I hate my job. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE teaching. But I hate the nuances of the teaching profession. There has been an extremely ugly shift in what is expected of a teacher, and it is in that shift that I find not only discomfort but also abhorrence. I hate that a bunch of bureaucrats who have not even stepped foot in a classroom in the past decade (or two, perhaps three) can sit upon their cushy leather chairs and dictate to me how I ought to run my classroom. My classroom… the old one with out of date technology… the one filled with students whose problems are certainly more life altering than whether or not they can solve an equation using Pythagorean’s theorem like the kids can in China. I hate that there is more importance placed on whether or not my students can pass more so than whether or not they are ACTUALLY learning. Isn’t education just that? To educate is to guide students in their learning… not assess how well they can achieve the 76 standards I am required to pound into their brains until they master each and every single one of them. It’s exhausting.
Because you know what? I love my students. I love that I get to teach them each day. I love walking in to my room, a room full of sleepy faces, smiling at them and saying, “Good morning!” For many of them, I’m the first adult they see in the morning. I’m the one who asks, “Did you put in your contacts?”, “Did you eat breakfast?”, “Where is your coat?”, “Are you feeling better today?” I feel their foreheads for fever and wipe away their tears. I am, for some, the only adult who loves them enough to put restrictions on their behavior. “No, you cannot do that… because I love you enough to let you know that you shouldn’t.”
The other day, a voice came on the intercom during one of my classes. “Teachers, we need you to lockdown at this time.” For some reason unbeknownst to me, our school was in lockdown. Immediately, I went into drill sergeant mode.
“Kids, I need you to get out of your desks, sit here.. and be quiet!” I thought I would have to knock out one kid who refused to stop talking. I ordered them to get into the right place and stood there like a mother hen. I was prepared to go all Chuck Norris on anyone who tried to come into MY classroom and hurt MY babies. My mind reeled back and forth, preparing myself for what I needed to do.
I questioned whether it was a drill for a moment, but had to assume it wasn’t. In my rational, analytical mind, the fact that some of our students were in the middle of state-mandated testing only further solidified that this could not, in fact, a drill. Nothing interferes with state-mandated testing!
So there I hovered around my 22 teenagers, most of whom are bigger than I am, preparing to protect them from an unseen Boogie Man.
Ten minutes later as the bell rang for them to leave me, the same voice announced, “Students may go to their next hour.”
WHAT?!?! You mean, I don’t have to pull out my ninja moves on someone? (The adrenaline crash I had later that evening kicked my butt too.)
Once I got over that, realization dawned on me.
I really was ready to do battle to protect my ‘babies’. At that moment in time, my mama-fierce-love for them took over all other sensibilities, and I was ready to keep them safe. Because you know what? I LOVE my students. I LOVE teaching.
But I do hate my job.
Because the standards of my job do not take into account the fact that some of my students have one parent who is working their butt off to provide for their kids, some whose parent is so strung out that he doesn’t know if said parent will be alive tomorrow, that they do homework by streetlight because there’s no electricity, that lunch on Friday afternoon is the last real meal they get until Monday morning, that going ‘home’ could mean going anywhere in the world because there isn’t a house to be lived in, that a slap to the face is the only physical touch she gets from mama……. tell me again… why is scoring proficient on an EOI so important?
Oh, that’s right. That guy with the cushy leather chair says it is, so it must be so.
My mission, not my job, is important. Because my mission is to teach my kids lessons. Lessons, not only about literature and writing, but also about life. Maybe they won’t need my literature lessons in 20 years, but they need it for next year and the next. They need these lessons at least for the next three until the achieve a high school diploma… a diploma that symbolizes that they, despite their sometimes really ugly circumstances, succeeded. They learned. They conquered. And I LOVE that I get to help them along the way to that. I LOVE that in doing so, I get the chance to get to know these wonderful kids who will someday run our country, who will send their children off to school with stories about their teachers, who will hopefully remember that I taught them more than just Romeo and Juliet. And for that reason, despite hating my job, I LOVE that I get to teach.