enough for us?  You betcha.  We examined individual scores and found our victories.  It’s the only way to do it. 

Movies like Freedom Writers or Dangerous Minds give an inaccurate picture.  In an hour and a half, one dedicated teacher changes the lives of all her students.  I sure wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t.  Read the books behind the movies and you’ll see a much different truth: teaching and reaching is a slow, laborious process. 

There is magic in teaching–you just have to look hard to see it.

KM 

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About takedeux

In one summer I had a baby who was hospitalized for five weeks, quit my job, and moved back to my hometown. This blog is about starting over.
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30 Responses to Where is the Magic?

  1. Ash says:

    Hello – I am with Windows Live Spaces and we would like to feature your space on our home page at some point.  Can you please email me so that we can discuss and get your consent if you are interested?  To contact me:  I have invited you to my friends list and IM list.  If you want to discuss this, please accept my invite and IM me.  I can give you my work email address via IM.
    Thanks!
    AshleyWindows Live Spaces

  2. g says:

    Gosh, you are so right.  It takes hours and hours of work, preparation, focus, discipline, organization, and dediciation, to name a few, to teach.  I work hard and have been labeled the "most organized" teacher in the building.  Well, organization and discipline are key to maintaining a classroom for instruction.  My scores from last year were good.  Especially in reading.  Math is lower, but take so much more.  I hope to bring this class up as they are pretty low this year, in reading and math and the standardized testing are just around the corner.  Good luck to you.  I admire hard working teachers.

  3. g says:

    Congrats on the invite to be featured!  That is awesome.

  4. Unknown says:

    Well said. I totally agree with you that teaching is a hard profession. I truly beleive teachers are not given the recognition, the credit or the pay they deserve. And no I am not a teacher. Society is always placing blame on the teachers for not improving all the students. Hello! What about the parents. They should be sitting with their kids in the evenings and helping them do their homework and make sure they do it. But do all parents do that. Hell no. My best friends teaches 2nd grade and I hear her stories all the time. It is sad but true. You can only do so much. So thank you for being a dedciated, caring teacher who tries her hardest. That is all you can do.

  5. Sheryl-Ann says:

    Well said, KM!  Teaching is truly a noble profession, and I always say if I reach one student, I will be happy.  It just means that one life has been changed and that can only be cause for celebration.  Take care and have an awesome week.  Hope you are feeling well.

  6. Neen says:

    I\’ve been reading your blog for a little while and not commenting but what you just wrote pretty much clearly outlines what I wrote in my letter of personal intent when applying for my b.ed programs this year. 
     
    So I had to comment that I agree!
    I also think FAR too many people enter into the teaching profession as a "fallback".  I can\’t tell you how many people I\’ve heard this year say "I don\’t know what I want to do, I think I\’ll apply to teaching."
     
    ARGH!!!!
    I\’ve been volunteering for 3 years now in an elementary class.  The first year, I came home crying ALMOST every single day.  My mom thought I was nuts to keep going, there are just so many kids…and so little time.  There\’s only so much you can do when you\’re teaching a child to read and he looks at you and says: "I can never learn to read, cause I don\’t practice at home.  My mom doesn\’t love me enough to practice with me.", and you look at his torn, pee-smelling clothes, and his matted hair…it takes ages just to get past the social and home difficulties, let alone teach them.  "N" was eventually taken from his parents…and I DID keep going, because I know that if I even gave him ONE iota of self-confidence, it was worth the world. 
     
    Anyway, I put in my letter that you can never "solve" everything, you can only give your students the academic and personal tools and hope that they use them later on.  (or something like that lol!).
     
    I\’ve written a book now, once you\’ve started me on this I can\’t stop!
    Thanks for reminding me why I\’m doing this! (I\’m waiting on those acceptance letters….)
     
    Jennine
     
     

  7. ncjenn2nd says:

    What a wonderful post.  Thank you for helping to show the tough parts of teaching.  I currently have a student who is ESL and has me, his ESL teacher and his Title I teacher all up in arms because he seems to have lost motivation and is moving backwards, and he is barely at a kindergarten level!  It is so frustrating to have a child who has 4 adults (my assistant included) interested in his learning and he is just not.  Our next step is a parent conference…but this is just one example of what I have going on with the 23 students I have all day.   And they are only 2nd graders!  If they don\’t get it now though, they won\’t get it when they are older unless they have someone who cares.  My goal is to let them know I care and will do what I can for them…then maybe they will all try hard and realize that school is a tool for the future.  Here\’s to magic!

  8. Becca says:

    You are so right. Nothing more that I can add. Keep up the good work!
    Hugs,
    Becca

  9. Jaysey says:

    You\’re right–there is magic in teaching.  I think, though, that the sadness of the postcard stems from misconceptions by that group yu briefly mentioned, the federal government.  While teachers can continue to trudge through, happy with their one a year or 2%, the federal government continues to pressure them to meet unrealistic goals–they ask for miracles that simply cannot be performed.  We have much the same thing in public higher education.  Just this past year, we got the dreammakers vs. dreambreakers speech…as if you can only be one or the other for every student you see.  The truth is, teaching is never that black and white.  I can be a drembreaker for some, whle being a dreammaker for others.  Every student has a different background, and each has a different experience in school.  When the government recognizes and supports that, only then can teachers begin to make a difference in even more lives.

