So this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, which probably means it is Nurse Appreciation Week and maybe a few other thankless professions that somehow get lumped all in one week, because people know we will do our job no matter what.
So, sorry if I am coming off a little bitter here. I don’t mean to… Well, maybe I do. Second maybe to police officers, teachers are one of the most abused and misunderstood professions around. We are drug through the mud of the media – social or otherwise – and still expected to put on our smiling teacher faces and go change the world.
And the thing is, we will. Most of us will do just that, or at least we have been. As the world gets crazier, teachers are getting tired. It is becoming too much and many great teachers are taking waiting tables over a career they are gifted to do (though they are probably great at waiting tables too with all the multitasking it requires).
So I want to take this opportunity to explain teachers to you. We are not like the general population. We are different. We think differently. We work differently. We feel differently. And maybe that is why we are often treated the way we are – people just don’t understand teachers. So I am going to explain 10 things you need to know in order to understand teachers.
There are impostors.
Okay, so I cannot deny that there are some pretty ridiculous teacher stories, you know those stories that are too bizarre to even be made up. And those are the stories that make the news…
Or maybe you even had some teachers coming through school that left a bad taste in your mouth, teachers who you wondered why they were even there…
Yes, there are some people in the teaching profession that won’t fit my description. For whatever reason, they have found a job as a teacher, but that doesn’t mean they have the heart and mind of a teacher.
Most likely they are just passing through until they find what they are designed to do. So, don’t judge all teachers by the impostors, by the ones who just want to try it out – like teaching is a some trendy nail color.
When you look to pass judgement on teachers, look at the ones who have been in it for the long haul. Five, ten, fifteen, and twenty plus years. Those are the ones I am describing. Those are the ones who have the heart and mind of a teacher.
We are human.
But with that being said, teachers are human too. We are not the teachers of old who remain single and live in the school house. In fact, many of us have children of our own, families. And as you know, with family comes struggle.
When teachers are struggling, with whatever, we have to set it aside and perform with a smile. And I am not necessarily complaining about that, but just understand that sometimes we have other things on our mind.
We have aging parents, struggling marriages, troubled teens, empty bank accounts, and scary diagnoses to deal with too.
And sometimes out of that struggle, we make mistakes. We are human. But I know so many teachers that teach with grace and mercy. That is all the teachers really need in those moments. A little grace and mercy (not an ambiguous Facebook post about how horrible they are).
Teaching is in our DNA. It is a gift.
Teaching is a spiritual gift. It is mentioned specifically in the Bible. And while spiritual gifts are used to build of the kingdom of God, many teachers are pulling double duty with their spiritual gift.
They are using it out in the world to inspire and motivate and educate others. And if you watch, real teachers never retire. They just find new ways to teach – as it should be with a spiritual gift.
And teachers are just made differently. They can turn anything into a lesson. They never grow tired of learning and want to share that desire with others. Yes, they even feel the need to correct other people’s children – but not out of judgment. Teachers just know how to work efficiently and what behaviors contribute to the most efficient work. And discipline is born out of love, not judgement, which is another biblical principal.
We are motivated by love.
Teachers teach for one of two reasons. One, they love their subject matter or two, they love students. Either way, they teach because they love. Usually elementary teachers just love and care for children and they have the desire to guide and mold as many children as they can.
And upper level teachers usually have love for the subject matter and want to spread that love to other students. I know that is the case for me. My high school English teacher opened up the world of literature to me and I was able to see each book as a mystery to solve. I always knew I would be a teacher, but she showed me how to love literature and from there, I knew I wanted to share that love with others.
We live and breathe our profession.
I remember right before I started teaching I told my mom, “My life is about to change.” She didn’t understand what I was saying, but when you teach everything that comes through our brain, whether it be a new movie, book, news story or even a good sale on some trinkets, goes through the filter of how-can-I-use-this-in-my-classroom.
When you are a teacher, you are always thinking about teaching. It might not be a priority at the moment, but you always have thoughts swimming around up there on how to make your lessons better, how to connect with kids, how to increase parent involvement. Whatever. Teachers always have teaching running through their veins and through their brains.
We are dreamers.
I always say I would love to write lesson plans for a living. Because when I write lesson plans, everything works out perfectly in my head. Students are motivated and behave. Technology works flawlessly and everyone masters the lesson at hand.
See, teachers are dreamers. Each year we dream of making changes that change the world. That is why we started teaching in the first place. We want to make a difference. And yes, a difference to one child is important, but most teachers I know, even if they won’t admit it, want to leave a big impact. They want to start a ripple that goes on for ages.
This is also why we often feel defeated when that ripple ends with a thud. Our expectations are our own worst enemy. But we don’t stop dreaming, even when things look hopeless. We keep waiting for the day when the ripples keep on going. We keep working on making a difference that will last.
