Well actually, it’s turning into #educatorlife as I move from the classroom to an office. Will I still be working with students? Absolutely. Will I have over 35 students in the same room? Probably not seeing that is a total health code violation and/or a fantastic end of the year prank.
But it’s true: I’ve traded my dog-eared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and lesson plan books for 504s and student schedules. Trust me, that overused and much loved copy of TKAM sits in my bookcase in my new office. #AtticusForever
Although I’d like to believe that I’m irreplaceable, the truth of the matter is that I am just like every other teacher who has left the classroom. In fact, when this post goes live, there will be someone in my classroom, my name will be removed from the teacher mailboxes, and someone will be enjoying my “I ♥ Caffeine” mug that I left behind.
But for every teacher who says goodbye, there’s a line of new teachers waiting to take his or her place. Unfortunately, that line has been shrinking. According to California Teachers Association, the average “life” of new hires is only three years. Three years. A class hamster lasts longer than many new teachers. Why? Compensation plays a large part: the average teacher’s salary in the United States is $35,141. A fully loaded Chevy Cruze costs more than a teacher’s yearly wages.
However, money isn’t the only contributor to the revolving door of teachers. So what is? The inevitable teacher burn out.
For my last #teacherlife post, I dedicate this to all the teachers entering the classroom for the first time, and I hope you’re here to stay because we need you.
Myth #1: Never Smile Before Christmas.
Somehow in the past, the notion of showing a well-rounded human being with varied emotions was considered a sign of weakness in a teacher. I’m fairly certain the person who came up with this idea was also the same person who cheered when Rolfe blew that whistle on the Van Trapp family.
The reality is it’s good to show your students you’re human: laugh when something is funny but it’s not at the expense of a student’s humiliation, tell your students when you don’t feel well (just don’t go into gross details) or when you’re having not the greatest day, and try to smile at them everyday, even when you don’t feel like it.
Trust me. It’s not weakness – it’s empathy, and it’s a vital skill we need to instill in our students.
Myth #2: I Get to Teach Whatever I Want.
Each year, undergraduate and graduate students hoping to have a classroom of their own someday would observe my class in order to get a better grasp on the reality of the profession. Some would even stay long after the class ended to pick my brain. Before I answered any questions, I always started with a question of my own:
“Why do you want to be a teacher?”
More than a few times, I would get this as an answer: “Because I love reading and writing” or “I really want to teach [insert the name of a novel that they most likely have tattooed on their body to demonstrate their eternal devotion].” Call me jaded, but I knew that if this was their initial response, the teaching profession was not for them.
The sad truth is that you sometimes don’t get to teach whatever you want. You have standards and assessments, an unrelenting calendar, perhaps even a curriculum designed before you even stepped foot onto the campus. You also have different learning abilities and levels in a single class, and your dream to teach Machiavelli’s The Prince to sophomores may not be the right fit.
You may be asking yourself after the bleak picture I painted, why did I want to be a teacher? The answer is and will always be this: the students. Were there pieces of literature that I wish I could have explored with my classes? Absolutely, but the trade off will always be making those connections with students and hearing these three sweet words:
“I got it.”
Worth it each time and every time.
Myth #3: Your Students are Your Family.
Actually, this myth is true but not in the way credential programs or certain education gurus would have you believe. It’s because like certain people in your family, some students will drive you crazy, and (insert audible gasp) you may not always like them.
Here’s a little secret from me to you: you’re not alone and the credential board is not going to revoke your certificate. In fact, you’re human.
If you do a Google search of, “I don’t like my student,” there are approximately 27 million results. Ask almost any teacher – there’s that one or even two names they would never christen their own child because they still shudder when remembering the namesake in their classroom. Sometimes when that student is absent, you find yourself having a better class but those times are rare because that student is never absent. Go figure.
But like your family, you may not always like them but you do love them. Even at my most frustrating moments with difficult students, there was always that moment that you hold on to – a thought-provoking response, a small act of kindness, or even a random connection that no well-designed lesson plan could generate or formative assessment could measure.
And if you don’t have that moment just yet, just think of Ryan Reynolds shirtless and count to ten.
It always worked for me.
As a new school year begins, let me just say thank you to all the new teachers who know the challenges ahead but are still determined to make a difference in the lives of our students. Don’t forget: you’re human and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s why God created wine and Happy Hour.