Monday, November 17, 2008

Blog Façade and the Truth about Teaching

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 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 ( 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.


  1. Wow! I loved reading that post. I have missed teaching so much that I can't put it into words, but sometimes it helps to remember those hard times when I get really nostalgic. I can't imagine having 120 students- 30 was hard enough. I don't miss bad attitudes, truly crazy parents, grading for hours at home, IEP's, standardized testing, or resolving the kids' fights, but I DO miss the feeling of a lesson gone well, the "thank you's" (as rare as they were), the bonding with my teacher team, and the moments when I knew I made a difference. I definitely agree that teaching has to be one of the hardest professions. There were many nights that Travis had to wipe my tears because I felt like a failure. I just tried to remember those teachers that made a lasting impact on my life and hope that I was one of those teachers to at least a few of my students. You sound like an awesome teacher and I'm sure the kids love and appreciate you despite their "high school" front. Hang in there! :)

  2. You never cease to amaze me. I finished reading and was more impressed by you then before I started reading. I didn't think that was possible.

  3. Amen sis! There are few things in life that get me more fired up than when someone says that teaching is the cushiest profession because you get the summer off. I always get snippy and say, "Well you get nights and weekends off." So kiss my butt. :) Love you.

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  5. Leave it to you to write a scathing rant and then write FIVE "p.s." comments about how you actually love it and there are great kids out there. Yeah, yeah. Listen, teaching can royally suck. ROYALLY! Just be grateful that you don't work in the inner city where the discouraging news getting you down IS your students. Oh, and it is beyond infuriating when people say teaching is an easy job b/c of the summers off, but I don't think anyone is stupid enough to say that teachers are paid too much! Well, except for a few of those truly mentally unbalanced, narcisistic (sp?) parents who claim that you have to do what they say b/c you work for THEM b/c "they pay your salary" by paying taxes. Yeah, right. (I would like to know if they say that to the cops who pull them over!) And this comment is usually coming from an overprotective stay-at-home mom who isn't even making a living to pay taxes on. I echo Laura. Kiss my butt. :)

  6. Finally!! I love this post! I usually turn into a teary-eyed mess your reading your blog. This was hilarious, and sad for you and other teachers, but hilarious to hear you say it! My favorite line was, "Some kids are just jerks. And why are they jerks? Because their parents are jerks." Awesome!! I'm sure it will be a very long time until we hear another rampage from you...but I love it!

  7. it does make me feel better knowing that I'm not the only one who gets down about that stuff. last week we had a staff development where the speaker talked about writing emotional checks to the kids all the time.. he just kept saying "keep writing those checks and eventually they'll pay off!" I couldn't help but think at the time that he was full of it and that those checks could never really be paid back because these kids don't care as much as I do, that's just the way it is. Anyways, maybe he is full of it, but I'll tell you what helps, knowing that I'm not the only frustrated teacher out there.

  8. That's my gal!! RW the feisty, ferocious, compulsive, articulate, remarkable RW. Vent on, girl!
    P.S. Kiss my butt. You watch your phraseology, girls.

  9. I think you should teach in your sexy red robe (terry cloth, of course). I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter HOW prepared you were that day.

  10. Oh Rach, Rach, Rach!! I have heard that "summers off" comment which is, yes, just crazy. But overpaid?? Never! :) I think you're fantastic and would be happy to listen to you vent any day. I also liked the "blog facade" conversation at the beginning. I think airing just a little "dirty laundry" could be healthy every now and then but I just wouldn't know where to start .... :) !!

  11. It's nice to see someone take off the blog facade for once! Despite all the bad things you feel about teaching, I still think you are probably the best teacher out there! Thanks for being honest about how you really feel. Did you really feel bad enough that you had to follow it up with a list of things you do like? Afraid a certain someone's mother might read this (referring to a student)?

  12. Hahaha! I'm gonna guess that conversation at the beginning might have been with Tia over my scandalous blog! Okay maybe not. However, I did recently blog about how everyone posts their lives as these amazing fairytales, and then I posted a picture of my messy house and the pear that had been rotting on my kitchen floor for three weeks! LOL! My dad e-mailed me afterward and said HE was worried what people might think about that post! Hahahaaa! Sorry, Dad ... not really.


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