  10. Tracy says:

    Hey now, being an accountant is just as hard as being a teacher.  LOL just kidding!!!!!!  What I love about you and teaching is how your heart is in it — it seems like some of my teachers growing up – they came to school, taught class, and left for the day – not thinking twice about the kids or what went on.  To you it\’s more than just a job and that\’s awesome!

  11. Toni says:

    The movies make it look so easy…you make it look so much worth the effort. ~Toni

  12. -c says:

    PostSecret is one of my favorites as well. Under that postcard was a message saying something about "you are the magic." I thought that said so much about teachers. There are so many teachers I remember well, who touched my life in very important ways – both positively and negatively. (I wrote this blog about it.)
     
    I didn\’t think much about this until after I taught for three years. I wasn\’t a very good teacher – it\’s not a place I ever thought I would end up – but long story short, when students (mine were mostly adults) see me and come over to say hi and ask how I\’m doing it means so much to me. It affirms that I did touch their life in some small way.
     
    You may not turn every student\’s life around 180 degrees, but you have, and continue to, touched them. In the years to come, no matter what happens in their lives, that influence will be there. (Of course, what they do with that is their choice. Some of us make good choices, some not so good.)
     
    I\’m trying to say your students know whether or not you really care, and the fact that you do care will be remembered.
     
    -cindy

  13. Sarah says:

    I couldn\’t agree with you more. I love how dedicated you are to your students. Just as an outside party I can tell that you really do care whether you reach them or not. Teaching is not just a job for you. It\’s more. Having teachers like you is what makes kids want to learn and want to excell in school. Keep up the good work and know that people realize how much you put up with and what you go through to teach kids and we appreciate it.

  14. Sherry says:

    Thank you for choosing to be a teacher.  You are helping to educate our future. I believe we need more teachers who want to teach, not that "fall back" on teaching.  I have two teachers in my past that had a profound effect on how I turned out.  Thank you, Sister Margaret Phillip and Mrs Montgomery! 

  15. Unknown says:

    Just stopping by to say hello.  Keep on sluggin\’ away – because teachers DO reach that one kid in each class and that is SO important.  God bless 🙂

  16. Bri says:

    Thanks for the heads up about the website. I had heard of the project, but didn\’t know there was a website. It\’s truly moving to read what people will say in such an honest and creative way.thanks again,Bri

  17. Ami says:

    In my opinion, teachers are a special breed of people and they deserve so much more credit than they get. It\’s not easy. It\’s messy and difficult and wonderful and rewarding all at the same time. I wish I had it in me to be a teacher, but I just don\’t think I do. And that makes the people who do have it (like you) heros in my eyes. Thank you for doing what so many others can\’t do. Thank you for teaching.

  18. Toni says:

    I\’ll be headed to Cabot, maybe staying in Jacksonville, I don\’t know…around the end of the month…I actually think it\’d be pretty neato to see my old house and my old neighborhood–It\’ll be the first time I\’ve ever been able to go back to any of the places I\’ve lived…and of course seeing my friend will be kind of cool, too. I think Cabot is like…what? Maybe 45 minutes northish of Little Rock?

  19. Stacy says:

    I don\’t teach school (although I have always wanted to) but I do teach a Jr Youth group at church.  I love those Aha moments that the kids sometimes get when they really "get" what I am telling them.  I love the looks on their faces and the little glint in their eyes.  My class isn\’t all about learning verses and hearing the same old stories.  I do more of life lessons and how Christian kids can fit in with non-Christians, dealing with many different peer pressures, etc.  So I get to see those moments.  It is funny how many of these moments happen when I am at my wits end, or bored, or frustrated, or thinking about taking time off.  It gives me that extra little push to keep teaching.  I imagine it is all that more when you are with them every day.
     
    -S.

  20. Cindy says:

    First of all, congratulations on being asked to be featured! You really deserve it!
     
    Secondly, it takes someone special to be able to teach. I know I couldn\’t do it!
     
    And lastly, you\’re welcome. I\’m glad my comment helped!
     
    Take care
     

  21. Nadine says:

     Roy and I were just talkin\’ this am….well sort a…. The coach at TU is leaving….pack your panties and get out of my state, you turncoat!
     to go to another school and make more money……all coaches make too much money! They can rationalize it all they want to but COACHES should not make more money than the Science Teacher or the Math Teacher…these are the ones that truly educate our children!
     How many jocks doing those interviews speak articulately? The ones that come from the Military Academies!!
     It is not an easy job to teach. And I do believe it gets worse each year.
     I have talked to many teachers from the local schools. They believe as I do. That when they started teaching in the 70\’s the students were far different than the students now. The respect for Authority has taken a downturn. And many have said that they were glad to be retiring becuz they didn\’t want to around the next generation.
     Whether it be lack of parenting skills, more drug use, more promiscuity, or apathy……and you know that there are some bad teachers that should not be allowed into classrooms……but things have changed.
     A priority shift…..and overall I can\’t believe it to be a good one.
     It is the same in Roy\’s profession….. in the 70\’s it was "Yes Sir, No Sir, I won\’t do it again, Sir."  And in the 90\’s it was "What the Hell are you stopping me for?"
     
