For those of us who aren't teachers—or who aren't related to teachers—it's easy to forget how hard teachers work.
Waking up before dawn, after a late night of lesson preparations, isn't for the faint of heart—and neither is the teaching itself.
But that didn't deter seven of Montgomery County's elected officials from spending May 10, 2012—from before dawn to near dusk—teaching, as part of the Montgomery County Education Association's first "Teach for a Day" program, "designed to honor local teachers and acknowledge the crucial role teachers play in making sure every student receives a quality education," according to a county statement.
Town of Somerset Mayor spent the day co-teaching Jonathan Main's classes in government, law and world history at Germantown's , whose student body is very diverse and not as economically privileged as students in other parts of Montgomery County, Slavin said.
Despite the 4:30 a.m. wake-up alarm, Slavin enjoyed the experience. "I had a very enlightening day. ... The kids were amazing and the teacher [a graduate of and a resident of Bethesda] was great," he said.
Delegate Jeffrey Waldstreicher, who represents District 18 in the Maryland House of Delegates, taught for the day at his alma mater, .
"It was a meaningful thing to be back," he said. "I saw many teachers that I had in high school."
Waldstreicher got up at 5:30 a.m. that day, and taught three classes in national, state and local government, and two classes of African-American history. By the end of the day, he was experiencing the exhaustion that school teachers encounter every day, he said.
"It's like an exhausting workout at the gym" that makes one feels both dead tired and exhilarated at the same time, he added.
Waldstreicher also prepped for the day on the night before it. The teachers had sent him the day's lesson plans so that he would have some time to study them.
"That’s what the teachers do. The don’t wing it. They have very rigorous lesson plans that they have to put together," and to which they have to adhere in the classroom, said Waldstreicher, who hadn't fully appreciated the amount of prep work needed until he actually had to do it.
But more eye-opening than the prep work and long day were the students.
"The face of Montgomery County is changing dramatically. It's most obvious in our students," who represent the demographic of the county 10 to 20 years from now, he said. The majority of the student population of Montgomery County has been non-white for a number of years, he added.
That diversity brings both opportunities and challenges. The students demonstrate how "people from varying backgrounds and cultures can live together in a way that is harmonious and prosperous." But, that diversity also challenges the region's social services network, he added.
"As a legislator, it’s easy and tempting to legislate on a year-to-year basis. But one of our responsibilities is to think through what those demographic challenges mean, and to try to anticipate what those needs will be in Montgomery County in the future," Waldstreicher said.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett took Amy Soldavini’s English classes at in Silver Spring, and taught Shakespeare's As You Like It to the students.
Leggett's challenge for the day—after waking up at about 5 a.m.—was to incorporate all of the different components of teaching a class—taking attendance, collecting and assigning homework, lecturing—into a class session, with hall monitoring stints sandwiched in-between the classes.
"I did the whole thing, everything that a teacher would do," said Leggett, who participated in a similar teach-for-a-day program in 1986, when he was first seated on the county council. Programs like these help him to appreciate all the hard and difficult work that goes into being a teacher, he said.
One thing that struck Leggett in particular was the specific challenge that student absenteeism poses to students' teachers and learning.
When students miss class, "teachers and administrators have to work extremely hard, and the system has to provide additional resources" to get students back up to where they should be, he said.
"If the students are there, I think there’s a great hope and expectation" that they can succeed in school. "Once you miss class and fall behind, then it becomes a real challenge," he added.
In addition to Leggett, Waldstreicher and Slavin, the other officials who participated in the program were:
- Montgomery County Board of Education President Shirley Brandman, who taught Josh Rubin's special education classes at in Kensington.
- Montgomery County Board of Education Member Mike Durso, who taught Kimberly Moore's government classes at .
- Maryland State Delegate Craig Zucker, who taught Denise Renfrew's third-grade class at in Colesville.
- Maryland Deputy Secretary of State and Mayor of Kensington Peter Fosselman, who taught Kimberly Sexton's third-grade class at .
Also, Gazette education reporter Jen Bondeson taught Ken Allen's fifth-grade class at . Read about Bondeson's experience on The Gazette.