When I left my classroom two years ago to stay home and raise babies and blog stats, I didn’t expect to miss teaching much. I didn’t expect that this time every year, I would get a little wistful for new pencils and Expo markers and highlighters. I didn’t expect that this time every year, I would miss the anticipation of readying my classroom for a new group of silly, rambunctious, and yet, ambitious young teenagers. I didn’t realize that even though I had left the classroom, that my teacher optimism, that beautiful gift teachers have to believe every new year will be better than the last, would remain so deeply embedded in my heart.
You see, it never occurred to me that I could miss teaching because by the time I left, I had allowed myself to be so beaten down and discouraged that I had no hope the next year would be any better.
Teaching is an ironic profession. In the same day that you can spend all your extra planning time helping a student organize their backpack and locker in order to find three weeks of lost homework, you can sit at a conference table with parents and have profanity hurled at you for not giving enough of your time and energy to have made that same student successful from day one.
One thing that drove me away was the feeling that I wasn’t doing a good enough job raising my own children, because I was so afraid to fail at raising someone else’s.
A teacher’s career is filled with accolades and rewards, but that career is forged in the fire of expectations from lawmakers and parents that are often unrealistic and unachievable for our current system.
Teaching today is an intense, data driven, marathon. There is always some new piece of technology or curriculum on the horizon. Textbooks are becoming obsolete, and classrooms are equipped with laptops and iPads. Email is the new parent contact, and weekly, if not daily, updates of grades and reports are expected.
When I was teaching middle school, I could use my 90-minute planning block to attend a parent conference, help write an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), analyze benchmark test scores to determine our Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers, administer a make-up test, pull novels for my students’ next library check out, and grade half a dozen essays.
There was nothing easy about it, but one thing that made my days worthwhile, and kept me going through eight years and five certifications, were the all too rare times a parent was supportive. When a parent took the time to acknowledge the work I was doing to bring education alive for their student, that’s when I knew I was in the right place.
So, this fall when you take your student to Open House, when you meet their teacher for the first time, when you attend a parent conference, or chaperone a field trip, go out of your way to thank your student’s teacher for all they do.
It’s those few and far between accolades of support that fuel a teacher’s optimism, that reminds them, indeed, every year can be a little bit better than the last.