Believe it or not, I have written a column for one year and this one marks the beginning of a second year. I have yet to understand why you find the trivia of my life interesting, but I am glad you enjoy it.
The first column I wrote saluted teachers as school was about to begin and it is now a new school year.
I applaud teachers who return year after year and like Sisyphus constantly fight to roll that rock up the hill. Yes, teachers make a difference in the lives of their students. But, in general, the changes are so gradual that rarely do teachers get the satisfaction of seeing a job finished. (I don't like to iron, but when I do, I hang all the clothes on doors around the room so I can admire my work. I think that act is a result of my being a teacher and never getting to gloat about seeing my work completed.)
Teachers work without the company of their peers and rarely get approval or praise from their co-workers. Teachers work long hours at home, hours for which they are not paid.
Teachers generally see parents of their students when there is a problem. They hear parental complaints, not praise or thanks.
Teachers generally see principals when there is a problem, again hearing complaints, not praise or thanks.
Teachers often purchase with their own monies materials they need for their classrooms and have had to endure furlough days and fewer resources.
Teachers are supposed to be cheerleaders, disciplinarians, secondary parents and nurses offering not just the knowledge of the disciplines they teach but also modeling and teaching acceptable behavior, attitudes, health practices and character traits for our most precious possessions, our children.
For these difficulties and heavy demands, returning teachers deserve our thanks and praise.
Beginning teachers have gone to college for four years to learn the latest methodology. (They don't realize that education is faddish, just like everything else. What was the correct way to teach one year will be out in another year. The text book approach that was lauded last year will be discarded for a newer concept this year. I believe I could write several columns about the things we tried at Newton High School, the worst being the open concept building.)
They arrive at their new schools excited and filled with trepidation. The bright newness of their chosen profession fuels their idealism. They have not lost their naiveté. They have not become bogged down by the mind-numbing trivia of the paperwork required of teachers.
I salute these new teachers too. Yes, this first year will be difficult. Yes, you will find that teaching, students and classrooms are not like the ideals you encountered in your college classrooms.
But there will be unexpected rewards as well as disappointments. Hang in there. Do not let the constant need to do four or five things at once get your heads spinning. Everyone has a difficult time adjusting to a new situation, and this is no different.
Every year you teach it becomes a little easier.
In another column I mentioned the statistic that 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years. I hope none of the new teachers this year will be a part of this statistic.
Newton County schools provide each new teacher with an experienced teacher who will act as a mentor. These mentors are trained to help you. Take advantage of them. No question is too trivial.
If you are an experienced teacher but not a mentor, I ask you to watch out for the first year teachers and take the time to make their lives a little smoother. Often new teachers are too in awe of you and afraid to ask what they think might be a trivial or foolish question. They are afraid to speak up or ask for help. Every little kindness will be appreciated.
Roman gladiators who entered the ring supposedly said, "We, who are about to die, salute you."
Let's paraphrase that. We, who are about to entrust our children to you, salute you, the teachers of Newton County.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.