Some of us are born knowing exactly what we want to do in life, and some of us don’t find our calling until much later. I guess I was kind of a mix of the two. Originally, I wanted to portray my love for the ocean by being a Marine Biologist…until I realized that I hated science, and going to the depths of the deep blue truly terrified me.
I fell in love with literature at an early age, but never really planned on making a career out of it. Considered law school, but couldn’t handle that either after hearing some horror stories. So in my second year of college, I committed to the teaching program and I can sincerely say I enjoyed every minute of my experience. Oddly enough, I decided not to go straight in to teaching after graduation. I liked the job security of the corporate world…until I realized how miserable I was in the “9 to 5” crew. It just wasn’t for me.
After laying down some roots and having babies of my own, I decided it was time to make a life choice. Pursue my passion for teaching…or be unfulfilled in every job I took for the next 30 years. I already had everything in life I had ever wanted, now it was time to complete my trifecta: husband, kids and career. After countless interviews, I was finally awarded an English position in the same district where my sister would also be teaching. How awesome was that? (Full disclosure: it has been totally awesome).
I had no clue what my first year would have in store, and being the only full time English Teacher on staff (tackling Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors allll day long), I had to teach myself a lot of tricks. However, there are a few things I weren’t prepared for. Things you can only learn about with experience, things that, in learning, have taught me so much about myself. Things that, even on the worst of days, will keep me coming back year after year. So, before you assume you know all there is to know about teachers, let’s talk about a few things you might not realize, that have nothing to do with actually being in the classroom.
I pray. A lot.
Being a teacher is very comparable to being a mom. In fact, I’m a firm believer that waiting to become a teacher until after I became a mother actually helped my game. I spend more time with YOUR children than I do my own during the school year, and that can hurt my heart sometimes. Silver lining: I have an hour commute each way to the district I teach in, which is the only “me” time I will have ALL DAY.
So, I pray. I pray for protection over my children while I’m not with them. I pray for a good day, full of patience with particular students. I pray for the student who has just disclosed a pregnancy at the age of 16, or the one whose parent chose drugs over food that week. I pray I’m able to make a difference, even if it just means having a snack ready for the girl I know is secretly starving herself. School isn’t just about preparing your lesson plan; it’s first and foremost about preparing your heart.
I treat the students like actual people.
There’s a joke amongst teachers about “not smiling before Christmas Break” or the students will take advantage of you. That’s just not really my style. When I want to smile, I smile. When I’m upset, they know it. I reiterate from day one that I love them all equally. We all have bad days, days where we have much bigger things going on than sitting in a classroom learning about The Great Gatsby. In high school, breaking up with your boyfriend will most definitely cause you to treat your teacher like crap…but it doesn’t mean I can’t relate.
I “keep it real” with my students. I treat them like human beings and I show them that I am a real person. They love hearing stories about something ridiculous my toddler has recently done, and I love hearing about anything going on in their lives that they deem important. Being a teacher isn’t only about running a “strict” environment–I’m not their mother; I’ve found that making the students feel welcome in my classroom has actually opened up for a much better learning experience.
I have zero tolerance.
I’m a pretty “free range” teacher, but there are things I don’t tolerate. Students who don’t even have me in class know that I don’t tolerate bullying of any kind. That goes not only for students, but faculty and parents alike. We cannot expect students to act a certain way if we do not exhibit the behavior of which we expect from them. Does that always stop kids with deeper issues from picking on the gay kid because of their own insecurities? No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t personally make sure the teacher’s lounge bathroom is open to the child being bullied so that he can go to the restroom or change for track practice in peace.
So if your child comes home and doesn’t instantly confide in you, please don’t be upset–be thankful that they have a teacher they can turn to to help work through problems and helping teach them coping life skills. It doesn’t matter that I teach kids who are, by law, classified as adults: they aren’t. They still need guidance and a hand to hold as much as my toddler at times.
Teachers wear many hats. While I LOVE seeing a student’s eyes light up at the symbolism in a novel, or the outstanding grade they earned on an essay, most days I don’t feel like I even got the opportunity to teach my subject matter. However, at the end of the day, I know that sometimes the lessons I’ve taught are far more important than the difference between a noun and a pronoun.
You only have to pick up a newspaper every other day to see why teachers are leaving this great state of ours in search of higher pay or “to feel more appreciated”. In all honesty, I don’t understand. I knew what I was getting in to with this profession when I chose it. I buy the pencils, notebook paper and Lysol Wipes out of my own pocket. I don’t do it for the money…I do it for the kids. Why else would anyone choose to be a teacher?