Does Teaching Make Me Stupid?
The need for a plan
A sixteen year old finds
Crafting thoughts and days this way
In the end makes me dumber
In general, I don’t think this job is making me smarter. I could be holding steady or losing ground. But I’m pretty sure I’m not getting smarter. Now, there are different kinds of smart. I suppose I’m smarter about how to make lesson plans and smarter about how to work with kids. But that’s just not the kind of smart I want to develop as a long term professional objective. I would like to get better at something else.
The non-creative, busy work, administrative, paper-shuffling, record-keeping bullshit element of this job, which is huge, I am convinced does serious damage. But there are many elements of creativity in the work as well. I’m just not convinced they exercise anything that might be of value outside my classroom. And I don’t get any rush of accomplishment from them.
By contrast, my wife is one of those annoying people who really, REALLY likes her job and gets paid well. She has genuinely unique, challenging problems to solve in her job where millions of dollars may hang in the balance and it’s all relevant to something she cares about. There are lots of meetings. But theses are not meetings she is obligated to attend by contract. These are meetings that autonomous professionals have decided to have in order to solve a problem.
The problems are real and she can actually tell if they have been solved. Did the client like the idea? Yes? Problem solved. Good job…here’s a promotion and a raise.
What problems do I solve? What are the big issues I work on? On what great causes are my creative energies expended? Well, let’s see…
I make seating charts to maximize learning and minimize disruptions.
I devise ever-more efficient means of dispensing and retrieving textbooks.
I craft bathroom usage and pencil sharpening policies.
I figure out how absent kids will make up the exam.
Though, of course, there are more, this sort of gives you a feel for it. But my largest and most daunting recurring problem, which requires a great deal of creativity, is this: How do I manipulate the environment such that it appears certain students are making progress when, in fact, they probably are not? This actually does require some highly sophisticated abstract reasoning. How do I move the goal posts in such a way that we can all plausibly imagine that they have not moved? But I get no thrill from this, either.
I guess it all boils down to this, which, by the way, I understand makes me sound like an asshole: I want a job that requires more smarts. I am sure there are several “intelligences” that are quite useful in teaching. But I don’t think that being really smart in the traditional sense helps much. I can imagine that it makes the job more frustrating. I like kids, but not enough to sacrifice such a large part of my brain.