By Marilyn Thomas
After 18 years in a classroom, retiring James Hart School teacher Mary Carvlin is thinking about writing a book – a primer for new teachers sharing all her first-hand knowledge.
Carvlin said teaching “takes a lot of experience, but I also think it could be taught better” than it is in teacher preparation classes. “I would like to be a teacher/coach or write on what they don’t tell you – lots of tips.”
It won’t be a hard project for Carvlin. She made a career as a freelance editor/writer for many years until 9/11. The historic event caused a slowdown in publishing and writing opportunities. At that point, Carvlin said she “started subbing and decided to look at teaching options.” A special alternative certification program at Governors State University helped her make the transition.
Carvlin taught in Riverdale the first three years of her teaching career before moving to District 153 as a Spanish teacher. She’s taught the introductory Spanish class. It’s been fun, but Carvlin wishes learning a foreign language was made available from kindergarten on.
“A lot of studies show children who are bilingual develop extra capacity in their brains the way they bounce back and forth with the concepts. Our students need more language-learning concepts,” she said.
One of the things Carvlin’s writings would point out to prospective teachers is teaching takes a lot of effort.
“For people who aren’t in the profession, they need to understand what the challenges are and make decisions with full knowledge and I don’t think they get the whole picture because people gloss over the difficulties. You get that Pollyanna notion that teaching is ‘I love kids,’ ‘I’m a good person’ and it’s mothering,” she said.
“I think people are underprepared for the actual physical challenges of the day-to-day, but they also might not realize that one of the great things about teaching is it’s never dull. Every day is different. Kids are constantly changing, and it can be a lot of fun that way.”
Carvlin says the other most difficult thing is all the rules from the district, plus the county, state, and federal governments that mandate and dictate what teachers can do in the classroom.
“That can be really frustrating to navigate, but when you become an experienced teacher you learn what the priorities are. You have to develop a sense of priorities and be able to tune out minor hassles and stand your ground,” she said.
The role of the classroom teacher is to teach and develop a rapport with students to encourage them, but the other factor is classroom discipline. It’s like having two occupations, she said.
Carvlin doesn’t have a set agenda for retirement. Her writing will happen at her pace. She intends to improve her Spanish and may in the near future take a trip to Mexico, but generally she’s happy to have time to spend with her two infant grandchildren and her parents who are now in their mid-90s.