Those Who Can’t Do…

Talking with my bestie Katie last week, she suggested that I blog more about school, since I usually say little and limit my #jrhighprobs to Twitter (follow for some hilarious 9th grader one-liners).

I stay away from the topic on my blog, not because it’s TMI or I’d get in trouble or anything. Just because it’s not a super positive experience most days. And no one wants to read a sob story. I hope it isn’t one. Just a real analysis of my job right now and how I’m feeling about it. So here goes.

Teaching is something I don’t think anyone really understands until they do it.

Teaching is one of those really weird jobs that elicit a strange variety of responses from people. I imagine it’s similar for cops, government employees, even doctors probably.

On the one hand, people give me a lot of respect and even gratitude when I tell them I’m a teacher. The Beard used to use it all the time when he was selling cars, because people were automatically more empathetic and it made us more likable. I never mind telling people I’m a teacher. I’m proud of it.

On the other hand, people hate you while you’re actually doing your job. Parents accuse us of RIDICULOUS things all the time – hating kids, fixing scores, screwing up grades, losing their student’s assignments, being lazy. Kids are so disrespectful and actively work against us when all we want is to give them a fighting chance in the real world.

REALLY? Really? You think that I get paid very little to drive 30 minutes to deal with disgusting kids that have 0 respect for adults (thanks to you, parents, sorry.) and have our job benefits continually threatened because I HATE KIDS? You think we’re trying to ruin your life by making you read? Pure evil, us teachers are.

Education has come so far from where it was when I was in junior high 10 years ago. Contrary to popular belief, history isn’t just reading the textbook and memorizing dates. I focus every day on teaching life skills while also covering major things they should know – like learning proper group work skills while we study George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, or public speaking/presentation skills while forming their opinions about the 2012 election.

All the teachers do this. Every teacher in this building cares SO MUCH, too much about these kids. There might be one or two reaching the bitter side, but we should honestly just be amazed that there aren’t more.

Because teaching kind of sucks, to be candid. Most days I put together a good lesson, knowing I could make it great, but what’s the point? The kids barely care enough to show up, and anything beyond that will be a struggle. So I can plan a great, more difficult lesson, but it will just mean more work and frustration for me. And even if they do learn it better, I am too tired and frustrated to continue that level of effort the following day.

The worst part are the 10 or 12 kids that are always breaking things, stapling their hands, drawing giant penises on the walls, shouting curse words and refusing to listen to any adult in the building. I even like most of them,strangely enough. But they are impossible to have in a classroom, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Just try to balance babysitting them with teaching the rest of the class. Minimize damage. Wait until they do something bad enough to be suspended or go to Juvi.

The kids literally never study and I can’t even assign homework because they’d all fail from not ever doing it. Trying isn’t cool. Getting excited about stuff they’re learning isn’t cool.

There are the 20-30 kids that are awesome. Just awesome. Great kids, super smart, straight A. But they’d succeed no matter who their teacher was, so I can’t even take credit for that.

On top of the classroom situation, there is the growing doom surrounding the future of US public education. We’re not doing great. We all agree there needs to be a change. But I firmly believe that bad teachers are in the small, small minority, and education is in for an even more serious problem if it doesn’t start looking after its teachers. Many are lifelong dedicated teachers. But many aren’t.

I’m only in my second year of teaching. I’m in a decent place for education – not inner-city, no metal detectors, etc. I don’t have student loan debt. I have a ton of help from my team and mentors. I have summers and all weekends off, and I’m done by 3:20 every day (technically).

I’m even pretty good at this. “A Natural.” I love when kids get excited about something we’re doing. I love when they ace a test or just hit it out of the park with a speech. I love when they tell me “Mrs. Holdaway! I saw that thing we talked about on the news last night and told my parents all about it and they were so impressed!!! They think I’m so smart!” I love when I get shy little notes from kids telling me thanks or complimenting my outfits or praising me for being the only teacher that can “speak 9th-grader.”

But I still find myself wondering if it’s worth it. How long can I do this?

I’m exhausted all the time. Frustrated all the time. Worried about my students all the time.

I spend 2-3 hours a week outside my contract hours going to meetings, often taking home things to grade or research or plan on my own time.

I have to watch kids roll their eyes when I try to help them out so that they can pass. Muttering curse words out of the corners of their mouths and fiddling with their ugly gauges.

I have to think more and more about the safety of my students, and myself while at school this year, due to recent scary events.

I have to keep an eye on every little thing in my room, even my pens, or they’ll be stolen/broken/defaced.

I have to watch a handful of kids each period try their very hardest not to work at all during the school day, while fighting off the images of their future lives in my head – fast food and hard labor jobs, drugs, jail time, teen pregnancy, broken hearts and hard lives.

Its a struggle every day to not think about a low key, predictable secretary job where I knew exactly what was required of me each day, knew when it was done and I’d succeeded, had some down time and didn’t have to emotionally take everything home with me. I’d probably make about as much money.

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What do you think?