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The Students Are the Best Part of the Job
By Peter Bissinger

What is teaching like today? Who should do it? And who shouldn't? This Education World series features essays on teaching by teachers as they answer the question, "If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a teacher?"

"If I had it to do all over again, would I become a teacher?" That's a question I ask myself quite a bit. I have no regrets about entering the teaching profession. Nearly every day is rewarding and fun.

When I entered the profession, I loved history, but I worried about whether I would love my students -- I do teach seventh graders after all! I quickly learned that the students are the best part of the job.

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There are, however, many frustrations. After twelve years, I still can't promise myself that this is a lifelong career.

Watching friends in other professions move up the career and salary ladder sometimes evokes feelings of envy. I don't necessarily think teachers are as grossly underpaid as some others do (I do teach in an affluent, suburban district), but I also don't feel that there's an opportunity to be rewarded for outstanding work, the way there is in many other professions. The only possible career advancement seems to be administration, which is more a career change than an advancement.

The evolving expectations of teachers also are very frustrating. More and more emphasis is being placed on putting special education students in general education classrooms. Those students need more one-on-one attention than I can give in a classroom of twenty-five students. My average kids lose out on attention they need, because the special education students need so much individual attention. (The bright, ambitious students can learn in almost any environment.)

Schools and teachers also often are blamed for society's ills. Many kids come to school unprepared for school, yet it's the school's fault (at least according to NCLB) that those kids can't learn. Special education students have the right to be in the general education classroom -- even though they can't learn there. Kids are exposed to sex and violence on TV, in movies, video games, music, and so on. But when those ills show up in school, the schools are to blame.

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Peter Bissinger

Peter Bissinger teaches 7th grade social studies (focusing on world history and geography) at Stilwell Junior High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, where he has taught for his entire career. He has a B.A. with a major in history from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Iowa State University. For more information, see Mr. Bissinger's Social Studies Home Page.

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