Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Shout Out to My Fellow Teachers

I love my profession. I know it's what I'm meant to do. Although I had to hit "pause" on my career to stay home with my baby girl, I can't wait to get back in the classroom. I think every teacher would agree that teachers go into teaching because they care first and foremost about the students. Secondly, they are passionate about learning! For example, I LOVE reading and writing and desperately want to motivate young people to enjoy it as well. My teaching mantra, "Teaching is a Work of Heart" has never changed. Whatever YOUR reason for teaching, this job impacts lives. Fortunately, I know A LOT of teachers that feel the same way and here's a SHOUT OUT to you. Despite what others may think, it ISN'T easy. Here's why these professionals deserve respect:

Everyone comes into the classroom with baggage, some students carry bigger loads than others, but that baggage is impossible to toss aside for the sake of reading a book. We know that in order for a child to learn effectively, you must "hit their heart" and sometimes that forces you to lose sleep at night.

When you get your paycheck you run over to the Dollar Tree and nab a few more pencils, notebooks, sticky notes, bulletin board borders, paper, and then order the materials not provided through your curriculum so you can CONNECT to your students and help them understand a concept through an amazing project. By the time you're done you have just enough to pay your bills and buy groceries for the month. Teachers work hard to create something, anything to help students enjoy the learning process.

Working hard is an understatement. My busiest days was when I arrived at school at 7:15, worked through my lunch, had basketball practice during my planning period (lasting until 4:30), prepared for the next day and left around 6, went home and graded papers the rest of the evening until I went to bed. I remember attending a Gary Allen concert on a Friday night and being so exhausted the only thing that I wanted to do was go to sleep. I HATED that concert and looking back I believe it was because I was so tired! I was more tired after a day with junior highers than I was after a week of hanging out with my 1 and 2 year old nephews. Seriously. The thing about teaching is that it's emotionally and physically draining, but it is so worth every minute.

I've heard parents (who understand all of the above) joke that they'd never want to be a teacher. I get that. I'd never want to be a nurse who has to deal with mean doctors, crappy hours, and nasty blood, puke, and guts. However, what I don't understand is why parents send their kids to school expecting the teachers to deal with their problem child and then are angered when their child is disciplined. I could tell you story after story of incidents like this one where a student was caught chewing tobacco on the bus home from a football game and he was suspended for the remainder of the games (duh!), but his parents were mad stating that their child told them he thought it was gum. Ha! Seriously?

The thing is, when teachers get together we ALL have stories like this.

I don't want to spend this time complaining about terrible children because some of those students who were the most ill behaved students in history ended up being some of the students I loved the most. Most of the time those students are the students who need the most love because they don't get it at home. Most of the time those students are the students who have zero structure and discipline at home and need it somewhere, and once they get it at school they thrive. Most of the time these students are the students that realize that discipline does not mean that I hate you, it means that I want you to succeed and I care about you, so I don't want you to continue to make mistakes that will hurt YOU in the long run. Once teachers help students to understand that, they'll have loyal, hard working students willing to learn and grow into productive members of society.

My first year teaching I really didn't understand those students - the misbehaving, attention-seeking students. There are a lot of teachers who possess more patience than I ever will and I applaud you. Teachers that truly grasp the fact that we're all unique individuals with different talents, weaknesses and learning abilities are the teachers to treasure.
Unfortunately, our education system doesn't support what teachers learn to appreciate - our individual uniqueness. I remember one incident that has forever shaped how I feel about one test for all. I had a 7th grade student that received straight A's and was an avid reader and writer. This student worked hard and the comments made during literary discussions were thought provoking and had wonderful perspectives. Every practice test ever taken scored this student as "above average." However, the day the state test was taken was the day ____'s mother was arrested in a huge drug bust. Now answer me this, HOW ON EARTH WAS THIS STUDENT GOING TO FOCUS ON THE TEST WITH THIS GINORMOUS EVENT WEIGHING ON ____ SHOULDERS, FORCING ____ TO THINK ABOUT IMPENDING CHANGES AND A LOOMING, SCARY FUTURE?!

I write that story knowing every teacher reading this is nodding in absolute agreement.
A teacher should be the one making decisions about our education system, however, a teacher became a teacher to teach, not become a politician.

If you see a teacher, ahem, WHEN you see a teacher working long past "working hours" coaching your child, grading papers, working on lesson plans, THANK them, because sometimes we feel like this...
And most of the time, we feel like this...
Teachers deserve daily shout outs for what they do, even during the summer months when they work in their classroom preparing for the next school year, taking professional development classes trying to better themselves, or encouraging students to show up to the open gym their hosting. Teachers go in to this profession expecting nothing, not even a thank you, so surprise one today and THANK them for all they do.

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