Teaching in America

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The challenges of a teacher remind me of the game of football. The running back in football has an incredible amount of endurance. The number of yards he can run in the shortest amount of time on any given day makes a huge impact on the field. The teaching profession is a lot like football. It takes great athleticism and both professionals are often considered a role model. Yet, some teachers just don’t make it, they burn out only after a few years; which is similar to some football players. Some players do not make the draft pick in order to play professionally. A teacher just like the athlete must have stamina, endurance, and strength. Although the teacher is underpaid, they must train, endure inequity, always be prepared and keep moderation as a center in their career with little to no reward.

Why Teach? The profession of teaching is considered to be one of the most stable careers one can choose. Teachers are needed all over the country. However, what really attracts people to the teaching profession? It is not the stability of finance, but I believe rather the value and rewards of teaching. What is this reward? A student can choose any career ranging from medicine, engineering to politics so why would one choose education? The teacher has a massive task in reaching a child’s heart in order to teach them the curriculum. A child does not care about what you are teaching until they know that you actually care about them in the first place. This includes in the classroom as well as in front of their peers.

Then the idea of a teacher as an athlete must include a caring heart. Their athleticism requires mental strength as well. Teachers are often disrespected and underpaid. At the same time, students excel in courses that are taught by highly desired teachers. This can lead to a feeling of value that may very well make teaching worth it for some educators. On the other hand, one evil look from a teacher can impact a young child’s life forever. One word, one decision, one choice in the classroom can completely change the trajectory of a child’s life. So why teach? According to Forbes Magazines’ VOZ Survey, over 50% of Americans desire to teach as a profession noting that the profession of teaching is indeed prestigious. The survey above also reflects that the most desired job in America is actually a fireman.

“The Department of Education found that 78% of secondary teachers remain in the classroom at year 5, suggesting a level of professional satisfaction and stability that rarely comes across in conversations on education.”

My mother is an actor and filmmaker. She told me there was a well-known writer named August Wilson (1945-2005) who played basketball outside of his high school principals’ office hoping she would notice he was not in class and then perhaps call his home or eventually look outside the window and see him right there on the court, but she never did. He eventually dropped out of school and went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Broadway Writer, named August Wilson. He penned the noted play Fences which starred James Earl Jones and later Denzel Washington on screen. A writer from The New York Times quoted Wilsons’ story, “enrolling at the Gladstone School in Hazelwood, where a teacher accused him of plagiarizing a term paper on Napoleon.

Distraught, Wilson shunned the classroom and played basketball within sight of the principal’s office for several days. No one ever came outside for him, so he simply left.” An educator has great power in influencing the mind of a child or in the case of Wilson, a young adult. Yet such power mishandled or abused can also be harmful. What was August Wilson doing in that classroom? I can only imagine the level of challenges he may have presented on a daily basis or perhaps not at all? Perhaps he was just bored?

The Purpose of an Education

Two major theories discussed in Chomskys’ Purpose of Education are 1-Development of The Individual Child verses 2- The Socialization of young adults as an active citizen. The latter is in reference to colonization. Sir Ken Robinson explains it refers to students who trained in a systematic manner much like an assembly line who then would just fall into place. They were forced to sit in perfect rows in the classroom and often chant the same lesson out loud in unison. This, of course, leaves no room for creativity. Further, “Chomsky would support education for all who want education, that no one should be exempt from the opportunity, while at the same time, no one should be forced into it either.

The key to his idea is that it should be up to those who want, and not those who are forced.” However, in Chomskys’ theory, the true purpose of education is to “cultivate or stimulate a love for learning”. If teachers have a love for learning they will share this same love for learning in the classroom. Teachers, on the other hand, are faced with other challenges that also present obstacles in the classroom. Can they teach what they are passionate about or must they teach to a standardized test and follow strict rules and regulations mandated by administrators and school boards? In Lorain, Ohio The Bluest Eye published in 1970 by: Literature Nobel Prize Winner, Toni Morrison, was banned in many schools across the country due to the graphic nature in the sexually explicit scenes. There is a limit to what a teacher can teach. Of course, all things are not appropriate for schools; but if a students’ mind is to be enlightened then shouldn’t students be informed at an appropriate age about the world around them?

