Thursday, March 26, 2015

What It Means To Be a Teacher

As most people close to me would know, I taught high school English for exactly one disastrous year after college. =) If anyone doesn't know the details about that experience, suffice it to say that I learned much about myself and my inability to function in the American public school system. **shudder** 

This does not, however, mean I changed my opinion about education and educators. I love learning! I could probably be a lifelong student and be perfectly happy. =) And, I deeply respect those who have made it their life's mission to teach. Unfortunately, this opinion is not necessarily shared by everyone in America today. Too often, I see teachers berated for things out of their control or forced on them by inept leadership. The public demands excellence, but gives no support and little resources.  

So, I thought I would share with you what I feel it means to be a teacher. I send this out to my many, many friends and relatives who work tirelessly day in and day out in an oft-times thankless job.

I love you all!


What it means to be a teacher:

To be a teacher means working 8-10 hour days and still bringing 1 or 2 hours of work home with you each night.
It means spending thousands of dollars of your own money on everything from tissues and notebook paper to new technology or resources in your attempt to catch the imagination of just one more kid.
It means watching children struggle with schoolwork and disciplinary issues and knowing they are going home hungry and alone.

It means being able to do little comfort or help that needy kid because--
to be a teacher means being constantly suspected and mistrusted because of the selfish, deviant actions of a few.
It means being told how to do your job by those with no training or experience in your field.
It often means being forced to choose between the education and growth of your students and the financial health of your school and district.
It means spending your summers attending conferences and working part-time jobs for extra money, all while trying to spend quality time with your family and loved ones.
To be a teacher means you will be bullied, belittled, challenged, threatened, and verbally assaulted by both students and their parents when they aren’t happy.

It means you work 4-6 years for your degree, then spend another 1-3 years in a “trial” position under a mentor before you gain your full certification.

It means having to supervise other functions outside of regular hours such as dances, games, and field trips.

It means working with curriculum and supplies that are sometimes past their prime because the budget can’t allow for their replacements.

It means watching new stadiums and gyms being built while using those old supplies.

It means you will probably spend the first few years of your career in the hardest classes with the most difficult schedules.

To be a teacher means bringing home a paycheck that is roughly the same as a McDonalds shift manager’s.

It means spending your lunch hour and planning periods prepping lessons, grading papers, and setting up activities—all while attempting to swallow at least half of a sandwich.

It means having to justify and explain in five different ways why you taught what you taught in the manner you chose to teach it.

It means grading papers and writing lessons on the weekend.

It means never having a moment to yourself during the day.


To be a teacher also means watching a child’s face light up when he finally grasps a difficult concept.

It means watching a student everyone thought would drop out in a cap and gown preparing for college.

It means gaining a new family of “your kids” every fall and sending a little bit of your heart with each of them every summer.

It means knowing the joy of seeing a kid read for the first time, succeed for the first time, or try for the first time.

To be a teacher means choosing every day to invest in the next generation whether you receive credit for their successes or blame for their failures.

It means caring when everyone else gives up, working after everyone else leaves, and showing up when everyone else stays home.

It isn’t about a paycheck, a career, or a job; it’s about the students and opening their eyes to what life could be and what they could be. Because teaching isn’t about what happened yesterday or what is going on today; no, teaching is about building the future one child and one idea at a time. Indeed, the future of our society does not rise or fall in the marketplace or the political floor.  Our future is created in the classroom.