I am totally overwhelmed right now. Like, treading water but feeling like any hint of a wave would take me under kind of overwhelmed. Teaching is hard.
My poor husband married me the summer before my very first year as a teacher and I remember 2 things that he sweetly and very naively said to me that year: “Surely you can do this in 40 hours a week. Just find more ways to be more efficient with your time.” and “I didn’t realize you got sick so often.”
“Surely you can do this in 40 hours a week. Just find more ways to be more efficient with your time.” Ummmm… clearly you don’t know what my job is. I am with children 35 of those hours, so how do you suggest that I fit in planning and material creating and grading and meetings and parent emails, etc, etc, etc, in those extra 5 hours a week?? Because I would love to know.
He learned quickly that those kind of comments do not make friends in our house. 😉
(By the way, if you are in the midst of your 1st year- it does get better! Not right away, and it’s never easy, but eventually it will get better, so hang tight.)
Next up: “I didn’t realize you got sick so often.” I laugh now, but this almost made me cry when he first said it. I don’t get sick often! I eat relatively healthy (although I do love a good bowl of ice cream) and I exercise when I can. Most of my life I have been a well person, but all of a sudden, now that I’m a kindergarten teacher, I’m around 24 five year olds on a daily basis and they have germs. Lots of them. And they share more germs than they share anything else. Which, by the way, may not have been scientifically proven yet, but my observations have led me to this conclusion hands down! Needless to say, I was sick a lot my first year. Luckily, my immunity has now built up to that of a hospital worker and I am able to witness sickness without partaking in it (thank goodness!).
All that said, teaching is a full body experience. It requires your heart and soul and mind and body, and there is no time for breaks, let alone weakness. Thing is, I believe that it also fuels something in those of us who decide to stay with it, so in my current moment of overwhelmed weakness, here are 5 reasons I think it rocks to be a teacher.
- The kids. Oh my goodness the kids. Some of them make you want to go home and drink a bottle of wine in one sitting, but most of them are amazing!! They are beautiful little reflections of the lives that they have led to this point, and even in their faults, they are precious. Now, I should probably take this moment to say that I teach elementary school (I’m currently in 2nd grade), so they haven’t gotten to the exaggerated attitudes and crazy hormonal imbalances. But in every class, I believe there are sweet, caring, compassionate, loving, smart, inquisitive, observant, funny, wonderful children. Sometimes it helps me to focus on those kids and let the stresses caused by others with less adorable behaviors fade away. Even those who act out though, are amazing in their own ways. If you really choose to seek out their brilliance, I think you’ll be impressed with what you find they are capable of.
- Kids from the past. This is an addition to number 1, but once you’ve put in some time at a school, the best treat is when kids from prior years start coming to see you or waving at you and running up for hugs in the hallway. Maybe it’s just me, but this not only makes me feel like a rock star, it also reminds me that I did something right in those years. If those kids remember nothing else from our time together, I hope and I think that they remember they were loved (and they will always be my children).
- Content. Now this is a double edged sword, I know, especially with things constantly changing and shifting, but I love the fact that teaching keeps me fresh on things that many people forget in life. I could tell you all about chemical and physical changes of matter because we study it in science, or all about James Oglethorpe and Tomochichi because they’re part of our social studies standards. I know how and feel confident in my ability to teach my own daughters how to read because I’ve gotten the chance to practice hundreds of times with my students. If you teach higher grades, you probably know a whole lot more than your friends about the history of your state, or (fill in the blank other topic). Enjoy your special knowledge, dear teacher!
- Co-workers. Teachers are some of the nicest people. And we’re all fighting similar battles. Having a friend at work who is experiencing what you’re experiencing, be it issues with administrative demands or parents who think it’s helpful to do their child’s homework for them (parents- thank you for loving your child, but I promise this doesn’t do them any favors), is really valuable. Think of it as built in job therapy.
- Moments when you know you made the right career choice. Sometimes they’re days or weeks or maybe even months apart, but in those moments when you watch a child’s eyes light up because they finally get a concept you’ve been teaching them, or when a parent emails you out of the blue just to say thank you, or when you truly feel appreciated by whomever, you know you were meant to be a teacher. You are fighting the good fight and making a difference in this world. And even though there are plenty of other careers out there that you would probably be awesome in, none would speak to your soul in this same way.
And that’s when teaching totally rocks.