“But don’t you think anyone could teach?” He said from behind his Applebee’s engraved water-glass. It took every ounce of my inner-strength not to leap across the table and pummel him. However, I teach my students to “use their words” and “refrain from physical violence if at all possible,” so I decided to let him live.
Until you have stood in front of eighteen first graders on a post-Valentine’s Day Party sugar high or sat with 50 high schoolers and cried about the death of a student, you will never fully understand what it is that I do.
I love my job. Not every second – not when a kid throws up in my room or when a parent charges into my classroom swearing at me for something that wasn’t my fault. Yet, there is no job in the world that could challenge me more in every aspect of my humanity and no job, in my opinion, that is more important.
What exactly do I do you ask?
Well I plan six daily lessons that engage thirty, very unique students who learn in different ways and are overcoming more obstacles than I could possibly ever hear about in our 60 minutes together.
On top of trying to drastically improve their knowledge in my subject area, I teach them how to live a life of kindness, perseverance, humility, and compassion all the while demonstrating these things in my own interactions with them at a minimum of eight hours a day (even if I only got four hours of sleep or my own life is in chaos).
My job takes inhuman amounts of patience in an attempt to love up on the hardest and most annoying kids because quite frankly, they need the most love.
Oh and what about all that “prep” time you ask? You mean that sandwhich I scarff down while a 3rd graders sobs on my arm because of something a bully said? Or do you mean the beach lounger I relax in during countless meetings, professional development requirements, book groups, and the extra-curricular activities that I do?
That is why this study from England and others done here in the U.S. show that elementary teachers on average work 60 hours a week.
And no, we don’t do it for the money.
We do it to make a difference. We do it because every single child needs to be looked in the eye and told they have value, that this world needs them to be the best they can be and they can make a difference.
Far too many of us go through life without ever hearing those words and that’s not happening on my watch.
There is a lot of bad press about the teachers out there ruining our kids’ lives. There is all this talk from Washington about how teachers aren’t doing enough to close the achievement gap and hints that we’re probably racist. There are parents who teach their kids that teachers are out to get them, that we are dishonest and evil.
The truth is, I don’t know a single teacher like that. I know hundreds of good people who are doing the very best that they can to help the next generation with the skills and materials they have.
So as most of us head back to school tomorrow, I challenge you to spread some extra love for the teachers in your life – both past and present. Think of the people at school that really changed you, that took the time to help you become a better person and then thank them. Either with a prayer, a note, or a present (hint: we like new cars).
And to my friend at Applebee’s, to all the politicians who hate on teachers, to anyone who thinks that we do this just to have summer’s off, come visit my classroom. Come see exactly what I do 60 hours a week and then I will try with all of my might not to grin from ear to ear while I ask you, “don’t you think anyone could teach?”
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