In a very former life, I was a middle-school English teacher at a small Christian school.
I absolutely loved my time there. But let me tell you – classroom teaching is no walk in the park!
The first day on the job (which was also, incidentally, my first day ever on a real job, period), I came home sobbing. For starters, I had run into a few eleventh-grade boys in the library, and they were SO INSANELY BIG. Like towering over me. All of a sudden being 5′ 2” seemed incredibly inconvenient for the purposes of making rowdy boys listen to you.
I had about five teacher workdays to muster enough confidence to fool a classroom of junior-highers. Unfortunately, there was not much time for imaginary mean-teacher faces in the mirror, because I also had to basically write two curriculums, organize 1,347 novels by grade / by class / by alphabet / by condition, fill out 987 forms, attend 57 Unnecessary Meetings, and decorate my (completely barren)
trailer I mean classroom.
I secretly cried myself to sleep all that week.
Once school started and I saw the (mostly) cute little seventh graders, I remembered why’d I’d wanted this job. All that childhood practice teaching stuffed animals cursive came back to me.
And it was just as wonderful to be A Real Teacher as I’d imagined.
But, y’all let me tell you. TEACHING IS HARD WORK.
I don’t think I really need to spell it out for you. Take your child, multiply that by 20 (DID YOU GET THAT?? TWENTY, PEOPLE). Then multiply that by 8 hours in a row. Not forgetting, of course, a luxurious 18-minute choking-down-of-your ham sandwich in a roaring cafeteria.
Boom. Teacher life.
It’s a stressful job. One time I wrote down the number of times I heard my name in a 48-minute session. One hundred and seventy-two.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved my little students. L.O.V.E.D. them. But truly, a classroom of sweaty, post-P.E. junior high boys is something everyone should experience at one point or another. You just haven’t lived.
It’s been nearly ten years since I hung up my dry erase markers, but for some reason, this year, I feel a special bond for my fellow teachers who are in the field. Truly, teaching is one of the most thankless, unappreciated jobs.
Can we talk about the salary?
Today, it’s really irking me that Aaron Rodgers makes $110 million a year, and the average hard-working teacher of America’s youth in my home state of North Carolina makes exactly .000004% of that.
No disrespect to the Packers, but how in the world did we decide that the people to whom we entrust our most precious possessions, for nine months of the year, to impart essential life skills and concepts – are actually worth 1/2234 of what an athlete is?
I don’t care how good his arm is. HOW IN THE WORLD, PEOPLE?
Teachers teach not because they get paid, but in spite of their pay. They have to want it that bad.
It is especially painful (and nearly impossible) for a single income (man or woman) to support a family on a teacher’s salary. Which is unfortunate, because what the school system desperately needs is some SOLID MALE FIGURES. If you think I’m just throwing verbiage at you, I am absolutely not. I’ve seen a table-full of naughty 14-year-olds absolutely snap into angels, like magic, when a Strong Male Figure gave them the What’s What. It’s like a miracle.
And we have made it basically impossible for men (or women) to support their families as teachers.
IT IS INSANITY.
I’m thinking surely we can come up with a creative plan to somehow streamline just a morsel of the NFL quarterback salaries into teacher salaries, but I have a hunch it might take a while.
Until then, I imagine most of you have a teacher in your life. If you are blessed to have a good teacher, you should feel very, very grateful.
And you should do everything in your power to bless them.
Here is how you bless a teacher.
- Gift cards. If you want to know what your teacher wants for Whatever-Day-It-Is, it is a gift card. Starbucks is always nice, or out-to-eat-places. In my former life, I liked Target. But almost anywhere will do! (I mean, maybe just stay away from $200 at Jiffy Lube or something, and you should be okay. 😉 It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the hand lotion or scented candles…but there is something about a whole loot of gift cards that makes life feel…a little brighter?
- Send hand-written notes or cards from your kids. I still have these. Including the one that said, “I want to be like you when I grow up” and “your hair is so pretty.” Hindsight, I’m sure some of these young scholars wrote my thank-yous with mothers breathing down upon their necks. It matters not. They’re adorable.
- Don’t do their homework. It’s just awkward. We can tell. Don’t make us call you out.
- When we make a mistake, be gracious. Teachers have an INSANE amount of paperwork to keep up with. OF COURSE they will make mistakes. Yes of course – bring it to light, but kindly.
- Don’t text. I taught during the glorious age when texting wasn’t yet as common. I can’t imagine how draining it would be to answer questions about homework and field trips ALL THE LIVELONG NIGHT. If you happen to have a teacher’s cell phone number, guard it and use it sparingly.
- And finally, offer to help – either with jobs, or buying school supplies. I was chatting with my neighbor who is a teacher in a public elementary school, and I was surprised to learn that their teachers have a set amount of money and supplies, and when it runs out, it runs out. Many teachers do not have aides, or have to share them. There are actually quite a few jobs that parents can do at home to help.
How do you show love to the teachers in your life? Teachers – past or present – what would you add?
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