Being a teacher is one of the best and hardest jobs.
I remember when I graduated college and everyone asked the same question, “What are you going to do now?” I graduated in December and was fortunate to line up my first teaching job to begin immediately—as in the last three days of the year before Christmas break began!
When you tell people you are a teacher, their first response is generally “You have to love your schedule! I’d love to have the whole summer off and be home at 3 every day.” You are right-teachers have a great schedule, 8-3 (or something to that sort). And yes, teachers get the summer off, but do you realize what they do not get off or what they give up or what they really do outside of those “great working hours?”
Teachers give up the ability to clock out at 3 and leave work at work. Do you realize how much grading, planning, and even researching a teacher does at home? I know what you are thinking, “That’s what their planning period is for?” Have you asked a teacher what he/she does on her planning? MEETINGS—team planning, discipline discussions, grade level meetings, parent meetings, IEP meetings, etc. The list can go on! What about the pre-service days before school starts or teacher workdays? Well…let’s say, staff development, teacher-parent conferences, meetings, data collecting, workshops, etc. You name it, teachers have to do it. Anything but what they NEED to do.
Teachers give up the ability to be worry-free. Teachers have a lot of kids. And a good teacher genuinely cares about all of her students (could be as small as 15 kids or over 200). As a middle school teacher on block scheduling, I had roughly 3 classes with 25-30 kids in each. When I was at a school with a normal schedule, I had 6 classes with about 30 kids in each class. Yeah….180 students that were my responsibility to teach math to every day. Teachers (most of them) care about each student. They genuinely want to help them learn, grow as a person, and develop character.
Teachers give up their health. Do you know how many germs all these precious students pass around? Not only do teachers get to enjoy these wonderful germs, but teachers are generally more stressed during the school year. They are planning, grading, teaching, and parenting all their students. Do I need to mention the demands of No Child Left Behind, Common Core Standards, and whatever else your state, district, or school requires you to do? All this plus they have their families to take care of, cook for, plan for, spend time with, teach, and much more.
I taught at three different schools. One was your high income, top-notch school with parents who gave me a $500 budget when I began mid-year and told me to pick anything I wanted for my classroom. Every Friday, parents brought us coffee/hot chocolate and donuts to our room during announcements. 75% of my students gave me gifts for Teacher Appreciate Week and even at Christmas when they only knew me for 3 days! Then I taught at a low-income inner-city school. A school that the state of Maryland’s Dept. of Education took over, let all teachers go, and hired a brand new staff. A school where over 75% of the students received free lunch, a school where fights were daily, drugs was common, and most all my students had one parent, no parents, were in and out of foster homes, and even homeless.
I remember my first day at that school it was four years ago this August. I called my husband at my lunch break and was ready to quit. I already had a student throw a desk across my room and three get in my face and scream every cuss word possible. But when I left that school, I was heartbroken to receive sweet letters from students about how much I meant to them, how much I cared, how much they learned from me. Those letters, those students, those moments, make teaching one of the best jobs.
As your children go back to school, remember how much their teachers are giving up to teach your children, care for your children, and be responsible for your children while in her care. She is your eyes and ears for 7-8 hours every day for the next 180 days. She is giving up a lot of personal time and family time to plan for and prepare for her daily job to teach your children. She is stressing over who is struggling with reading, who is in 8th grade math but still can’t add 8 + 6 without counting on their fingers, she is worrying about the students in a bad home situation or with no home, she is wondering when the state is going to “let go” those teachers not meeting a high enough passing rate on the state tests that are now changing due to the new Common Core Standards, and she is wondering when the government will pass a new budget to decrease her pay or cut more jobs.
To my teacher friends–thank you for your hard work. Thank you for caring about the kids in your classrooms and for desiring to give them the best education you are allowed to give them. Thank you for your hard work, all the time you sacrifice, and for the passion you have about education. You do this because you care, because we all know that after you pay for gas, classroom expenses out of your own pocket, and childcare (If you have small children), you bring home little to nothing! To my homeschooling moms–You are a teacher who may not have as many students to take care of and plan for, but you are planning, preparing, and giving up other things to have the ability to teach your own children at home. You are learning all over again as you teach your children. You spend time researching curriculum, finding bargain deals on them, and preparing to teach multiple grade levels in the “One Room School House.” You are wearing many hats–wife, mother, and teacher!
Now….let the school year begin!