After considering the pros and cons for the past few years, I’ve decided to go back to the classroom. My teaching credential expired long ago, but Tennessee does not require a teaching credential for substitute teachers. Most districts only require a bachelor’s degree, and some only require a high school diploma. (Of the states that do require a teaching credential, as long as you’ve got a credential in something — anything — you can sub. If your credential is in Serbo-Croatian language and literature, you can sub middle school math or fourth grade or high school girls’ PE.)
I’ve been working as a freelance writer and proofreader. The website at Krypton Radio now lists me as a Staff Writer. I’m getting more proofreading and copy editing work from Norilana Press and B Cubed Press. I sold four stories and one song last year, and have sold one story so far this year. However, as James Michener said, “America is a country where a writer can make a fortune, but not a living.” A more regular paycheck is required.
On the one hand, teaching in a modern American classroom could be considered a sign of insanity. Teachers are underpaid for what they do and the training they’re required to have. Most schools suffer from budget problems, leading to deferred maintenance and teachers buying supplies for their students. Modern students aren’t taught by their parents to respect their elders; many aren’t taught basic courtesy and civility. Classrooms are overcrowded. More time is spent teaching to the test than actually teaching history, geography, multiplication, foreign languages, English grammar, etc. Recess is often cut from the schedule to make more time for test preparation. And now, people are seriously suggesting that teachers be armed to prevent school shootings.
On the other hand, too many people don’t know and don’t understand the Constitution, and if you don’t understand your rights, they can be taken from you. As a travel agent’s wife, it disturbs me how poorly understood geography is. As a SFFH writer who enjoys alternate histories a la Dr. Turtledove, readers won’t buy and can’t understand alternate history novels if they don’t know real history. Too many people seem incapable of critical thought. As a writer and a reader, seeing they’re/their/there confused or defiantly/definitely grates on my brain the way fingernails on a chalkboard grate on your ears. I want to make a difference, from enlightened self-interest if nothing else. Today’s students could grow up to be my plumber, my doctor, my senator, or the nurse’s aide at my old folks’ home. I want them to grow up as literate and ethical as possible. It’s my bit for staving off catastrophe and saving civilization.
“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.” H. G. Wells
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many people, including classroom teachers, consider substitutes mere babysitters, just there to provide an adult presence in the room and maybe pass out worksheets or play a movie. Going back to subbing doesn’t mean I’ll introduce young people to the beauty of Shakespeare’s words, or how to organize their thoughts and express them clearly in writing. I’m more likely to show a DVD of Jacques Cousteau than explain E = mc2
Even if all I do is teach them how to do the nine times table trick on their fingers and review the parts of speech by playing Mad Libs with them, I will have done something. And not to be crass, but I need the money and Dairy Queen says I’m overqualified.
I’m a teacher born, I’m a teacher bred, for the rising generation.
And I teach for love and for the money and for the long vacation.
Ed Miller, “The Teacher’s Rant”
All photos courtesy of Pixabay.
To check out my most recent story, click here to read “The Kissing Bridge” for free.