Teaching is hard. Like really, really hard. Like you maybe have to be a little crazy to willingly agree to spend your days with teenagers. It has been said that there is no tired like a teacher at the end of the school year tired, and oh how very true that is. I have all sorts of countdowns to get me through the day. How many times I have to wake up to an alarm and put on real pants? 14 times. How many more times I have to see my most obnoxious students? 6. How many more tests I have to grade? 100. How many final exams to grade? 100. How many turns of study hall duty? 2.
Ask any teacher about the things that make their job hard. It won’t take long for them to come up with a very long list, likely to include meetings, paperwork, too much to do in too little time, parents who aren’t involved enough, parents who are too involved, students with overwhelming gaps, behavior issues, standardized testing, teacher evaluation systems, government mandates, students who still think that squaring a negative number results in a negative, no matter how many times you’ve explained to them that it does not. The list goes on and on. That last one might just be a problem I have, though.
So what’s the hardest part about teaching? For me, it is that every time a student feels pain, I feel pain. When the world hurts them, it hurts me. Their pain feels like my own. I have spent a decent amount of time crying at my desk, crying in the bathroom, crying in my car, and crying on my kitchen floor because my heart hurts for my kids. I have witnessed students persevere through situations that no child should have to face. I have seen the world knock them down and hand them crummy situations. I have watched their hopes and dreams be crushed by this sometimes cruel world. I have watched them lose family and friends. The summer between my first and second year of teaching, I had a student take his own life. It all hurts my heart so much that sometimes I’m not sure how long I can do it for. I’m also really glad I didn’t change my major to social work.
Teaching is a two-sided coin, though. There are so many wonderful things about teaching. For starters, June, July, and August. The never ending supply of baked goods. The fact that I get paid to force people to listen to my stories, corny jokes, and math songs for eight hours a day.
So what’s the best part about teaching? Their victories feel like my victories. Sometimes they are big and sometimes they are small (although in teaching, I think all little victories are big victories). There is no feeling quite like the feeling I get when a student who has struggled finally has that light bulb click on. Sometimes you are scrolling through Facebook and you see a picture of a former student holding her college degree in one hand and her beautiful daughter in the other. This year, I had the privilege of watching a student take on a teaching internship, spending her afternoons working with students with cognitive disabilities. She shines in her role. I have seen students make the right choice, even when they think no one is watching. I have watched students become so much more than their circumstances, despite all odds. Nothing makes my heart soar the way a student running into my classroom in the morning because they just had to tell me about something that went right with them. How lucky I am that I get to share in those victories, and maybe even sometimes help them happen.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day hustle bustle of teaching, or any job for that matter. We often let the bad overshadow the good. Don’t for one minute doubt the meaningful and purposeful work that you have the opportunity to be a part of. And teacher friends, be sure to rest up this summer, because as always, next year is guaranteed to be an emotional roller coaster.