People have a hard time understanding what I do all day at work. They are not perplexed that I am a college a professor, because they had tons of professors. And they understood that their professors specialized in a content area such as English, economics, history, or psychology. But when I tell people I am a professor of teacher education they seem confused. I prepare teachers. I teach those who want to be teachers how to teach children. It seems so natural to me that I find it odd that others do not grasp the concept so quickly. Perhaps they never really thought about how one becomes a teacher. After they begin to understand what I do they want to know what I teach. What specific classes do I teach? Well, let’s see, I teach everything. In this past year, I will have taught Foundations of Education, Emergent Literacy, Theory and Practice of Early Learning in Math and Science, Methods for Teaching Math, Methods for Teaching Social Studies, Critical Reading and Writing, Early Childhood Curriculum Construction and Integration, and Teaching and Learning. These are traditional early childhood and elementary education courses.
When they still looked confused, I simply tell them I teach the art and science of being a teacher. To explain the art of teaching I ask them to think of their favorite teacher and then to describe her or him to me and why they were their favorite. Nine out of ten times, the teacher they described had mastered the art of teaching. They made lessons engaging and they made boring subjects come alive. Their classes flowed like a well-oiled machine with high levels of active learning taking place. To explain the science of teaching, I tell them a little bit about how children learn and develop, why teachers must understand child development, how teachers must write lesson plans and assess learning. At this point in the conversation, most people usually get bored and want to move on, but I feel as though I succeeded in defining the work of a teacher educator.
Preparing teachers is a lot of work, because teachers do so many different things. Teachers are counselors, referees, guides, facilitators, judge and jury, and sometimes surrogate parents. The profession has always been mentally and physically taxing but now it is getting worse. The attack by conservatives, corporations, and politicians has been tough but that is not what I am writing about today. The one thing I refuse to do–and will leave this job when it becomes required–is to prepare my students to become a teacher who is armed with a gun while in the classroom. Just when I thought this world could not get any crazier, there is a national discussion about arming teachers in response to the devastating (yet highly preventable) mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. I can barely fathom that people are willing to let children die to protect a right to own a gun, but to make things worse, the only “solution” is to arm teachers. Seriously, it’s days like this when I want the world to stop so we can jump off and find another universe that is not nearly as messed up as the one in which we currently reside.
I have no idea how I am expected to look into the eyes of my students and talk to them about the need to protect their students by using a gun. How do you even prepare someone for that reality? I know the immoral politicians who put forth this ridiculous idea do not expect me to train them on how to use a gun as they will let their buddies in the NRA coordinate the logistics (i.e. make a profit). But I must prepare my students for the realities they will face in the classroom. And I draw the line at having a discussion about how to use a gun to keep students safe. Maybe it’s a good thing I graduate from law school in May, because as much as I love being a teacher educator, I will never prepare my students for this horrible reality.