WARNING: This post includes whining and a rather lengthy rampage. If you prefer not to hear my venting after a hard day at school, continue down the blog to the fun photos of my students, and you'll never have to know the Truth about Teaching. If you are intrigued and want to keep reading, fasten your seat belt. The Vent Session is about to begin...
A friend and I recently discussed the façade of blogs. On a blog, everyone's lives look perfect. Perfect kids, perfect spouse, perfect home, perfect job, perfect life...sometimes it can get a little nauseating! But the truth is, who's gonna air out their dirty laundry for the whole world to see? Not me. I'm not going to get online and post about a recent tiff with Ryan or an upsetting day at school or my recent self-loathing because I can't resist chocolate...(oh wait...I did post about that.)
Why would I want to write about that stuff? Why would I want to read other people's posts about that stuff?
I don't think any of us means to be dishonest or nauseating when we post on our blogs. I think we are trying to focus on all the positive moments in our lives and share our happiness with others. I think this is healthy. I think this is uplifting. I think this is natural.
I don't blame anyone for having a "Blog Façade."
But today, I'm breaking mine.
Get ready for me to air my dirty laundry.
On the weekends, all I can think about is how much I love my job. As I look back on the week, I remember the smiling faces, the insightful comments, and the "lives being changed." (Hence the cheery post last night about our class production and all the fun we're having!)
Then, Monday comes along...and I remember the truth.
The truth about teaching: IT'S HARD.
Here's a list of reasons why I think teaching is one of the hardest professions in the world:
*I blame myself whenever my students aren't succeeding. I find myself thinking, "If I would have presented the vocabulary a little differently, they would've done better on this quiz..." or "If I would've made class more engaging, they would've paid closer attention and written better essays." This self-criticism is almost never justified. Usually, I am truly doing all that I can to help them succeed, but they are simply choosing not to. They aren't studying; they aren't using their planners; they aren't listening; they aren't reading my feedback on essays...Even if I know this is the case, it tears me up when they aren't doing well, and it makes me question my own teaching abilities. That can get discouraging.
*The work is never done. I envy people who have jobs from 9-5 and can go home and forget about it. No matter what, I am never caught up. If I finish grading a stack of papers, I still have to prepare tomorrow's lesson, and if I've already prepared tomorrow's lesson, I still have to put together the next day's quiz, and if I've already put together the next day's quiz, I still have to call the parents of my students who are failing, and if I've already called the parents...you get the picture. This past Friday night, I stayed at the school until 9:30 p.m., and I still had to take work home to complete over the weekend. I was in the building for 15 hours, and I still wasn't finished. I will never be finished. (Well...until June 26th, and even then, I'll be expected to complete curriculum work over the summer.)
*When students are absent, I'm expected to get them caught up. This wouldn't be such a big deal if I only taught 30 students; but since I teach 120 students, several kids are gone every day...and then I have to worry about who missed what and what needs to be made up and how to reteach the material they missed. It's exhausting and one of my least favorite parts of the job.
*I internalize their criticism, and I am offended by their lack of motivation. I know I should just let all of this "roll off my back." After all, who cares what a bunch of 17 year olds think about my class? Who cares if they slack off and get bad grades? I DO. With the amount of effort that I put into teaching them, it honestly offends me when they are snotty to me or have a bad attitude about what I ask them to do. I want to say, "Look, kid, I spent fifty hours preparing this unit...and you better darn well sit up, put a smile on your face, and at least pretend to listen!!" (I actually did say that to a student one time.)
*I am "on stage" all the time. I always have to be peppy, I always have to be prepared, I always have to be excited about what we're learning. What if I need to go to the bathroom in the middle of class? Too bad. What if I'm feeling sick and exhausted and want to rest for a minute? Too bad. What if I found out last night that my great-grandpa is dying of cancer? Too bad. In almost every other profession, you can take a bathroom break; you can rest and surf the web for a few minutes; you can keep a "low profile" at work the day after receiving bad news. In teaching, you really have to press forward and keep teaching those little angels/monsters, no matter what. (By the way, none of my great-grandpas are alive...the bit about the cancer was made up to illustrate my point.)
*The grading. Oh the grading, grading, grading!! Think about it: 120 students, 15 minutes per paper, at least two major papers per quarter. That's about 3600 minutes or 60 hours. And that's not even including all the little assignments and quizzes throughout the quarter. Multiply one quarter by four, and you have about 240 hours of grading essays throughout the school year. Now does it make more sense why some older teachers stop assigning writing?
*As if the grading isn't bad enough...what about the planning? Every day, every single day, you have to come up with well-developed lessons including activities, assessments, worksheets, etc. And you're not just coming up with one lesson per day; you may teach several different courses, and you have to plan a separate lesson for each.
*Some kids are just jerks. And why are they jerks? Because their parents are jerks. Although this is not always the case, most times it is. How can I, as a teacher, combat that? If the parents enable their kids and never hold them accountable, how can I instill in them the importance of responsibility? If their parents have taught them to lie in order to get what they want, how can I teach them that dishonesty is despicable?
*Finally, perhaps one of the most discouraging aspects of my job is hearing the conversations in the hallway: profanity, sex, alcohol, racism, unkindness. It breaks my heart. I really think I see the best of my students in my classroom. I expect them to be kind to each other, and they are. I share with them what I value, and so they share with me what they value. After reading an essay about how much a student loves his grandpa, it is very disconcerting to see him in the hall pushing kids around and yelling the f-word. I can't help but think, "What would your grandpa think if he saw you acting like that?" I just don't understand why teens have to pretend to be so "tough" and "rebellious" when they are actually wonderful people inside. It makes me sad.
So there you have it. The truth. The bleak, overwhelming, disheartening truth. My job isn't all cotton candy, care bears, and skipping through fields of daisies "changing lives." If I've given that impression, it was just my Blog Façade.
I have to admit that writing this post was very cathartic, and I feel much better after a discouraging Monday.
1) I love my job. I really do. But boy is it hard, and boy is it exhausting. Anyone who says that teachers are overpaid is, well, a lunatic. (Send them to my classroom, and we'll cast them in our play!)
2) I understand that there are some "solutions" for many of the problems I've listed above, and I do actively pursue those.
3) Some of you may have picked up on the fact that I am a bit of a perfectionist (uh...to say the least), and I know that this characteristic makes teaching much more work for me than it is for others. I just hope that my dilligence translates to my students learning more. (Over the past three years, I have gotten better at cutting out frilly extras in order to save my sanity.)
4) There are many many many wonderful kids in this world, and the majority of my students are awesome, appreciative, and amazing. I'm sure they have equally wonderful parents.
5) It's not as a bad as it sounds. I piled everything up into one post for dramatic effect. I think it worked.