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How Teachers See the World

I was walking out the door of a meeting with a parent when I mentioned I had to run out and buy some balloons. “Oh, whose birthday is it?” the parent asked.

“Oh, no, they’re actually for a science experiment,” I explained.

Later, walking up the stairs and blowing balloons at the same time, our conflict resolution teacher saw me and remarked, “Nice! Science experiment?”

I was struck by the contrast between my colleague’s reaction and the parent’s response. But when you spend time inside a school, you see the world through an entirely different lens.

Most people see balloons and think a party. Teachers see balloons and think a science experiment. Most people see a cardboard box and think trash; teachers think art materials. Most people see an adorable eight-year-old; we see a challenge. Whether defiant or compliant, each of our kids represents a unique puzzle that needs to be solved within 10 months.

These are just a few of the thousand differences in the view from inside the classroom and from outside it. It’s the difference in this view that makes teaching magical. It’s a way of seeing things that lends itself to creativity and inspired thinking.

This different view is also the reason why teachers are wary of change imposed by outsiders who have never set foot in a classroom, and why Cathie Black’s chancellorship was doomed from day one. How could we work together to fix a problem, if we were not even seeing the same things?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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