The end of summer is vast approaching. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of two sides to this story. First is the parents, some who can not wait to get the bored kiddos back to learning and back on schedule and others who are sad to have the kids gone from the house all day long. The other side is my teacher friends, commiserating that the summer flew by and its almost time to head back to work. The latter always includes some type of comment akin to "Bout time", "Must be nice to have three months off", or some other equally dumb statement.
Listen, I don't want to poo-poo what anyone else does for a living as I know there are HUNDREDS of jobs you couldn't pay me to do; but let me say this folks- teaching is hard.
Soon I will pull my car up to the building. I will unload bag after bag of things I have purchased for my classroom. Folders, binders, pencils (seriously my kids NEVER have pencils), erasers, glue sticks, rulers, kleenex, hand sanitizer, posters- you name it, it's there. Its not required that I purchase these things, of course, but I always have them on hand for kids who need them. I often have kids from previous years come back and ask if I have an extra binder because theirs is broken and they don't have money to buy a new one. They never get turned away...although sometimes they end up with a pink flowered binder and a blue book cover.
Ill set up my room with the help of Pinterest. Creating bulletin boards to inspire and jazz up the normally boring white walls to make a comfortable, cozy space. I live here for the next nine months- I want it to feel awesome.
Then I will sit in meetings. Countless meetings. Fire safety, Keystone Exam, Common Core Standards, SDI's, Co-Teaching, Differentiated Instruction. Who knows what they will be about this year. We will dutifully sit there as the newest buzz tries to re-invent the wheel. We will hear new ideas and plan with our departments and co-teachers how to incorporate them into our lesson plans. We will get trained on the new copiers/printers/technology, learn our duty assignments and just like the kids see who we eat lunch with and who has the same prep times. We will walk bare halls that smell clean as we gear up for the first days of school- which are always crazy.
Then the first day happens. The clean smelling halls will be gone as they fill with teenagers and lockers fill up with things and lunches that will be forgotten about- ew. Paper and pencils will litter the halls as kids scramble about from class to class. We teachers will be back to work, we will be on; and for anyone who doesn't teach, you just don't understand what that means. It's okay that you don't get it, because I have no idea what you do at your job- but I'm going to try to explain it a bit.
When I get to work, immediately, I'm on a stage. I write and research my "script" every day on my own, but it always calls for a little improv when the natives start getting restless. I keep the kids engaged with cool stories and animations about DNA and Natural Resources. I plan projects that will allow them to show off their creativity and learning, that will take me three times longer to grade than a regular test. I give them chances to create their own assessments and participate and teach each other. I email parents CONSTANTLY to keep up on the kids who are slacking off and to give praise to the ones who are kicking butt.
I never sit down. Sitting gives the natives time to do something unexpected. If they never know where I'm headed next, their faces are much less likely to end up on Instagram during class.
I schedule my bathroom breaks and snack times not by when I am hungry or need to pee, but by the ringing of a bell. If something holds me up and I don't have time to get my coffee before the bell rings, I don't get it. Ill have another chance in 48 minutes.
I get judged by people who have no background in science. They come in one day of 180 and watch me teach for 30 minutes and truly they have no idea if what I am saying is fact or fiction. But they will judge me based on student participation and what's on my walls. That evaluation and how kids not even in my classroom score on tests help determine my salary and my "effectiveness" at my job.
I have kids who will share the most intimate details with me, things I never in my mind wanted to know. They open up about insecurities, relationships, problems at home, struggles and triumphs. I have been their through the loss of parents, kids getting bullied, kids who confess to me that they have an eating disorder or are cutting themselves, and kids who feel that their parents just truly hate them. I have held hands as we go talk to a guidance counselor or call home to let someone know what's going on. I've hugged them and told them its going to be okay when I'm not sure if it will be. I've gone to track meets, football games, baseball games, school plays and concerts. I've celebrated birthdays, earning drivers licenses, coming back from injuries and even the birth of a students child. None of the things in the above paragraph technically fall within my job description to teach science- but when you are a teacher, that's all part of the job.
I don't get to leave my job at 3:00 and not worry about it. Once I get home I still check email, grade papers, lesson plan and prepare for the next scheduled "performance". Often I do this as I'm watching my own child take a bath, play with his toys or watch a show on tv. I always say that I don't have one child, I have 140. Because these kids really do become "mine".
Most teachers will say the same thing. Even as we sink into our chairs at the end of the day, eyes glazed over as we feel we have just run a marathon. By tomorrow morning we will be back "on" ready to go and inspire these tiny (and some not so tiny) humans to reach goals they never knew they had.
Its a hard job, but its my job. I love it and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. To some people it might seem easy, to some it might seem hard but I guarantee it takes a special person to do this job. Just the same as it takes a special person to be a serviceman, doctor or accountant. I couldn't do their jobs, and they probably couldn't do mine.
So do me a favor, next time you see a Facebook post saying "First day back tomorrow" resist the urge to make a goofy comment and instead say a simple thank you. We are going back to inspiring the next generation of citizens, the people who will pay your social security and inspire all other professions. If that's not hard work, y'all, I don't know what is.