Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why I Love/Hate My Job

First of all, let me say I am so thankful to have a job--a real job.  One with a big(ish) paycheck, and benefits, and where I have to dress like a professional, and I'm actually putting that degree (that put me into debt) into good use.  That said, beginning my teaching career has been by far the hardest job I have ever done.  Up until now, I haven't been able to articulate my experience.  I read an article that resonated with what this year has been like so far.  The first challenge of teaching:

"One of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that it is a single job. Teaching is actually two jobs. The first job is the one that teachers are familiar with; people who have not taught can pretend it doesn't exist. The tasks involved in this first job include lesson planning, grading, calling parents, writing emails, filling out paperwork, going to meetings, attending training, tutoring, and occasionally sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. The time allotted to teachers for this work is usually one hour per workday. But these tasks alone could easily fill a traditional 40-hour work week."

I had no idea how much time these mundane tasks would suck from my life.  The worst part of it is, that I DON'T CARE about this crap.  I care about planning lessons that use best practice, reach many different types of learners, and are (wherever possible) fun and engaging for my students.  I care about fostering personal growth.  I care about giving thoughtful feedback.  I couldn't care less about putting a number value to the work my 87 students complete--when you've read one crappy Sophomore essay you've read 'em all (amIright?). Filling out mounds paperwork--I'm pretty sure I've made enemies with people I've never even met for being last minute or late with this stuff.  Or preparing for teacher evaluations wherein I'm being held to standards that may be for or against my personal teaching philosophy.  The next obstacle is what I'd like to call the dog-and-pony-show:

"The second job is the teaching part of teaching, which would more aptly be called the performance. Every day, a teacher takes the stage to conduct a symphony of human development. A teacher must simultaneously explain the content correctly, make the material interesting, ensure that students are staying on task and understanding the material, and be ready to deal with the curve balls that will be thrown at her every 15 seconds—without flinching—for five hours. If, for some reason, she is not able to inspire, educate, and relate to 30 students at once, she has to be ready to get them back on track, because no matter what students say or do to detract from the lesson, they want structure, they want to learn, and they want to be prepared for life."

What do you do when thirty-five teenagers are staring at you for ninety minutes straight?  How do you keep them from falling asleep especially when competing with the things that usually keep their attention:  iphones, tablets, video games, television, and other things that are more exciting than Shakespeare and where to put your commas.  Then there are the little interruptions.  I am not good at making fast decisions.  I've had to learn to be make choices with little more than a second's notice.  How am I going to handle that cuss word I just heard across the room?  Will I let this slide?  I don't know the answer to that question the student just asked me, but I'm going to have to wing it because I know he is testing me to see if I know what I am talking about.  Finally, and possibly one of the toughest for someone with my personality:

"In teaching, a person can be extremely competent, work relentlessly, and still fail miserably. Especially in the first year or two on the job, success can seem impossible. For people who have been so successful up to that point in their lives—failure is a difficult thing to face, especially when that failure involves young people not being able to realize their full potential in life."

Amen.  I tend to be a fast learner.  I give the things I do the greatest effort that I have.  My whole heart goes into my work.  I spend hours trying to make sure that each day will run smoothly, that my students will enjoy the learning, that I will reach even my struggling students.  And yet I experience so much failure.  Lessons totally botch.  My "fun," activity is met with groans and grumbling from my students.  Hardworking students fail tests, essays, assignments.  Worst of all:  sometimes students show signs that they don't like me.  I don't know why I fear this so much.  I have struggled with people-pleasing my whole life, and always imagined that I would have my students eating out of the palm of my hand.  I try to be really intentional about building positive relationships with my students and letting them know that I care about them.  Here's the thing, though, a lot of students have a chip on their shoulders about teachers.  Plus, the whole forcing them to write essays and taking away their cell phones thing sometimes hinders that relationship.

So, am I going to throw in the towel?  Perhaps turn in my novels and go become a copy editor?  I say this with a big sigh because I know that it isn't going to be easy, but no.  I will be there on Monday with a mostly genuine smile on my face.  Here's why:

"Don’t forget about the ones that don’t get to choose what school they go to. Who don’t get to choose who their teachers are. Who don’t get to choose how the students around them act. Who don’t get to choose what kind of environment they were born into. Don’t forget about them. They’ll be there Monday morning."

Deep down, I love my students.  No matter how much grief they give me.  No matter how hard they fight to avoid doing the hard work of learning.  Despite the fact that they are too immature and self-centered to love me back.  I care about their well-being, and I know that they need me.  Even though I'll experience lots of exhaustion and failure along the way, I am going to push through the pain until I am an outstanding teacher because I know that is what those little goobers need.

1 comment:

psychelyn said...

Once you are a teacher, you'll always be a teacher by heart. Learners will always have a special place in your heart no matter what kind of learner they are. I t feels like an inborn responsibility, like a mission to fulfill. The thing is, only a real teacher can handle the most difficult learners who later come back to you when they are successful thanking you for not giving up on them. I feel you, I'm a teacher too. Cheers! :)

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