I’ve had a tough week. A real tough week. I spent the majority of Tuesday afternoon crying. I think I spewed enough curse words at my principal that a sailor would blush. And he took it all without flinching. He told me that I’m a champ and that I do a great job of staying tough. Hmm.. not the words I thought I’d ever hear as a teacher. I don’t know what I thought, but it sure wasn’t that. The Barbie doll here is actually more of what I envisioned. I guess I need to go shopping.
For a few hours, I actually contemplated leaving the profession entirely. I wasn’t really sure what I would go do, but I tried to convince myself that teaching was not the career I wanted anymore. I didn’t really find much solace in that, nor could I forget the list in my head that I have for teaching. So that entire conversation with myself was kind of a waste of time and resulted in nothing but spinning my own wheels.
Teaching is definitely not the profession it was when I signed up for it out of college. I took 8+ years off to service mortgage loans, and when I returned it was a different animal. Teaching jobs are scarce right now. They only want you if you teach science or math. They want multiple endorsements and certifications. Class sizes are larger. Resources are limited. The politics of education is frightening. I could go on and on. In spite of all the nonsense I mentioned above, there are many reasons why I teach. I thought I would write them down just in case I ever forget and need to be reminded. Or maybe there is a teacher out there reading my blog who needs a little reminder too.
Before I present you with my list, I found this today on one of my favorite teen websites: Readergirlz. It was totally random, but so apropos.
The top 10 happiest jobs as reported from Forbes:
- Physical therapist
- Special education teacher
- Financial services sales agent
- Operating engineer
Wow, I thought, teacher made the list twice. And author. I’m just a blogger (for now), but technically a writer slash author. But I got 2 out of 10. I thought for a minute. Maybe I have found my calling and am too blind or pissed off to see it!
Now on to my list. I call it Gingrich’s 10 (you know, like Ocean’s 11). Kind of catchy.
10. I like school. Call me a school girl; call me a nerd. I have always liked school. Going school shopping and getting my new Trapper Keeper every year made me giddy. I loved heading my papers and finding new formats to take notes. Teaching allows me to always be in an environment that makes me happy. And I get to buy school supplies whenever the hell I want to now!
9. Working with like-minded people. Most teachers share the same views on politics and religion. We also respect those with differing views and accept diversity. I’m not saying other people don’t, but it’s nice to not have to ever worry about heated political debates or bashings on our president. It just doesn’t happen.
8. Autonomy. For the most part, I am left alone. Yes, I have lots of rules I have to follow, but I don’t feel like I am constantly scrutinized or criticized. I am on stage all day, so I am not alone. But I don’t have a manager breathing down my neck or have to worry about punching hours into a time clock.
7. I read more. I teach a group of students that hate to read. Part of my job as an English teacher is to stay hip to all the popular teen titles out there and keep them stocked on my shelves. So while everyone else is reading The Help, I’m reading something about trolls or drugs or cutting. But I don’t mind. Truth be told, I love young adult fiction sometimes more than the boring old classics.
6. Variety in the day. No two days are alike, that’s for sure. Shoot, no two hours are alike. You can go from a blissful morning where your class is talking about Robert Frost to a fight in the bathroom three minutes later. Some days are awesome and some days just suck. But the ones that are awesome–where you really feel like someone heard your message–those are what keep teachers alive inside. The feeling of success in teaching is like nothing else and is almost like an adrenaline rush.
5. Relationships with my students. I would say this is one of the best parts about teaching, and the secret to my success. Once you form a bond with your students, they trust you and are more willing to work for you. Also, teenagers are funny people. They say funny things and always keep me on my toes.
4. Teaching keeps me young. I can’t fight the clock, but I am pretty up-to-date on current music, pop culture gossip, etc. I mean, where else would I have heard about the Songs in Real Life and Michael Jackson ghost videos on YouTube? Certainly not sitting in a mortgage cubicle.
3. Good benefits. Not much comes out of my pocket in terms of my health coverage. I also pay into retirement and the district matches it. It’s like free money, and I have no problem with that. Additionally, when not in a recession, teachers actually make step increases to their pay for each year of service and level of education.
2. Vacation. The old adage goes something like, the best part about teaching is June, July, and August. Yeah, that is pretty much the truth. But we go back to school in August, so it’s kind of a misnomer. But I get the random days off, as well as spring and winter breaks, plus my sick days. It’s not a bad gig.
1. I’m a teacher. Someone somewhere thinks that I–little old me—am responsible enough, smart enough, and worthy to be educating and shaping the minds of our future generation of Americans. That, my friends, is a big deal. For one hour a day, I am in a child’s life–influencing him or her to be a better person and a critical thinker. I am dedicated to serving our youth every single day. I don’t think that everyone can say that about themselves, and I am damn proud of it.
So, I will stand down from my soap box and end here. I will leave you with this:
We should all aspire for greatness, no matter your occupation.