It’s no secret that most teachers today feel demoralized — poll after survey tells us so, and it’s no wonder, given that they feel school reformers have put targets on their backs with teacher evaluation systems they feel are unfair and support for programs that they believe belittle their profession. In this post an educator explains why she thinks so many teachers feel so awful so much of the time. The author is Ellie Herman, who took a rather unorthodox path to the world of education.
For two decades she was a writer/producer for television shows including “The Riches,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Chicago Hope” and “Newhart.” She wrote fiction that appeared in literary journals, among them The Massachusetts Review, The Missouri Review and the O.Henry Awards Collection. Then, in 2007, she decided “on an impulse” to become an English teacher. She got a job at a South Los Angeles charter school that was 97 percent Latino and where 96 percent of the students lived below the poverty line. She taught drama, creative writing, English 11 and ninth-grade Composition until 2013, when she decided to stop teaching and spend a year visiting classrooms and learning from other teachers.
Herman chronicled the lessons she learned on her blog, Gatsby in L.A., where a version of the following post appeared. Herman, who gave me permission to publish this piece, was awarded first and third place prizes in the 2014 SoCal Journalist Awards given by the Los Angeles Press Club for pieces on her blog. Now she teaches reading and writing at an after-school enrichment program for students from low-income families, visits the classrooms of great teachers, and works with writers, artists and other creative people.
She has written some popular posts on this blog, including “Are you a bad teacher? Here’s how to tell,” to which she refers in the following piece.
By Ellie Herman
Every day people click on a post I wrote a while ago called “Are you a bad teacher?” On some days it seems as if an infection of self-doubt has burst across the profession, evidenced by the search terms they use, which include terms such as “I’m a horrible teacher” and “I’m a rubbish teacher” and “Why am I a terrible teacher?” So why are so many teachers agonizing over the possibility that they might be bad?