Being a teacher in today’s world is tough. I’m just going to honestly put it out there. We have the odds stacked against us the entire time we are with our students and there are days when it takes all we have not to cry, scream, leave, point fingers….the list goes on. My students are a part of my life. They motivate me to be better. When you work in a field where you are taking care of people, you can’t just turn your job off. You live it and breathe it. I come home and share stories about my students every day, I go to bed thinking about their well-being and progress (or lack there of), I wake up each morning thinking about what I can do to help them be better learners.
Sadly, we have recently seen another school shooting in our country, and I can’t help but wonder if the more these things keep happening, the more numb our government, media, and society becomes to them. I am feeling a variety of emotions–grateful this hasn’t happened to me (yet), heartbroken for the young lives that were lost, and proud of the teachers who jumped to action. Teachers are lovers. We love hard, we love strangers kids and we genuinely care for people. Teachers are also now working in what I consider one of the most dangerous career fields in our country. Because we have zero protection, and we are responsible for a number of children at any given time. We are asked to come to work with a smile on our face in the wake of this tragedy and assure students that our schools are safe, with nothing but walls and rooms to actually keep them safe if something were to happen. No weapons allowed on the premises. Some schools do allow for teachers to have wasp spray. To use against an active shooter. While we are trying to herd a group of students to safety. One can of bug spray is supposed to make me feel safe? I don’t feel safe in my school, I feel semi-prepared. But I also know that I would die for any of my students in a heartbeat while I am doing the best I can to flip over desks, lock my door, get students in a closet and calm them down to silence by assuring them it’s going to be okay, all with my bug spray in hand.
Teachers love their students, they love watching the light go off, the a-ha moments. We love the smiles and innocence that children bring into the world. We love to show children how to grow and learn and love life. The school system and the people in powerful positions know this, and it seems as though they take advantage of it. The national average pay for teachers is roughly $56,000 per year. Teachers in rural schools or poor urban schools get paid much less. Some get paid half of the national average. Many teachers work multiple jobs in order to pay their bills. We are talking about adults with college degrees having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. How is that even possible–I mean how is it possible for a teacher to work multiple jobs when they are already easily working over 60 hours a week? The idea of being a teacher is fun right? You get to “play” with kids all day, you get off work at 4, you have summers and holidays off. But let’s get real, teachers essentially get no time off. Especially new teachers. Teachers bring their work home and spend countless hours creating tests, grading papers, analyzing data, diagnosing learning disabilities, creating 3 different versions of the same lesson. We are in constant contact with some parents and are constantly trying to contact other parents. We are trying to make sure we have given each student undivided attention every day, which is FAR more difficult than it sounds. We are researching new techniques and methods. We sometimes have late night meetings or events, and we come to school the next day with a warm smile on our faces, excited to see each and every one of our students.
Teachers are expected to cover in depth a number of standards at the national and state levels. In most states, students take a test that determines how well they know the specific standards. If a majority of students do not perform well, the teacher can lose their job, and the school district itself can even get visited by the state. What an incentive for school districts to push their teachers to teach to a test and make sure all students can meet the same exact standard. The student who is living with different family members and never gets to eat breakfast has to learn the same exact standard to the same exact extent as the student who wakes up with a mom and a dad and has breakfast every morning. The student who is absent all the time has to learn the same standard to the same depth as the student who never misses a day. If these students don’t learn the standards, it’s our fault. The teacher. Not the system.
Teachers are losing their teacher voice. It’s becoming more difficult to teach in today’s society because teachers are no longer just educators. We are parents, counselors, nurses, and friends. This is happening more often than not because the infrastructure of families in today’s world is broken and who is the next person that children get to see? Their teachers. Our students are broken before we even get to see them whole, and we have to fix them in order to get them to be interested in learning and excited about school. We are losing our teacher voice because we are having to use all of our other voices to show that we care. This is particularly tricky at the middle school and high school levels, because students begin to see you as a mom, or a counselor, or a friend BEFORE they see you as a teacher. This means teachers are forced to start redefining our boundaries, as students feel more comfortable questioning procedures, rules, and techniques. It makes our job, which is strictly to educate children a lot more strenuous.
Teachers are literally superheroes in human form. We carry the future of the world on our shoulders and take hit, after hit, after hit from the system. We would die for the future, and we continue to carry the future of the world with a smile on our face. We see children who are homeless, starving, or wearing yesterday’s clothes and we greet them with a hug and tell them how amazing they are. We see first hand what a divorce or death can do to a child and we cry with them and listen as they cry, or take the brunt of their anger and frustration. We talk students through first loves and break ups, cat fights and fist fights, wins and losses, A’s and F’s and we love them, all 30, 40, 50 of them every step of the way. It’s these moments that make it all worth it, all of the hours and meeting and data are all worth it when you can make a child’s day better.
If you are a teacher, know you are an AMAZING teacher. You are enriching the lives of your students and that is something that can never be replaced. You are a superhero! If you know a teacher, I encourage you to be mindful of how tricky their job really is. Tell them thank you. Let them know they are appreciated. After all, none of us would be where we are without teachers!