Summer 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 32 of 43

PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNETH POPPE; © 24029073/JUPITERIMAGES/THINKSTOCK | 33 summer 2016 message my lovely wife sent me on our third anniversary. And the other was a seemingly innocuous all-staf message sent about eight years ago from someone I doubt would even remember it. The email came frst thing on a Friday morning, well past halfway through the school year, and it simply said, "Happy Friday. Enjoy your kids today." Simple, right? So, why so memorable? Because the sender was a young man in his frst year as an English teacher, and he was having a rough year. On an average day, you could walk past his room and see kids freewheeling while he struggled to deliver his lesson. He called multiple parents, frequently wrote referrals, and often spoke in the hall with a kid whose cavalier attitude showed the teacher was getting nowhere. That email encouraged me to ask myself if I still believed in kids like that, and if I still enjoyed them after all the years I had been on the job. Had I grown complacent now that I had fgured out so much? Had I become dictatorial? Aloof? Self-serving? Robotic? Cynical? Or, did I embody the label students use with the most derision—boring? Every now and then, I do an attitude check to see if I'm still teaching for the right reason—the kids. Some of you may remember the comment I made at the 2014 ATPE Summit Awards Banquet: "One-third of today's college education majors have no defnite goal to teach, and another one- third have no business trying to teach." Well, I could tell the new teacher was in the remaining one- third and would someday "make it" in his profession. Despite all his challenges, he still knew the reason he was there—the kids. I don't know where he is now, but I suspect, like the rest of us, he often gets asked by incredulous non-educators, "How do you survive being trapped all day long in a room with a group of today's kids?" When I get this question, I explain that it's more than just a job, or even a career—it's a calling, and I can't see myself doing anything else. Like that young man's, my frst year of teaching was an unmitigated disaster. Though I graduated from college with plenty of educational theories, I quickly found I was not prepared for the reality of teaching. I endured such chaos in freshman biology that I truly wonder if I ever taught anything that year. I remember enough days where I would pull up and stop in the parking lot, stare at that big brown intimidating high school, and literally pray to God to give me any alternative other than to walk into that building again. (It's amazing how that anecdote always resonates with other teachers. But we all survived it, didn't we?) To truly "enjoy your kids," you must help create the most advantageous environment possible for them. This means not only doing your best in your classroom but also making the most of yourself on your campus. Where will you be this fall? Are you a frst- or second-year teacher? Good luck! Are you a more experienced teacher? How can you avoid "burnout" and still contribute to your school? Could you become a coach, club sponsor, committee member, student teacher supervisor, or community outreach liaison? Better yet, how about becoming an ATPE campus representative or ambassador or running for regional ofce? Or maybe, like me, you are nearing retirement, and are watching as a new generation of teachers begins to take over. May I suggest this might be a good time to live the ATPE slogan, "Each one, reach one"? Let's make sure this next generation of educators enjoys the same advantages that we've enjoyed as members of ATPE. Even in my summer mindset, I'm still thinking of cool strategies and lessons I want to try this fall, and I will be happy to see those perplexing and unpredictable "raw materials" come shufing into my room in August. If, as the year progresses, we fnd ourselves doing as that one email advised— enjoying our kids every day—we will turn out many highly polished fnal products come June. Wishing us all a great 2016-17 school year! Kenneth Poppe is a science/math teacher at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth. He was the 2015–16 ATPE Secondary Educator of the Year. "Every now and then, I do an attitude check to see if I'm still teaching for the right reason—the kids."

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of ATPE News - Summer 2016