Week 3 of back to school is currently underway. Fellow teachers understand my plight as I spent my summer preparing for the first week of school. I literally spent 2 months preparing for day one. That’s a lot of time spent preparing. But that’s what we do: We prepare, execute, follow up, grade, revisit, then move on (we hope). Sounds extremely simple, right?
Here’s what we forget while preparing during the summer.
We forget what it’s like to have kids in front of us. Real. Live. Kids. Kids who don’t want to learn what we’ve spent so long preparing. Kids who see no relevance in what we are teaching. Kids who challenge us because they want the best from us. Kids who question our choices, disregard our requests, and make us feel as though we’ve wasted the whole two months creating (what we thought were) real life, engaging units that will challenge all learners and encourage them to connect to the content/ skills we are required via state and federal law to be able to do.
Speaking of federal law, we forget how much pressure is on us for others to succeed. We forget that we are competing with China and stuff. We forget how we are a tiny piece that fits into this country-wide bazillion piece puzzle. We forget that we have to prep for assessments that will ultimately let our administrators know that all of our planning matched what the powers that be decided that students should be able to know and do. Sound confusing? Well it is.
We forget what it’s like to have our own goals being compromised by others’ requests and goals. We forget that the feasibility of ‘changing the world one child at a time’ becomes more miniscule as more and more is added to our plate. Our vision becomes clouded and we forget that our endgame is not that of others and we need to quickly drop what we are doing (even if it is often working) to do the latest ideas from people we don’t know (and who don’t know our students).
We forget what it’s like to compete with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. We forget what it’s like when things that are a big deal to us, our passions, our fears are not even on our students’ radar. We forget that our students have a whole life of their own and what we are teaching does not even measure in their top ten (when it consumes our every minute).
We forget that no matter how much planning we do, we will still be running around making last minute changes, decisions, and copies. We forget that no matter how much we prepare in advance, we will still be ‘on’ for 8 hours and just how difficult it is to hold in our bathroom needs until the bell. We forget that this is a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding job and we will be challenged.
We sometimes forget why we are teaching.
But. (Yes, there’s a but. Sorry to all of you people who thought you’d be reading a manifesto on how much work it is to be a teacher, how hard we have it, blah blah blah, BUT that’s not my purpose.)
When a student asks your for help, stays after school voluntarily on a Friday, offers to wash your board, tells you they LOVE the book you recommended, recommends a book to you, thanks you for helping them, looks at you with awe as you know the answer to their question, tells you that you understand them, finally ‘gets it’, you remember why this job is so freaking awesome. Hard, but awesome. Because, folks, teaching is never easy. If it is, I’m not sure you’re doing your job. With every success, there is a failure and with every moment of elation, there is a moment of pure frustration.
There are so many moments that you think, “YES!” and get excited that your students are making gains- and whether these gains are noticeable on standardized assessments or to others is irrelevant. There are moments, no matter how few, that you go home with a smile on your face and in your heart.
There are also times that you go home and immediately pour a glass of wine and question your every existence. But, when students appreciate you and feel your passion it’s apparent:
We teach because we are intrinsically motivated to change the world and have ideas
that others would laugh down.
We teach because we care about the youth of our nation and the subjects we are assigned.
We teach because we have an innate way to see through the front that our ‘bad students’ keep up to save face.
We teach because we want to inspire our future.
We teach because we see no other way.
Test scores, reading levels, writing ability, and many other extrinsic pieces of evidence are just a plus in our journey. If kids score well on a test, that does not mean I’ve done my job, though. If kids look at the world around them with awe and wonder, question when necessary, and argue effectively then, and only then, have I done my job and I plan on spending the next 63 years until my retirement doing just that.