By Alice Trosclair
“Oh you are a teacher? It must be so nice to have two months off. I just have a normal job with only two weeks’ vacation.”
We have all heard it — and to be honest, we are sick of it. Sure, we get summers “off.” I should not need to mention that during that time we attend workshops, plan lessons and rewrite curriculum we rework to meet changing standards, but, apparently, I do. Here are some things people may not realize about the lives of teachers.
Free time. Our free time is spent grading papers, planning lessons, and researching new ways to teach concepts. The majority of us are more than teachers; we are tutors, coaches, and sponsors. We spend time after school helping develop talents and skills, for no extra pay. We give up time with our families to help mold your child.
Emotional distress. Being a teacher is an emotional roller coaster. We cannot “leave it at work or leave it at home.” We deal with children, and we care about all of them. In many cases, teachers spend more time with students than their parents do. That may be brutal, but it’s honest. I have a son, and I know his teacher sees him more than I do. We carry your child’s emotions with us. I hear about heartbreaks, failing classes, and even trouble at home. How could I listen to a student say, “My girlfriend gave our baby up for adoption without telling me,” or “My mother keeps selling my shoes to get money for drugs?” and push it out of my mind after reporting it to school authorities. How can I teach Macbeth and expect the boy in the back, who is near tears, to pay attention? It is hard to balance work and home with just one or two kids to worry about. Imagine having to worry about 30 or 75.
Little or no privacy. We cannot go to Walmart in shorts, no make-up, and a pony-tail because we might run into a student and parent and wind up having a parent-teacher conference in the cereal aisle. Or a student might see a bottle of wine in our cart and when Monday comes, we hear students saying making jokes, like Ms. So and So is a wino, or Ms. So and So, you didn’t listen to the DARE lady.
Then there is social media, which has become a dangerous land mine. You have a bad day or a bad customer? No problem; many of you can rant online. If teachers do that, we get pulled into the office for our negativity. We even get chastised if a friend posts an inappropriate post on our page. Even with privacy settings, things get out, so if it is not PG, it doesn’t go on my page. Everyone says we have freedom of speech, but anything can be taken out of context and lead to a dismissal. Oh and did I mention homecoming week? Everyone’s house is victimized. If you are loved by students, only toilet paper awaits. Hated? Get ready…
Sickness. We can’t get sick and stay home — at least not without guilt. When many people miss work, a desk is empty or a register stays closed. We have 30 or so souls who need to learn. Somebody has to do a sick teacher’s job, and that somebody is either a sub or a teacher who gives up preparation time to cover the class.
We save the world. It is not all bad. We save and guide our students’ lives. Teachers help choose majors, guide interests, and build confidence. We inspire and redirect. We don’t have superpowers, but we do have impact. And when things go well, we are thanked, years later. Our students remember us when they get older. They are at class reunions and say, ‘Remember when Ms. So and So said that? She changed my life.’
That is why we cannot live a “normal” life. We are not “normal” people.
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