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I Teach… Therefore I Am

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
April 2, 2021

Teachers are public administrators. As a teacher in a public school system, my job fits the definition and scope of those whose primary responsibility is to serve the public. As you probably know, we teachers have been in the news a lot lately with pandemic-related stories.

My current teaching role is World Geography for 9th graders at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas (widely known for Friday Night Lights). I have taught at every level of education up to and including Ph.D. students. Teaching secondary education is primarily focused on how well I can academically connect with a variety of classroom learners. These students include special education (SPED), Career and Technical Education (CTE) track, at-risk, economically disadvantaged, Title I, Gifted/Talented (G/T), Honors/Advanced Placement (AP), and English Language Learners (ELL). The skills required to differentiate my instruction among all these types of students are learned like any other skill, mostly in superb departments of education such as in my own Sul Ross State University teacher education program. Teachers can come from anywhere in American society.

There is a lot of opportunity in K-12 education for non-traditional people to join, learn and find fulfillment. Teacher education programs looking to expand their enrollments might look to identify such non-traditionals who would like to enter the teaching field in their communities. Perhaps the programs that are offered by colleges and universities could even be more tailored to the differing backgrounds of all students. After all, we as teachers are consistently taught to differentiate our own instruction to better serve all students!

Want to join the ranks of public servant teachers?

Great, glad to have you! Perhaps it’s best to start out by describing what my average day looks like as a teacher. That could be illuminating for some—I know it was for me. Like many others, I started as a substitute teacher and was asked to go permanent at some point (note to young people—get close to what you want to do, and good things usually begin to happen). A typical daily schedule generally looks like this:

  • 5:00 AM – Rise and shine!
  • 5:00 to 7:00 AM – Grade papers and assignments, fine-tune the lesson plan for that day, answer emails from parents and students. Construct quizzes and tests for the week. Surveil current events for discipline-related stories and events. Select and preview videos and other resources to use as learning reinforcements in the classroom.
  • 8:00 to 9:00 AM – Conduct tutoring sessions.
  • 9:20 AM to 4:45 PM – Teach 6 classes of World Geography.
  • 4:45 PM – ??? – Do grading and other administrative requirements mandated by the school district. Call parents and guardians about their students.

During all our time at school, we must wear a mask and mostly, a face shield as well. Our learning team (trustees, superintendents, district and campus staff and fellow teachers) works well together in this challenging time.

Our students.

We are very fortunate to have a great group of 9th grade students this year. They were generally born in the 2004-2005 timeframe so they are Generation Z. Following is a nice list of their defining characteristics.

Generation Z:

  • Is financially focused (Some saw their Gen X parents lose a lot of money in the 2008 crash).
  • Is competitive.
  • Enjoys other people.
  • Welcomes change.
  • Prefers independence.

I really feel that this year’s Gen Z 9th graders are a great group of learners. These students have been putting up with masks, shields, lack of normal school social events and activities, struggling with connectivity issues and challenges at home. These students are survivors and thrivers.

Summary.

Teaching is a special profession that requires a special type of person who can master the content but also connect with their students and their public. Let’s close with some quotations from former Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd about teachers (remember—these were written in the 1950s):

“It is a remarkable fact that schoolteachers, who are among the best educated members of our society, are also among the most pitifully underpaid and most flagrantly overworked. It is more remarkable that they are, in general, the most faithful and uncomplaining.”

“School is not just a place to park your kids, the way you leave a car to be washed and polished and returned to you at the end of the day. We’ve got to start treating the teacher as a partner instead of a hired hand.”

“I have always thought that to be a teacher, a person has to have a great love of children, or of truth, or of both. You teachers have never had an easy time of it. It is because you are so important that you so often come under the fire of criticism. There are many hardships that weed out the weaklings from your ranks, so that I can honestly say “Show me a good teacher, and I’ll show you a person of character.”


Author: Dr. Robert Brescia respects the wisdom of generations, promotes the love of learning, teaches ethics to university students, geography to 9th graders, and leadership to organizations. The Governor of Texas recently appointed him to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC). Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Contact him at [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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