Sunday, December 03, 2006

Plans for next year

The second of our required posts is to talk about our plans for next year. I doubt anyone really wants to hear my plans for next year in light of the fact that I won't be continuing as a high school teacher, but I'm at a loss for what else to write about. So here it goes. Last year I applied to and was accepted to medical school. I chose to defer my admission until this upcoming year. In general, I don't like to talk about my future as a medical doctor. It's not that I am regretting entering medical school because I would love nothing more than to become a physician. I'm passionate about the medical sciences, I am fascinated with the workings of the human body, and I want to continue serving others, etc; however, I can't help but feel a little guilty that I won't be continuing my service to the students of Mississippi.

This year has been a great year. I feel that my students have made significant gains in the classroom, and I feel that I have made significant gains as a teacher. Without a doubt, I am 10 times the teacher I was last year. (For those of you who think I'm bragging, rest assured, I am FAR from a perfect teacher, and I've come far enough in my teaching career to feel comfortable enough to acknowledge that fact.) That said, I can't imagine how much I will improve if I stay for a third year, or a fourth year, or a fifth year, etc. So I am left with the question, will I help more people as a physician or as a teacher? (That question seems irrelevant until you define the word "help" but you get the point.)

I feel guilty that I have taken so much from the Mississippi Teacher Corps. Two years of experience as a teacher and a Masters degree in Education. The program has spent a lot of money on me. I was and am still an investment. Was I a smart investment? What are the Teacher Corps's gains on this investment? I'm leaving Mississippi and leaving the field of secondary education. What if someone else, someone who was planning on staying in teaching could have had my spot? These are the types of questions that swirl around in my head as I look ahead toward next year.

Finally, I feel guilty about leaving the profession in general because of the nature of the job. Let's face it, there is a shortage of teachers and the field could certainly benefit from having one more teacher with a Masters degree in their ranks. Students need good teachers and yet I am leaving. I am perpetuating the shortage.

Yet if I was given the opportunity to go back in time and apply to medical school earlier, so that I could matriculate right after college, I think I would still choose to teach for two years. I would choose to teach because I can't even begin to tell you how much I've gained from this experience. I have grown so much as a person and have gained invaluable life skills. I feel like I've been forced to grow up over the past two years and I don't mean "grow up" as in I've become more mature. I mean it in the sense that I've had to constantly struggle day in and day out to figure out how to make the lives of my students better. It's a type of empathy that you can't learn from your parents or from being in college. In fact, few other professions offer this type of learning. Today, in many respects, I am a completely different individual than the one that originally applied to the program.

But the fact remains, I am leaving the profession. I will still teach. After all, the word doctor means teacher in Latin. My teaching, however, will be in a completely different capacity. So I ask myself, will I commit a selfish injustice by leaving the program and the profession despite the investment of the Teacher Corps and the teacher shortage? I fear the answer is yes.

Balancing Teaching and Coaching

To all of you first years who are coaching, let me just say that you're doing a great job if you have managed to balance both teaching and coaching. I began coaching Cross Country as a second year because I realized that coaching was a demanding job especially if I wanted to have a decent team who cared about showing up day after day to run several miles. Honestly, I don't know how I would have balanced coaching and teaching last year. It seemed as though I was in over my head as it was without coaching in my schedule.

Nevertheless, here are my tips for balancing coaching and teaching:
1.) When you're teaching, put teaching first. When you're coaching, put coaching first. It is very easy to plan a practice or a workout when you really should be walking around and helping students. Similarly, it's also very easy to lesson plan for the next day while your runners are out running or in the weight room. Avoid these temptations. Your students deserve to have your full attention during school hours and your runners/athletes deserve to have your full attention during practice.

2.) Practice with your team whether it is doing the conditioning exercises in football or baseball or whether it is running with your team during cross country or track practice. Not only will your athletes will appreciate it but it will also allow you to burn some stress from the day’s classes. One of the things I loved most about coaching cross country was that I could always run my stress away after school. Trust me, exercise melts the stress away.

3.) Get used to working overtime (as if you're not already!) When I was coaching I devoted at least (no joke) 12-14 hours per day to teaching responsibilities such as lesson planning, coming up with new and creative classroom management techniques, grading, etc, and coaching. Not all of those hours have to be spent at school; however if you want to go home, come to terms with bringing some work with you. On weekends you may have games or meets, especially on Friday nights or Saturdays. It's all part of the gig.

4.) Don't do it for the money. Some coaching jobs may give you a little extra income but, for the amount of work you put into it, it's not worth the money you get out of it. You have to truly love the sport you’re coaching and genuinely want to devote your time to the sport and your athletes.

Coaching can be very rewarding. I wouldn't trade my coaching experiences for anything. In fact, sometimes I think I had more fun coaching than I do teaching. There is no better way to get to know a handful of students on more familiar terms. Your athletes will see you as more than just a teacher. Some may go so far as to view you as a mentor. I still have a few athletes who, a month after our season has ended, come and ask me for advice with a struggle they are going through. Granted it's usually about a boy or a class, but sometimes it's more serious than that and I really have the opportunity to guide a student in the right direction.

Despite the hard work involved, coaching is without a doubt one of the perks of being a teacher. Because you are all ambitious, hard-working, caring individuals, I would go so far as to say if you can get involved with coaching or leading some other extracurricular activity, do it. You really can't go wrong.