Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science but It Is Surely Harder

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science but It Is Surely Harder

(Ryan Fuller)

Ryan Fuller's article, "Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science but It Is Surely Harder," published on May 2, 2024, in Larry Cuban's blog on school reform and classroom practice, offers a profound comparison between the professions of aerospace engineering and teaching. Drawing from his personal experiences transitioning from an aerospace engineer at NASA to a high school teacher through Teach for America, Fuller provides a unique perspective on the challenges and rewards of teaching, particularly in America's highest-need communities.

Fuller begins by recounting his initial awe and enthusiasm as an aerospace engineer involved in designing next-generation spacecraft. Despite the complexity and high demands of his engineering role, Fuller reflects that the challenges he faced in engineering pale in comparison to those he encounters in teaching. As a math and robotics teacher at Sierra High School in Colorado Springs, Fuller describes the immediate and relentless demands of the teaching environment where he must address multiple issues simultaneously and continuously throughout the school day.

One of the key insights Fuller offers is the misconception of teaching as a singular job. He explains that teaching encompasses two distinct roles: the visible tasks of lesson planning, grading, and communication with parents and the less visible but more challenging role of live classroom management and student engagement. This "performance" aspect of teaching involves not just delivering content but also managing behavior, engaging students, and adapting to constant interruptions and challenges in real-time.

Fuller emphasizes the emotional and psychological toll of teaching, noting that he faces more moments of failure in a few minutes of teaching than he did in weeks as an engineer. The stakes in teaching are incredibly high, involving not just the transmission of knowledge but also the profound responsibility of shaping young lives. Moments of success, while less frequent, are deeply rewarding and potentially life-changing for students.

The article also touches on the broader social context of education, highlighting the lack of choice and privilege that many students in high-need communities face. Fuller urges fellow educators to remember the significant impact they have on these students, despite the immense challenges.

Fuller's narrative serves as a call to acknowledge and appreciate the complexity and critical importance of teaching. It challenges the public perception that equates difficulty and respect with professions like engineering over teaching. Through his story, Fuller advocates for greater recognition and support for teachers, especially those who commit to working in the most challenging environments.

This compelling account not only sheds light on the realities of teaching but also underscores the need for systemic changes to better support educators and enhance educational outcomes for all students.

Source: Ryan Fuller, "Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science but It Is Surely Harder," Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice, May 2, 2024.

Original Article


Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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