The message we are bombarded with is do what you love (and the money will follow). But this story provides an interesting twist on it: Reader Story: I Quit My Passion and Took a Boring Job – Forbes.
It also provides more evidence that anyone who works in schools eventually is forced to
- become either a cop or an entertainer, and
- avoid the truth, to tell lies, to become a phony.
There’s more thoughts on this below the fold.
In the classroom I vacillated between the easy going, honest human being I wanted to be, and the businesslike teacher I knew I had to be if my class was to function. One day I’d sit laughing with my students, talking about a story one of them had written, ignoring their gum (against school rules) or “off-task” behaviour. The next day I’d hand out detentions for “swearing,” tardies, and of course any rude, sarcastic, or otherwise “inappropriate” statements. In my confused inconsistency, I imagine I was a more frightening authority figure than a military-style teacher would have been; sometimes it seemed that no sooner had students let down their guard and begun to relate to me as a real person, than I would snap nervously back into teacher mode and bitch at them for “disrupting.”
I could not tell my students about my raging opinions with a clean professional conscience, but I couldn’t not tell them with a clean moral conscience. A friend sent
me a button that said “Free the Kids,” and I wore it. Some days I was afraid that by writing I’d lose all my friends and even the trust of my students themselves. I finally
told two students what I was up to, and of course had some guilty professional twangs about doing so. ["Teenage Liberation Handbook"]
If [the teacher] gives up being a boss, he must find himself to some degree being an entertainer. He has no business in the classroom except to think up things for children to do. If they don‘t want to do any of them, he can hardly help feeling something of a failure. This is almost sure to make him anxious about his offerings, his anxiety will make the children anxious, and in will come an element of subtle coercion. ["Freedom and Beyond", John Holt]
being a cop in the classroom (except for people who like being cops) wears teachers out. It is not a proper task or a right relationship. It is not a fit position for an adult to be in. We have no more business being entertainers than being cops. Both positions are ignoble. In both we lose our rightful adult authority. ["Freedom and Beyond", John Holt]
…It is easy to talk about legitimizing the interests of students and getting into honest communication with them. But there are still more than a few schools in which a teacher who tries to do this may meet increasing opposition, may be ordered to stop, and if he persists may be fired….
A teacher in such a school who tries to legitimize the interests of his students, take them seriously, talk to them honestly, and give them some sense of worth and self-respect may well be seen, by fellow teachers, administration, and parents as an intolerable threat. This is not a guess; it has happened many times.
Herndon makes this point very clear in How to Survive in Your Native Land. For a while he and his colleague, like many other gifted teachers of open classrooms, were very busy thinking up interesting things for the kids to do. It was only later that he saw clearly, not just that these things were not really interesting for the kids, but that in urging them to do things that he would never have done himself he was being fake and dishonest.
This distinction between T-eachers and t-eachers is important for many reasons. One has to do with what George Dennison, in The Lives of Children, called “reality of encounter.” He rightly said that one reason why schooling is so seldom helpful to children, and almost always deeply harmful, is that they have no reality of encounter with their teachers. The teachers are not themselves, but players of roles. They do not talk about what is real to them, what they know, are interested in, and love, but about what the curriculum, the teachers’ manual, and the lesson plan says they must talk about. “Start a discussion about. . . .” They do not respond naturally and honestly to the acts and needs of the children, but only as the rules tell them to respond. They ask themselves all the time, “If I do this or say this, or let the students do this or say this, will I get into trouble?” and act according to the answer. Not that their fears are groundless, or these dangers imaginary. Far from it. The newspapers often tell of teachers who were fired for
saying things the community did not like. No one is fired for hiding the truth from children, but many are fired for telling the truth. … There can never be reality of encounter, truthfulness, honesty, when one person holds power over another. ["Instead of Education", John Holt]
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