36. The Groove and the Rut

There are teachers who always teach the same grades, and always do the same things with the children in their classes. It may be that these teachers are in a “groove,” and are doing what they do remarkably well. It may be that it would be a big mistake to move these teachers out of these “grooves” – that well enough should be left alone. Everybody’s happy, and messing with success is not groovy. And so your child has the same first grade teacher you had, and enjoys first grade as you did.
But it may be that this teacher is in a rut. Change may cause stress, but it can also cause growth. Lack of change may provide security, but it can also lead to stagnation. Teaching materials and strategies are used because they have been used, and they’ve worked before. From the teacher’s point of view, they are “tried and true.” But in fact, there may be better materials and strategies, and children who have access to the better way are better off.
I’ve heard some teachers described as “dead wood.” There were many years when, as a parent and as a teacher, I viewed some teachers that way, and wished that certain teachers would retire. Year after year, they seemed to be making life miserable for children, parents, administrators, and themselves. I tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, not to think of them as “dead wood.” It’s not a flattering image.
Then young teachers started filling up the schools. We had a superintendent and principals who were my age or younger. I don’t think they were unusually young; I think I was getting older. I started wondering whether I was “dead wood.” I listened to what I said, and watched what I did. There was still plenty of originality there, and some of what I was doing was “tried and true,” but in at least some areas, I think rot was starting to set in.
Luckily, I had to retire anyway, for non-rot reasons. But I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed. I care about children and parents, and I think I would have tried hard to avoid becoming “dead wood,” but decay can be a slow, undetectable process. It can be controlled if it’s noticed; sometimes a change of grade level will do the trick. But decay may happen. It ‘s not some one’s fault, and there ought to be a way to make sure no one is punished. I hope there is or wish there were a way to see to it that children have the benefit of teachers’ enthusiasm and creativity, and somehow support is there for the teacher who used to be enthusiastic and creative, but is stuck in a rut.

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