Warning: LONG POST. Make yourself a cup of tea or a sandwich, or better yet, A DRINK.
I really try and keep my work life out of my blog, but this is more of a rant regarding my profession as a whole as opposed to my personal job. I had a particularly frustrating conversation recently, in which a person found out that “I have time off AGAIN” and stated that “teachers should teach more—we’re off far too much” and “teachers are overpaid.” They then made the oft-quoted, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” joke that never, ever fails to irritate me.
You can thank them for this rant.
First, I am not, in any way, shape, or form insulting the professions of others. Not in the least. ALL jobs are important, and valuable. But, since teaching is what I know, I can only speak for my job.
I acknowledge that I get a lot of time off. My schedule is particularly amazing: 9-10 weeks on, 2 weeks off, and a 2 month summer. And please don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for every darn day off. The thing is, you see, there’s a reason why we get time off, more than other jobs. This year, I am responsible for 110 kids. This means I have 110 things to grade: papers, worksheets, projects, etc. It means I have 110 grades to calculate, and parents to call, and things to take care of. There is never a time when I am completely finished with work, as there is always SOMETHING to be done. To prove my point? I have a pile of 61 district essays to grade while I’m “on break” plus, I have the responsibility of 9 weeks of lessons to plan. Lesson planning takes an extraordinary amount of time, at least in my experience, if it’s to be done well. I have a million different things to cover in my classes—and not nearly enough time or resources to do it. Besides the responsibilities of my classroom, there is supervision duty, committees, programs to help run, meetings, parent conferences…the list goes on.
More importantly, there is the business of the emotional care of 110 kids. In the population I work with, school is a safe place for kids who encounter more as children than I’ll likely ever know or understand. I have spent many a night up worrying about kids who have nothing—emotionally or in the sense of physical possessions. I believe in being an adult in their corner, meaning that I hear stories of bullying, family tragedy, tough choices, extreme joy and the in’s and out’s of being 13. And for many of my students, I recognize that I am one of few safe people in their life–if not the only. That is in no way a complaint—it’s a joy, a huge responsibility that I marvel at. I feel so incredulous sometimes when I see that kids trust me, just because I have “the big desk.”
I take my job seriously. I feel I have a duty to really teach kids to write, to read, to be better people. I teach them how to write a sentence and how to punctuate it properly, how to read a book and understand it, how to speak intelligently and politely. We work on giving and receiving feedback graciously. I model what it means to be kind, to be understanding, and how to have fun while learning. We laugh. I can’t come to work tired or hungover or just sit at my desk when I’m in a bad mood. I am in “output mode” all day. I have driven home many days, tears falling down my cheeks for the things I said or did, or didn’t say or for the way I snapped at a kid, or the fact that I wonder if a student will eat that night.
I’m not a saint. There are some days when I question why I’m in my profession. When I berate myself for all of the things I didn’t teach. I have lessons that flop, and kids who think I’m the meanest person in the whole world, and sometimes? I AM. I get annoyed, I rush through questions, I don’t give 100% of myself because I’m thinking about something else.
But above all, I LOVE MY JOB. The rewards are countless. There are essays from students who learn things about themselves and share them with me, there are the notes I find slipped onto my desk, the stories from parents who thank me for working with their kid. There are the side hugs I get from kids when they learn I’ve given them an A, or when a student moves up a reading level or writes a great paper. There are the letters at the end of the year, and the emails and the smiles and the classes I’ve taught that have left me laughing hysterically until my sides hurt.
And that trumps the time off any day. It erases the stacks of papers, the long nights, the faculty meetings, the yelling parents, the endless lesson planning, the constant effort to make my classroom fun, engaging and exciting EVERY SINGLE DAY.
So, for those of you still in doubt, I leave you someone who says it better than I ever can, have or will: