“Whoever CHOOSES to be an English teacher is an idiot.”
Those were my exact words to my sophomore English teacher. Of course, not to her face because my adolescent self was much more respectful than that but very much passive-aggressively loud to ensure she heard. She did. And at the moment, I believed every word.
Who would want to READ and EDIT all day? Those were the two worst things I could imagine doing for the rest of my life.
Flash forward 20 (eek) years, and the irony doesn’t fail to hit me. I spent a decade in the public school system, you guessed it, teaching High School English and now am a full-time editor for Lubbock Moms. I read and write all day, which leads me to moments where I tell God, “You’re funny. I see you. I like it.”
I didn’t get to work on the cool elementary teacher things like teaching children the most foundational need in life – how to read. I can only imagine that that is the most rewarding position out there. No, I spent my days being sarcastic with 15-year-olds and assigning full-fledge essays every six weeks to a class of 150-225 students, depending on the district and year.
It sounds like I had the easy job until it came time to grade. My childhood thoughts of being a teacher were of power and control. I thought I’d assign students horrible essays that would take an eternity to get through the full writing process. I’d be the authority and the feared red pen.
Ha! Jokes on me. I soon learned that I would assign those essays to sit down and do the two things I told Mrs. Clariten she was an idiot for doing- read and edit.
Grading isn’t an easy task. It’s time-consuming. It’s more than simple punctuation and capital letters. In the secondary setting, it’s voice, tone, comprehension of the prompt, transitional moves, and correct usage of figurative language. You have to sit down and read a pre-teen’s thoughts for understanding. Sometimes students would throw charming phrases in their essays like, “I don’t think Mrs. Granzow really reads this, so I’m just writing what I want.” That’s cute.
A teacher who desires authentic learning leaves comments and feedback. If I could grade 1 essay in 5 minutes, I could get through 150 papers in 750 minutes (12.5 hours), bathroom breaks not included.
Next comes the catching of the student. I know it’s difficult to believe, but most 15-year-olds do not enjoy writing full expository essays, so there’s a good 10 percent who choose not to. If assigning, reading, editing, grading 150 essays wasn’t tricky enough, I now had to chase down the top 10% who would do anything to avoid an essay.
This is a process. A long, drug out process that occurred every six weeks as a massive test grade in my classroom, and I miss every moment.
The moments that occurred from August to May or even August to STAAR testing week are the most memorable educational experiences I’ve had. Taking children from a place of “writing is for idiots” to the land of “anybody can do this” is one that has stamped the brain and heart for a lifetime. Watching a student grow multiple grade levels, encourage other disgruntled writers, and then bring home a Meets/Masters Grade Level on the English I EOC is an incredible feat.
To all my past, present, and future English teachers, you are not an idiot. You have the best job out there. Thank you for inspiring me to do what I love, to grow, and to pass on the inspiration.
What is it you love to do? What passions are you pursuing now that originated in youth?