When most people decide what to do with their lives, they consider two factors: is it something they are interested in and can they make enough money to live comfortably. When it comes to teaching, neither of those really apply. When you make the decision to become a teacher, you must know two things... it is a calling and it can’t be about the money. We think our principal says it best when she reminds us that,
“Teaching is not a job it’s a calling.”
There could be no words closer to the truth than that.
Teaching is definitely a calling, but it is also an investment. It’s hard, as a teacher, to not become completely invested in everything concerning your students: their health, academics, extracurriculars, etc. We want to be there for it all. However, being there for it all takes a lot of emotional energy, frequent finances, planning, some tears, some cheers, and definitely time.
The countless hours we spend at night brainstorming how to best help our students would baffle some.
There’s a lot of ways that our students show us they need help. It could be about how to assist them in their academics, how to improve behaviors, or how to just fill gaps that have been neglected. For some students, our biggest role is to get up and teach them something new. For some students, our most important role of the day is a big hug and a fresh start when they come through the door. And even for some others, it might be something as important as a little compassion and understanding while they sort through emotions they can’t control.
Sounds easy enough, right? WRONG.
When choosing the career path of education you hear a variety of things from outsiders: “You’re wasting your talents.” “I don’t know how you teach 20+ kids all day.” “It’s not worth it.” “You want to be a teacher?” “Have fun babysitting!” It isn’t a profession that is eagerly sought out. It definitely isn’t a respected profession by many and countless are eager to tell you that.
But, we go through our days giving our all to our kids and trying to help them in whatever areas they need help with.
Often times, the help needed is not even closely related to the academics.
We serve as our students’ counselor, listening to the things going on at home. We serve as our students’ friend, making sure they feel loved and cared about. We serve as our students’ role model, setting a good example of what “being our best” looks like. We serve as our students’ party planners, spending money out of our own pockets to decorate our classrooms to form a more engaging lesson or just make the classroom a more cheerful place to learn. Not to mention, we also have all of that curriculum stuff to teach.
The curriculum expectations every year grow higher and higher.
The things that our second graders are learning is material that a lot of grown adults didn’t learn until middle school. Yet, those are the expectations set for students and teachers almost anywhere you go. With these expectations, we also have to use certain amounts of technology and assessment and have a strong classroom environment. We have to be able to meet these criteria and more at all times and meet it at its highest performance level.
Certainly, the teaching profession would be a whole lot easier if the only expectations were walking into our classrooms, teaching a scripted lesson, and moving on. But easier isn’t what we want.
We’re invested, leading us to make choices that have a stronger impact on our students.
We put on our counselor hat, our friend hat, our role model hat, or our party planner hat because we know that that’s what every kid in America deserves. Someone that will be exactly what they need every. single. day. Someone that will make the sacrifices for them because they are worth it. We are developing our future leaders and creators, after all.
The sacrifices that are made by teachers are countless.
Every day, teachers are sacrificing resources and money in order to make a powerful, memorable, and magical learning experience. Many teachers are living paycheck to paycheck, living life as a single mom or single-income home, but see the importance and the benefits of providing that powerful learning experience and positive classroom environment. Every day, teachers are sacrificing their emotions and opening their hearts to the stories of their students because they know the importance of a listening ear.
And every day, teachers are sacrificing time with their own families in order to better help the children that walk through their door in the mornings.
Despite popular belief, our “working day” is not just Monday through Friday, from 7:45am-3:05pm and our summers are not two months of freedom to frolic in the sun and vacation all the time. In fact, these two peas’ working day goes from approximately 7:45am-11pm, with minor breaks in between. You find yourself mindlessly “watching tv” while creating activities, making costumes, developing resources for students to better address their behavior, documenting students’ academics or behaviors, filling out paperwork, returning staff and parent emails, checking on student data, and the list could go on and on. Your team and/or partner teachers are in constant communication bouncing ideas off of each other about how to make things better and more academically challenging or engaging for our students. Our summers are typically spent in our classrooms getting things organized, learning new curriculum, attending professional development opportunities, planning as a grade level for the next year, scheduling events and activities for the upcoming year, and, again, the list could go on and on.
The reality of it all is tremendously profound. Are we required to do all of the things that we just mentioned? No.
That’s when the investment aspect comes in and we show truly just how much we care about the students entering our classroom daily.
We could choose to do the bare minimum. We could show up right at 7:40 and leave right at 3:05 and never look back. We could live in a world where we accomplish all we can in our daily 40 minute break and if it’s not finished, it’s not finished. Keep in mind, that includes grading, planning, creating, etc. Can you be a teacher and work only between school hours? Yes. But to us, that would be doing the bare minimum. Think about whatever career you are in. Are YOU successful doing the bare minimum?
Now multiply that by 40-45.
We aren’t just responsible for the success of ourselves...we are responsible for the success of 40+ students as well.
So before you ask a teacher, “You really want to do that every single day?” or tell them “I can’t believe you spend your days with 20 or more kids.” think about this... When you dream up the type of teacher you want for your child or you wish you had, which would you choose?
Do you want the bare minimum or the unyielding dedication of a passionate educator?