Maestro

opera

The conductor holds the baton in the air. The audience waits in silence until he finally lowers the baton to thunderous applause.

The author looks over her glasses as she gives a reading of her latest work. The crowd listens attentively.

The cast and crew come back out on stage after the performance to have a Q&A discussion with the audience about their performance.

 

We view them as the experts.

We stay for the talks and read the interviews and listen to the DVD commentaries. We read other works or watch them performed in YouTube clips and put it all together to compose an image of our favorite artist or writer or musician or thespian.

We watch them at work, and we marvel at what they do. They have worked and trained and prepared and now, now they can do this.

***

We go for a check-up, or because there’s a lingering cough, or because something hurts. We go because something’s not right.

We sit on a raised table and look around a small room with certificates and diplomas on the wall while we wait to be seen. When they enter we review symptoms and possible causes and yeah, we went on WebMD which is probably the worst idea ever, but what do you think about…?

And in the end, we speak with someone who knows a lot more about the diagnosis than we do. If we’re fortunate we are able to truly have a conversation, to be given time to ask questions and hear the answers. There’s still the Internet, still hearing second- and third-hand information on the topic, but it feels good to talk to someone who went to school for this.

***

And then.

We wake up in the morning and fight the morning commute and do early morning duty. We greet our students–some wide-awake, some yawning, some hungry, some hurting. We teach our lessons and make it through the day as best as we can.

We trudge into another faculty meeting or PLC meeting–because no one ever bounds happily into those–and settle in our seats, hoping not to make eye contact with whomever is leading this session.

If we don’t make eye contact, maybe we won’t get called on.

(Yes, we sound just like the children.

We’re worse than the children.)

We sit around a table, or awkwardly at leftover student desks. Every single person in the room holds at least a bachelor’s degree; many have masters degrees, and maybe one or two hold a doctorate. The amount of degrees and student loan debt in the room is staggering.

Here are the experts. Here are those who have worked and trained and prepared. Here are the people we should be listening to, the ones we should be questioning “How did you do that?”–not in accusation, but in wonder.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it.

There is no thunderous applause for meeting the needs of your students where they are, not where the pacing guide dictates you should be. No Q&A discussion about how you developed a lesson and implemented it in your class with these specific students. No conversation where you as the teacher are considered an expert on the academic subject and what’s best for your students as the people they are.

If there is a discussion, it is often accusatory and relates to one of two things–your students’ test scores

and why they’re not where they should be and how that’s YOUR fault

or your evaluation scores.

***

If you ask most parents, they would say they view the teachers as the experts. They sit across from us at parent-teacher conferences, asking for help, for advice on how to help their child master skill xyz. They look to us because they know we have ideas from our years of experience that they may not.

But most parents don’t have access to millions of dollars.

The politicians do. Big business does. People running for political office often do. It’s the David and Goliath battle played out over and over again, every day, and Goliath keeps winning. Some states are trying to remove funding from public education altogether. Teachers are demoralized by the disrespect, the low salary, the frightening workplace conditions, and the impossible evaluation systems. (Not to mention THE TESTING.)

For teachers, there will be no thunderous applause, or rapt attention, or confidence that we know what we’re doing.

To those with political and economic power, we’re anything but experts.

 

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