Testing has also intervened in the classroom. Many schools have mandated testing throughout the year. This prevents a teacher from being creative around developing curriculum; instead, they are forced to teach to the test. I have been in a classroom like this, and trust me it is really boring with no stimulation to learn.


Enlightenment is based on the ”primary origin in the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, it is considered the rise of “tremendous intellectual and scientific progress of the age, which includes the natural and social sciences…which in effect, dramatically improved human life”. The human brain got a huge burst of life during this time including literature and the perception of beauty or esthetics. “ the aim of poetry is not beauty, but an expression. In elevating the aesthetic category of expressiveness,…the notion that all art is an imitation of nature.”

In this part of The Enlightenment Era, the idea of imitation and creativity is linked to thought. It continues with that concept in “the notion that all the various arts can be deduced from a single principle” My question is what is the principal? Is this principle that nature is considered a part of life ? Therefore, all art imitates life as all nature is a part of life? No, this article goes on to say that “art as an object has to be understood in its own terms, as a totality complete unto itself.” So art is considered one total part of many other components of the term art itself; yet they are still all connected as one.

Teaching shifted during the Enlightenment to a great time of theory, philosophy and the growth of one’s mind. Chomsky based his theory on the idea that all languages contain similar structures and rules. He believed we were all hardwired with the same ability to acquire language thus learning. This is what the Enlightenment Age is alluding to. Plato’s’ Theory “that the whole of reality is enfolded within every single part” this relates to the aforementioned that all art can be considered the same as it is connected as the whole of many parts. So that multiple parts represent one whole. I can then conclude that teaching is the whole part of many different variables that connect to one idea: education.

Against the Odds

In the United States recently teachers were forced to return to school because of a new law that was set to raise the level of trained teachers in the classroom. “95% of teachers were then considered “highly qualified” by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards (American Institutes for Research, 2013).

“When asked why they became teachers, 85% of teachers said it was because they wanted to make a difference in children’s lives (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014).” One may question then why do they leave?”

Is it burnout? Yes, I believe it is.

“About half a million (15% of) U.S. teachers leave the profession every year (Seidel, 2014).

More than 41% of teachers leave the profession within five years of starting, and teacher attrition has risen significantly over the last two decades (Ingersoll, Merrill, and Stuckey, 2014). This provides clarification to Ingersoll’s (2012) oft-cited estimate that 40%-50% of new teachers leave within their first five years.” So which one is it? Do they leave or do they stay? And is a teaching career worth it?

Why is teacher burn out sending educators running away from the classroom each year? The first area of concern is the hours one must commit to working effectively in order to do the job well.

In the diagram, A. educators work over fifty hours per week according to this survey. Most teachers are not able to complete grading in the classroom as the demand is so great to meet the needs of the student. This may explain why we have such a high percentage of teachers leaving the industry. My mother also taught and one of her main complaints was that the work did not stop at the bell or end of the school day. Then where does the work stop? According to my Mom, never.

In the diagram, B it shows that over 50% of teachers state they have very little social life at all and over 30% have to really work hard to balance their career choice and crazy schedule with having no social or family life at all.

How can a teacher sustain if they have no life? How can a teacher raise a family of their own or have any sort of social interaction with friends? An athlete works tirelessly at wee hours of the morning and evening to train their instruments. A football player can not have the muscle mass and body index without a rigorous training plan each day, along with a support system and practice games? Then the football player who wins the coveted prize of a professional NFL contract is then paid millions of dollars for a number of years.

Yet, what does a teacher have? Why don’t we value the teacher in America? The distance of the teacher is far greater than the sprint of a football player. I mean how many good years will they have, that is good playing years?

Project Based Learning/ Multiple Intelligence

Creative approaches to classroom teaching may alleviate the stress that a teacher endures. Project-Based Learning or PBL is when a teacher creates opportunities for students to collaborate for hands-on team work with their peers. According to Schoology, Robert Schuetz defines “Project-based learning as an instructional approach designed to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills through engaging projects set around challenges and problems they may face in the real world.” Students often do not agree on how to approach assignments or how to complete them. A teacher should give roles to each student; where they can work independently, much like splitting our class in half to create a PowerPoint or critique them on this class research project. It is project-based.

