Mrs. Gwendolyn Harris, my grandson’s teacher at Chrysler Elementary in the City of Detroit was the inspiration for this article.
The responsibilities of classroom teachers go beyond facts, figures, and bench marks. Teachers must be cognizant of a students’ attendance, academic progress, and situational factors that predispose the student to any at risk behaviors while in class.
Teachers are overworked and under paid. There are not too many professions that demand the employee to oversee, manage, educate, nurture, motivate, model acceptable behavior, problem solve, maintain daily records, and know the trigger signs of physical abuse for twenty-five to thirty youngsters five days a week.
Nonetheless, the roles and responsibilities of teachers cannot be adequately covered in this article, as teachers must also actively demonstrate competency in various state objectives.
The early years
Adolescence is a time of constant change with various developmental stages (Erickson, 1968). Students are coming of age and each stage of child development puts different demands on the teacher (Robson). How responsibilities are managed and instructions are carried out in the classroom can have life-time effects on students.
One afternoon during the 2013 winter break for the Detroit Public Schools, my grandson opted to sit at his desk, cut the television down, and read aloud a book that was assigned to him by his teacher. He did not ask me to listen or even partake in his recital—he just sat and read. No one instructed him to pick the book up, as a matter of fact; the television was on for his viewing.
Subsequently, I became enthralled with his behavior along with the realization that a teacher had left an indelible mark on him. He imitated his teacher’s comments when he turned the pages of the book by praising himself for doing such a good job, saying, “Rub that halo.”
I remember being a freshman in college and having Dr. Lawrence James as my speech instructor. When speaking in public, he would tell the class that you have to make the audience “see the tree.” He said, “Your words have to become images, and you pick the words, emotions and gesturing to make your audience see what you say.” His instructions became a lifetime revelation.
I also recall the first time being forced to speak before a large group of people. I was required to speak to an audience of fifty or so of my peers in Auditorium at my elementary school. Many years ago Auditorium was a required class. Auditorium was basically a rudimentary version of theater and public speaking.
After my presentation, my classmates were looking at me very intently. My teacher finally broke the silence and commended me on doing such a fine job. At that point, although only a 6th grader, I knew that I had the talent to capture audiences. Incidentally, no one in the class wanted to speak after me.
Also, my first grade teacher, Miss McGrath, would often fall to sleep during the classes’ reading time. I was always afraid that something real bad was going to happen when she was a sleep: This too left an impression on me.
The unwritten curriculum
Teachers impact nearly every one; from the most celebrated public officials to the minimum wage earners--classrooms are the first place of real-life socialization.
Teachers take on their roles every day, striving to bring a life-time learner into existence; trying to capture that one moment when the student is ripe for receiving information; hoping to lay a foundation for possibilities; devising plans to keep the gifted engaged and the drifter in focus; encouraging thirty students to do the same thing at the same time while promoting individualism and uniqueness, and looking back and hoping that it was a good day.
Teachers are an elite group, as there is no other profession with so many demands on one person. In schools today teachers are facing the issue of gun violence in the classroom; ultimately, will they have to give their life for their vocation?
I too was a classroom teacher. I would come to class with my arsenal of preparedness and hit the ground running. During my student teaching I recall an instructor holding a book up very high over her head. She waved the book over her head and said, “You can teach the book.” She dropped the book to the floor with a loud thud. “Or, you can teach the kid.” What an eye opening concept---a teacher taught me how educate others.
Teachers are not the enemy. Teachers are the agents who give society a reality check by teaching the fundamentals that reflects societal norms. When that reality check and society’s fundamental norms are out of sic, then the teachers have to anticipate the dreaded “pink slip.” Yet, if schools are in perfect harmony, then the administrators want to sit in the cat bird seat.
Whether it is a one room school house with a limited number of McGuffie Readers or a technology filled classroom with IPods at every station, teachers are there. Teachers are the schoolmasters for society. They are central to a civilizations’ survival, as they pass down more than words, pictures, and history; they are humankinds’ road map to knowledge, abstract thinking, and empowerment.
Support their vocation, because teachers are not in a class all by themselves.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.
robson, h. (2013, february 13). ehow. Retrieved from ehow: www.ehow.com/print/info_8202312_teachers-do-classroom.html