We have thousands of children.
I live in a small town and I love it. I have been teaching long enough now that I can rarely live the house where I don’t see one of “my kids.” My actual children have learned that if I speak to someone they don’t know, then it must be one of my school kids. And when I say school kids, it is anyone I taught in the last 12 years. Many of my students now have families and children of their own now. But it doesn’t matter, I still feel a special bond to each one of them. I still feel like I have a piece of them and they have a piece of me.
And I know I am not the only teacher who feels like this. I teach with some of my former teachers and we share a special bond. I even have former students now teaching and I absolutely love seeing them around.
Just remember, we love your children like you do. We take pride in their success and we hurt when they hurt. This is not a job to us.
We are workaholics (or at least recovering).
If you haven’t already figured it out, teachers work a lot. I know there are workshops on how teachers can train themselves to work only 40 hours a week. In the past, there were many nights I worked late, after my husband had already gone to bed. Once I had children, I learned to limit myself, but even now, I get to school before many of my students even wake up.
Teachers work through the night, through the weekends, and through the summer. They spend countless hours and dollars trying to be the best teacher they can be. As I said before, they are always a student first, learning how to make the most of their time with other students. Teachers are rarely satisfied with their performance, always seeking out ways to improve.
Some of it is a choice, and some of it is required (as much as I try to limit my take-home work, it still happens). But just recognize that teachers aren’t working overtime for time and a half. This isn’t about money. It’s about self-improvement. It’s about bettering our society. Just keep that in mind.
We often feel like the ringmaster in a circus.
Did you know that teaching these days is at least two parts entertainment and at best one part teaching? In a classroom, we have 25-35 students – that’s as many as 70 eyes – that we want focused on the lesson, on what we have to say. We are competing with cell phones, social drama, family troubles, you name it – and that’s not if there is a fly in the room. If there is, we just lost the class for good.
And at the same time, we have our attention divided between all 30 plus students, with our email dinging with concerned parents, the principal walking in for an observation, and the intercom going off because Suzy has to check out. Yet, we have to get the tiger to jump through the fiery hoop, while all of this is going on (AKA students to pass a standardized test).
This is daily (and you wonder why we have to have the summers off). While entertaining the students and teaching to the best of our abilities, we often feel like we are juggling one too many balls. We are the ringleader without a whip.
I recognize every job has its struggles and there are some jobs I definitely would not want to do, but this is not organized babysitting. It’s so much more than that, and how many other jobs have their effectiveness judged and posted in the newspaper? Sure, that data may not have our names on it, but we know and we feel the gut punch to the stomach when our numbers don’t meet the standard.
We just want other people to understand.
Sure, more money would be nice, but I knew what my salary would be when I signed up. And I wouldn’t turn down my picture being on a billboard as representing world’s greatest profession. And I would love free coffee every morning just for doing my job. But that is not the point of this post. I don’t need extra recognition. I don’t need extra money. And I don’t want pity – that certainly doesn’t help anything.
What we want is understanding.
Parents, we want you to understand what happens when you bad mouth us in front of your children, especially when you only have their side of the story. We want you to see how your child loses all respect of us because of what you said.
Parents, we want you to understand that when you blast us on social media, even if you don’t name names, we feel it. We get 100 screenshots sent our way. We get questions and comments and we get to stay up all night worrying about how the situation could have played out differently.
Parents, we want you to understand that we are on your side. We want to be a part of the village that helps raise your child. We are here for you and we want you to understand that we want you here for us too.
Administration and Board Members and any other body that makes decisions about our classrooms, we want you to understand that we are doing all we can. The good teachers that really want to be here are going crazy, doing all they can – literally. Yes, we understand you are in the same boat and your hands may be tied, but we want so badly to just do our job. To teach the children and to love the children and to have support when it comes to dealing with the children. We want you to understand, we really are trying to do the best we know how to do.
Community Members, we want you to understand we are doing this for you. We are working hard to help raise children to be productive members of our society. We are doing the best we can to teach them about life and reality and the skills it takes to be successful at both. We know how important the next generation is. Believe me, we see it.
Community Members, we want you to understand this job is not easy. It is not babysitting. It is not 2 months off in the summer for a relaxing vacation. It is blood, sweat, and tears – just ask any spouse of a teacher. We have to play the same politics you play. We have to keep people happy. We have to jump through hoops and check the right boxes. We have to do pointless paperwork too. We do many of the same things you do at your job, all the while teaching a room full of children for 6 hours of the day.
Well, I hate to sound so preachy (even if it is in my blood), but I think I speak for most teachers when I say that we just want to be understood. Understood and respected. Yes, we chose this career. We knew it would be hard. But it doesn’t have to be near as hard if we have just a little more understanding from those around us.