Project Based Teaching may actually bring more ideas to the teacher to enjoy the process of watching students collaborate and come up with innovative concepts and designs. Assignments can then relate it to students’ lives or interests. 21st Century Learning is just that: it allows for more creativity and technical skills. It includes skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Project Based Learning typically centers around:

  • “Bringing what students should academically know, understand, and be able to do into the equation.
  • Start with a big open-ended question, challenge, or problem to research and respond to and/or solve
  • Is inquiry-based.
  • Uses 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, among others.
  • Builds student choice into the process.
  • Provides opportunities for feedback and revision of the plan and the project.
  • Requires students to present their problems, research process, methods, and results.”

Using these strategies in that classroom can open the door to students who are otherwise, less engaged. There are many different types or minds in one class. Jerome Gardners’ Multiple Intelligences include multiple approaches to a students’ thought and their diverse learning styles. In the following diagram of Gardners’ you will notice each directional arrow points to a specific area of attraction for each student. As a result of that attraction we are inclined to learn based on a certain approach to teaching. This takes me back to Chomskys’ Theory that all students learn based on linguistic coding that is universal. However, Gardner refutes this claim as he asserts that each students’ learning style is individually based on their multiple, diverse intelligence.

Jerome Gardners’ Multiple Intelligences

  • linguistic-verbal (most widely accepted)
  • logical-mathematical (most widely accepted)
  • visual-spatial
  • bodily-kinesthetic
  • musical-rhythmic
  • interpersonal (most criticized)
  • intrapersonal (most criticized)
  • naturalist (recently added)

The Zone

Yet with all the Multiple Intelligence, Project Based Learning, football analogies or Chomskys’ Theory of Language; it means nothing without reaching a student in their zone of learning. It is futile. Teachers can not reach a student without first understanding their prior knowledge and where they currently think or understand what is being taught to them. This is called Lev Vygotskys’ Zone of Proximal Development. In other words how can a teacher expect for a student to understand the work if they have not taken the prerequisite or passed the former grade level?

Schools do not retain students for failing in elementary or even in middle school, as a result; they just push kids along. So how can teachers expect a student to understand what is going on in class if they have not succeeded in learning the curriculum or standards the prior year or the year before that? Is it up to the districts, or the teachers? How can you fail a child from kindergarten? Social-Emotional support comes from the home. It is how we are raised that determines our approach along with opportunity and resources.

According to Jennifer Knestrick of The Northwest Evaluation Association or NWEA, a non-profit organization that assesses over 4.5 million students using NWEA tools for testing states,

“Understanding how to locate and use each student’s ZPD can help educators plan more targeted instruction for the whole class, small groups, and individuals. Ultimately, aligning classroom teaching strategies to students’ ZPDs can help educators more effectively guide all students in their early childhood learning.”

In the diagram below it shows the cyclical component of what teachers are striving to get to…The…”I can do this on my own” in the center of the Zone of Proximal Development image. This is the key to accessing learning.

So perhaps the teacher, while having daunting tasks, still has a tremendous amount of support if they are willing to stay the course and go the distance. Then the teacher in America will be fine, as long as they are willing to subject themselves to early burn out, possible exposure to who knows what illness or virus, long hours, overbearing administrators who are often younger than you, insurmountable assessments that take away from unit planning, disrespectful or worse yet, dangerous kids who may or may not be packing firearms, make very little money and wake up at the crack of dawn to arrive before the students.

On the other hand, a teacher will always be remembered by their students for a lifetime for how they made them feel, or for the time the teacher gets to see the amazement on a kids face who gets it… after not understanding the content. Teachers get summers off, get dozens of paid vacation days, and must have the endurance of a Hall of Fame award winning professional athlete, they continually get to expand their mind and finally, some actually end up with retirement to pass on to their children. So I say, yes, let’s teach in America because it actually may be worth going the distance.

Cite this paper

Teaching in America. (2021, Aug 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/teaching-in-america/

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