Don't Leave the Classroom.
by Eliz Tchakarian
Teachers are leaving the field at an astonishing rate. The reasons are usually tied to massive disrespect to teachers and their time, severe lack of equal pay, and burnout. Sound familiar?
That’s not why I left the classroom. Over 11 years ago, I thought I could change the textbook publishing world by leaving the classroom with my shiny graduate degree in foreign language education and years of experience as an editor. Maybe I made some strides towards that goal, but I always missed the classroom. A job in the publishing world is demanding enough that managing a classroom job as well is impossible, so while the itch was always there, I could never scratch it.
As an immigrant, I’ve learned to at least explore each opportunity. When Idioma Education & Consulting gave me the opportunity to work on the Bulgarian Alternative Assessment for the Seal of Biliteracy, I had to seize the opportunity. I have never taught my native language. Insecurity set in, but when I started the work I realized that applied linguistics is applied linguistics as applied math is applied math. That is, if we know the basic principles of the proficiency-based approach, we can achieve results in any language.
The experts at Idioma Education & Consulting have created a template that works across all languages and the results were both moving and heartbreaking.
The first reason the results were moving was that I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity. I was able to apply all skills I have learned in the last 15+ years of my professional experience such as finding appropriate authentic resources, monitoring responses to make sure questions are worded properly, assessing student responses using a proficiency-based rubric, and so on.
The more important reason this was a moving experience was that student responses were very close to home. Being an immigrant, I knew exactly how these students actually feel as immigrants or the children of immigrants.
The reason the experience was heartbreaking was that student responses reminded me how demanding the life of an immigrant can be in the U.S. We’re often expected to smile and be grateful that we have the opportunity to set foot here, and believe me, we are extremely grateful. I am grateful every day, every time I can take a warm shower or eat a meal I enjoy. Despite that, it would be unrealistic to say the life of an immigrant is easy. The challenges are many and vastly different from those of an average U.S. teenager.
More importantly, my heart broke when student responses reminded me how vital it is for students to see themselves in teachers, others around them, as well as any materials they are required to digest. It affirmed every Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion effort I led was well worth the time. I wished I had stayed in the classroom for those students. I could have made a difference in the life of other immigrants learning English. Or I could have instilled the desire to learn an entirely new language in students of Spanish. I was reminded how important teachers are. I could tell these heritage speakers had amazing teachers both at home and in school. They made me appreciate my parents as teachers and all teachers in school who helped me achieve my goals.
For those reasons and quite a few others, I plead with all teachers in the field to not leave the profession. Don’t leave the classroom. Don’t leave your mission to help others achieve their goals. It’s too late for me, but if you’re still in the classroom, stay.