     Whew!! That took a lot out of me! I used some big words. I better go lie down!

  22. Sheryl-Ann says:

    Hi KM, congrats:)!  The SEC sure put in quite a showing this season, including your beloved Tigers.  Did anybody see that beat-down that the Gators gave the Buckeyes coming?  Not too many people gave them a chance in that game and they basically proved the whole country wrong.  That was a clinic (hahahaha)!  Oh well, I can\’t wait for next season!

  23. Wahzat says:

    Oh I have to say that it is awesome that you love your job. I pray that you and Mr. K. always feel inspired to keep at it and keep on making and finding that magic.
     
    Hope you are having a great week. Are you reading all of those books about what your baby is doing right now? So exciting.

  24. K says:

    Hollywood glamourizes everything… omitting key elements that show all the work that goes into something… but then again – it would end up being a 6-7 hr movie and well… who wants to sit through that?  I dunno.  I admire teachers because they are fighting the odds to make a difference even if its just one student.  And at times… it might take years… not months to see that difference materialize.  I\’d be giving you a standing ovation for your 2% improvement with your students… Its very admirable for the class that you are in!  Congrats to the students as well… that shows hard work!
     
    Keep doing what you do Katie… its inspiring and gives hope.  You and Mr K make a great team!
     
    Ciao bella,
    KC

  25. Gina says:

    But after that post card, wasn\’t there an email from a reader that said something like "you (as the teacher) are the magic".  I think that a lot of times, you magic is there and is working but it doesn\’t always show, or sometimes you don\’t get to see the end result.  I bet you can look back on certain teachers you had and think, "He was so great, I really learned so much…" Of course, the teacher sometimes never gets to hear those thoughts or sentiments.  But they do exist. 

  26. Nora says:

    I think the magic exists in those little things.  Your batting average may not be good, but you will see the rewards and whole picture someday.  My father-in-law taught for 30 years and he had made such an impact, his funeral was full of former students who said he inspired them.  We got letters for months from others.  It makes a difference.  It\’s definately not time wasted.
     
    Nora

  27. CJ says:

    You have such a big heart and it truly shows when you write about your students.  Sadly, there are many teachers out there who aren\’t in it for more than a paycheck.  There IS magic out there and it\’s reflected in those rare people, such as yourself.  You bring the magic of learning into the lives of others.  It is up to them to embrace that magic and make it their own. 

  28. c says:

    what a great post. I recently watched Freedom Writers and it was an excellent movie. You\’re right though, it\’s only part of the story and glosses over much. While it glossed over it for the most part it did seem to touch on the affects her efforts had on her outside relationships and the sacrifice that was. Teaching is definitely too often a thankless job. Like anyone else I had the full range of medicore to awful to wonderful teachers and it\’s the wonderful that remained ingrained in my mind years later. The 4th grade teacher that patiently challenged a desperately shy little girl to try out for the spelling bee, a college history prof that cried when speaking of George Washington and instilled more excitement about history then I ever thought possible… The stories go on and on. Keep up the good work, it sounds like you really care about your students and I\’m sure they can tell that whether or not they always respond. And congrats on the baby!

  29. c says:

    what a great post. I recently watched Freedom Writers and it was an excellent movie. You\’re right though, it\’s only part of the story and glosses over much. While it glossed over it for the most part it did seem to touch on the affects her efforts had on her outside relationships and the sacrifice that was. Teaching is definitely too often a thankless job. Like anyone else I had the full range of medicore to awful to wonderful teachers and it\’s the wonderful that remained ingrained in my mind years later. The 4th grade teacher that patiently challenged a desperately shy little girl to try out for the spelling bee, a college history prof that cried when speaking of George Washington and instilled more excitement about history then I ever thought possible… The stories go on and on. Keep up the good work, it sounds like you really care about your students and I\’m sure they can tell that whether or not they always respond. And congrats on the baby!

  30. c says:

    what a great post. I recently watched Freedom Writers and it was an
    excellent movie. You\’re right though, it\’s only part of the story and
    glosses over much. While it glossed over it for the most part it did
    seem to touch on the affects her efforts had on her outside
    relationships and the sacrifice that was. Teaching is definitely too
    often a thankless job. Like anyone else I had the full range of
    medicore to awful to wonderful teachers and it\’s the wonderful that
    remained ingrained in my mind years later. The 4th grade teacher that
    patiently challenged a desperately shy little girl to try out for the
    spelling bee, a college history prof that cried when speaking of George
    Washington and instilled more excitement about history then I ever
    thought possible… The stories go on and on.

    Keep up the good work, it sounds like you really care about your
    students and I\’m sure they can tell that whether or not they always
    respond. And congrats on the baby!

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