Sunday, August 4, 2013

Focus on What Matters

During the past year or so I've heard myself and my colleagues say, “This would be a terrible time to be a new teacher. Who could possibly want to teach under these conditions?” I've heard a surprising number of my students say, in effect, "I want to teach, and I don't have a safety-net profession, yet I hear my teachers talking about what a terrible time it is to do this for a living."

A brief inventory of “these conditions” that make this a "terrible time" would include the quickly approaching Common Core with its rash of new acronyms, even more focus on standardized test scores, inconsistent and often blatantly unfair methods of teacher evaluation, intrusive and bullying parents (not all of them, of course!), and embarrassingly low salaries. There are, in fact, many more reasons for glumness, but instead of cataloging every single evil that escaped Pandora’s Box, let’s cling to the gift that remained inside: Hope.

For as far back as I can remember, teachers in America have taught “in spite of,” but every generation thinks the newest obstacles confronting our beloved profession are the worst of all.

They probably are not. But even if they are, it doesn't matter. We teach the way we love: “in spite of.”

As the old myth-meister Joseph Campbell liked to remind us, the preferred space on the Wheel of Fortune is the hub, not the rim. The latter will have its ups and downs, now and forever, spinning through eternity, but the hub will find us at home with our bliss – to mix the metaphor, on an even keel. The hub represents why we do what we do, not the outcomes, nor the distractions imposed from without, nor the ever-changing hoops through which we are invited to leap.

So, young person, if you want to teach, cling to the hub!That is your hope, that thing deep down inside you that called you to teach “in spite of” in the first place. And old teachers -- it wouldn't kill you to do this as well.

In the days leading up to walking through the doors that lead into the lion’s den, i.e., your classroom, reflect often on what led you to this point. Then hunker down on the hub. Common Core and all the rest will in time roll past you on the rim. You'll learn shortly that this profession offers pleasures and rewards that far outweigh the bulky and ever-changing irritants that accompany it.


  1. Teaching was my second -- and final -- profession ... one of my best friends had me come to Bishop Moore High School to talk to her seniors about the craft of writing ... I haven't stopped teaching since ... it was my honor and pleasure to have Dr. Roy as both a colleague and an instructor ... when he joined the staff at Oviedo High School, I was already there, and I was enrolled in an MLS class at Rollins College that semester that was being taught by -- surprise! -- Dr. Roy ... Teaching has provided far more personally-enriching experiences than those that sent me home gnashing my teeth ... we need more Dr. Roys, teachers who love and know their material, know why they're teaching it, and care for their charges ... that's the teaching triple threat

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    1. Man, Tony, those are very kind words, and they make me want to live up to them. Thanks much, and thanks for reading.