teacher robot2

Teacher Robot

Lisa Moberg Current Affairs, Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom

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Have you ever been stuck?  I mean… physically STUCK?  I had that unpleasant experience when I was a child, running and playing in a muddy bog (next to some lakes) in southwest Washington.  The rain-saturated ground looked deceivingly solid, but with one misstep, it became a pit of despair.  That happened to me as I fell into a muddy hole, up to my waist, and I couldn’t get out!  The more I pulled my legs up, the very thick mud would ooze and pull them down.  The feelings of frustration and anxiety quickly became the cornerstone of hysteria when I couldn’t get out!

Fast forward about 30 years, and I’m looking at the blank screen of my laptop.  I need to start working on my monthly blog article, but what should I write about?  My blog article due date darkly loomed ahead on my calendar, it morbidly arrived, and it passed with a sigh of disappointment- still nothing to write about.  I go to Twitter- anything out there to write about?  It’s mostly about who hates whom, who’s lying, and how the country is going down the tube.  I go to my school- anything out there?  Anyone?  I hear a lot of sighing and grumping about the leadership of education- it doesn’t matter at what level.  I go to our Professional Developments- oh, there really aren’t any out there. I go to the parents- how about some inspiration?  I hear swearing (at parent pickup) and see finger-waggling at whatever teachers are doing wrong now.  Scratching my head- how in the world do I write about something positive and inspirational when I just see, hear, and feel doom and gloom around me?  How do I get out of this pit of despair?

Maybe I should have mentioned that this was in November.  Our poor blog coordinator was very patient with me as I shared my serious bout of writer’s block.  I would walk through the school, into my classroom, and close the door.  The day begins, and I teach.  The day ends, and I go home to grade papers and make lesson plans.  Then repeat.  What is going on?  I’m really trying to find something or someone to make me inspired about education!!  I really want to write about it!!

Then in December I realized that my daily pattern, no matter how carefully I planned to include fun and joy, was really stuck in my comfort zone, not in the negativity of others.  I know exactly how kids function at this grade level.  I could recite the grade level standards by heart.  I have the curriculum memorized and can pretty much teach any subject by heart, with rigor and 100% student engagement.  I HAVE BECOME A TEACHER ROBOT.

I realized that my teacher robot mindset was deeply stuck in a serious pit of my comfort zone.  After closely examining how it happened and why I allowed it to happen, I came to one conclusion.  I have to wriggle out of this confining pit and jump into a new project.

What could I do?  Should I flee education?  Should I go to… gulp… DISTRICT OFFICE?  I looked back at my 19 years as an elementary teacher, and realized (the genius I am)- it’s 19 years in an elementary classroom!!  Maybe it’s time to change it up a little!!

So I boldly marched into my principal’s office and shared with her my story.  And how I desperately need change.  I am a little freaked out.  Yes, I already have the new teacher nightmares.  Yes, I am going to be a… MIDDLE SCHOOL teacher!!!  Next year I am going upstairs, into the middle school wing, and I’m going to teach Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders.  I know nothing about sixth grade (except my children’s experience with it).  I am very excited to leap into the unknown and start a new adventure.  I can’t be a teacher robot when it’s fresh and unlearned.  I feel confident I can become a better teacher, with a better mindset, when I have a new environment to grow in.

As my darling second graders would say to conclude their writing- “and that’s my story” of how I pulled myself out of the pit of despair.  I see the light!!  I have hope!!  Sometimes a blog article due date is the greatest way to evaluate yourself as an educator- you should try it.  And yes, change is inevitable if we want to grow.  Don’t become a teacher robot!


Lisa Moberg

El Mirage, AZ

Adventure is my middle name. Although I have never sought it out, it somehow finds me, especially in teaching!! These past 16 years of my teaching career have been an exciting voyage in education, stretched between two different states, three school districts, and six grade levels (Kindergarten - 5th grade). After teaching in Washington State for six years, I moved to Arizona and have taught at a Title 1 school in the West Valley for ten years.

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Comments 3

  1. Beth Maloney

    YES!!! Thank you for your honesty, Lisa. It is almost too easy to become a teacher robot. That’s the realization that came after I (voluntarily) moved from kindergarten to third grade and then on to 5th grade (kicking and screaming the whole way). But what a “refresh button” for teacher skills! Now I love middle school and find it such a unique and interesting time in students’ lives. I will be happily sending you my students soon enough. If I’m really, really lucky, maybe a little Maloney will make her way into your sixth grade classroom in a few years…

  2. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Congratulations on your needed change!

    I am on the opposite end: feeling exhausted from not teaching the same thing in the same place for more than two years (or so) in a row. I love coming up with ideas but I am tiring of everything being so much on the fly… and therefore unpolished. I am excited to hopefully be going into year three of the same thing in the same place!

  3. kbuffett

    This was a fantastic post! Although I am not a teacher, I have definitely had my share of “teacher robots” during my educational experience. Especially with the rise of standardization in the classroom, I definitely see how teachers can get their teachings and lessons down to a formula (and repeat them every year with very little variation).

    I think it’s great that you were able to realize you were slipping into this and decided to make a change to get yourself out of it. As Beth said in her comment, making the change to teaching another grade is a great way to press the “refresh button” — the skills you will gain by teaching an entirely new sect of students are gonna be so useful. I wish you the best of luck!!

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