Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Teacher You Don't See

I may no longer teach in the classroom, but this time of year certainly tugs on my heart. Honestly I do not miss teaching. This is the second school year starting and I don't feel sad or long full. I know I'm exactly where I'm meant to be at this time in my life. However I do know exactly how teachers feel right now and how much they sacrifice that goes unseen. 

Dear Parents,

You probably are so excited for summer to end and send your kids back to school. Let me give a little insight  to what your child's teacher is going through. First off returning from summer sparks several feelings. They spent as much time with their family and friends as possible knowing the next 10 months severely limits that. They probably didnt get everything in they wanted to do and already overwhelmed from the trainings and in services required. They are feeling a ton of emotions. First off, excitement - new class, new colleagues, new administrators, new expectations, new school supplies! Everything is new. You try to put away the year before and have hope for a new, exciting, great year. Meet the teacher night brings shiny new back packs and sneakers and bright new smiles. It also brings the huge hugs from the kids from previous years, who missed you so much. Excitement. It also brings sadness as the summer ends. Imagine in your job if you had two and half months off and expected to go back. How hard would that be? Extremely. That's a long vacation. So long that you get a accustomed to a new life and routine and  then shortly have to change it. That same meet the  teacher night you see the kids names who don't show up, and pretty much know they are the ones you probably will never meet their parents. They will drop them off the first day and try to get out so fast, possibly sprint (it happened to me) that you wouldn't recognize them if they ever come back again. Sadness. It brings nervousness. Will I have a good group this year? Will I have a runner? A cryer? A kid who climbs the shelves? A kid who can't speak English or 5 (like I did my last year)? Will the new principal make it a good year? Will they be supportive? Will the parents be helpful? Just one? Pressure. Get all those plans up, decorate your class, prepare for a new grade level, work with that difficult teacher. Exhaustion- all of that and more produces exhaustion!Lots of emotions going on. 

Money. It's a well known fact teachers are certainly on the low end of the pay scale with very little raise with each year experience. But how many jobs do you have to pay out of your own pocket for things for work? I'm guessing a couple. That super cute classroom you walk into when you drop your child off, came out of that teacher's pocket. The border, the posters, the job chart, the cute decorations, the books (yes most of the books), the games and puzzles, the paint, the craft supplies, the recess equipment, the special snacks and so on. Those cabinets you see full of stuff from their own checks. Besides chart paper, sentence strips, 1 stapler and very rationed copy paper it's from your child's teacher. Sure they could choose to not buy anything and use only what the kids bring and the school offers but that immediately takes everything on the walls away! Believe me all that adds up to a lot of money. And every couple years they buy new because they all that wears out. Oh of course there's the 50% kids who can't afford supplies so you buy theirs too. 

Time. A teacher is expected to work 8 hours a day 7-3. Alright that's not so bad. Oh wait that's the time the kids are there, so when do they plan and write lesson plans and do research and plan games and prepare supplies and do conferences or make phone calls? All on their own time. Teachers are expected to do duty at 7 before the day begins - so if you want to do something in the morning come earlier than 7. Sure there's a 30 minute lunch but by the time you escort your kids to lunch make sure they all got their tray and didn't attack anyone while they waited or disappeared down the hall, that's 5-10 minutes. Now you have to heat your lunch, there's another 5, scarf it down so you can go to the bathroom before you show up 5 minutes early so you're not late getting your kids. So about 5 minutes to eat, oh wait you needed to make a last minute copy, well you better eat while you walk. Better yet just drink a water and eat at conference. Conference time is 45 minutes for you to get all those plans done. Woohoo. Oh wait one of your kids is already in trouble, take them to the office, call their mom on her 5 non working numbers. Run to the ARD you're late for, which will run over your conference time. Or have that parent teacher conference, meeting with administration, weekly team planning. Don't forget to eat that lunch. Run to the bathroom before picking your kiddos up. On a good day you might actually sit down and read an email during that time. School ends at 2:30, well that's 30 minutes to plan there. Nope stay until the last kid goes home. And most of the time there's always one until after 3. So that leaves none of the work day to actually plan for your child and their lessons everyday. Or all the prep work and grading the papers. So what does that mean? Your child's teacher is there before 7 or stays way after 3 AND takes home a basket of stuff to do at home after dinner and during the weekend. 
Oh there's also all the after school events they are expected to attend and usually missing their own child's event and just time with their family and friends at all. 

Love. They will fall in love this year. With every child in their classroom. Some will be an instant love the second the child walks in. Others a slow love that grows all year long. Or a tough love for those that need it. But they will fall in love. They willingly give all that time and money and emotion to every student in their class, every student from past years, and even those they see but never know. Teachers sacrifice so much every day all year long (even in the summer) to teach your children, to care about them. They will devote more time than you realize to make your child a success. They will be the bad guy when they need to, they will have that difficult conversation with you, all because they care and want to give your child the best education they can. They do all of this because they care. They will laugh and cry more than you know all because they truly care!

I'm telling you this so you realize how hard the job is, that's its not just a job to them, its a life. The next ten month are devoted to your kid. Teachers do all this because they love it and truly care about the kids. They put up will all those crazy politics for the kids. They take the stinky pay for the kids. They love those kids. And the day they stop caring and loving that is the day they should get out. I know from experience. I couldn't handle it anymore so I got out. I didn't want to make the sacrifices anymore so I made a very hard decision to change my life. But those teachers you meet this year, they still care. 

So remember this year when they give you that sad note, or hard phone call they truly do care and everything they do is for your child. When you see them in the morning with wet hair pinned up and no make up its because they were up late preparing for your child and woke up too late to get fancy. When you see them at the end of the day dragging their feet, forcing that smile or avoiding eye contact it's because they had a hell of a day and need to rest, go easy on them. Tell them thank you every once in a while. Write them a note, send them a small gift or have your child write a card, teach your kids to tell them thank you and give hugs, lots of kid hugs, reinforce your child's teacher expectations, do homework with them not for them, give them respect, don't speak poorly of them at home or your child will think they can too. These little things go a long way. 

Teaching is hard. Teaching is exhausting. Teaching is rewarding. Remember that everyday when you drop or pick up your child.

Teachers do it all for the child. 

A former worn out teacher. 

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, Crystal, I loved this! Very well said, my friend. Teachers do it all for the child!