Why I Don’t Want a ‘Normal’ Job: 11 times teaching is the best, even when it isn’t

About 39 times a year, I question why I went into teaching.

It’s a crazy life. A life that one can only understand once in the trenches: tying the shoes and wiping the tears and teaching the words.

There are some days where on my way home, I am convinced that I am never stepping foot back into my classroom again. It can go on without me. You can find me working at an animal shelter under a heap of  puppies. I will just be laying there, arms stretched as puppies and kittens bound across me and lick my face. That is what I will do.

But alas, I wake up the next morning and I walk into my classroom and I tie the shoes and I wipe the tears and I teach the words.

Today was a bit of a crazy afternoon and to be honest, a crazy week for me, but amongst the chaos and tattles and peer arguments, my head started to fill with all of the reasons I could never do another job right now (except maybe the aforementioned job where all I do is lay on the ground and get tackled by baby animals).

I grabbed a sticky note and started jotting down some of the reasons that this is the best job there is. Even when it isn’t.

Maybe in the future when my life circumstances change, I won’t be in a classroom anymore. But right now, a classroom is home to me.

With all of the stress that comes with teaching, I think it’s easy to forget all the amazing things I experience as a teacher that would NEVER be the status quo in a “normal job.” For example…

  1. Small chores being done for you

I can’t remember the last time I filled my own water bottle or walked across my classroom to retrieve the coffee from my desk. When I ask the little students to do small chores for me, you would think I am bestowing upon them the grandest honor of all. Students take pride, and gloat shamelessly to their peers when they are selected to complete basic life tasks for their teacher.

Beaming, they wipe off my table, as though the most important job in the world. For some reason, I think this would be an issue in the corporate world if I expected all of those around me to wait on me hand and foot.

“Steve, can you run across the office and rinse out this cup and fill it with water for me?”

“Margaret, I spilled my tea. Could you grab me paper towels and jump up and down on the spill so it all absorbs?”

“Dan, can you come here and open my window halfway? I’m a little warm.”

Something tells me I might struggle to develop healthy coworker relationships.

2. The compliments 

My classroom is pretty much the only place I am considered “cool.”

Small children love to lavish compliments. With my specific job, I have over 700 students in and out of my doors per week, so the compliments reach incredible heights as I get a new group of kids each hour.

A new group of kids to comment on my outfit, lipstick and shoes. Though I should probably take them with a grain of salt (many children still can’t tell the difference between me and the building art teacher), I let them go directly to my head.

Why not? If you had tiny humans lavishing affirmations upon you all day, you might get a little pompous, too.

Compliments from children are also contagious. If Maddie compliments me, and Ginny hears it, Ginny will try to one-up the previous compliment with an even better compliment, until I am fending off compliments with quick “thanks, honey, but you need to go sit down.”

Again, that same something tells me that I couldn’t expect this kind of praise in a “normal” job.

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My first year of teaching, students rolled a red carpet to my desk.
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Me, drawn as a queen on her throne. (Those are puffy sleeves).
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This was written to me by a Kindergartener who was moving away at the end of the year.

 

3. But yet, they keep you humble

While this may seem conflicting after pointing out how children make you feel like a million bucks, it should be noted that young children are brutally honest. I was sick yesterday and was struggling through the morning. Students, concerned and confused asked me, “Did you forget to put makeup on today?” “Why does your face look like that?”

Just when your head is getting a little too big, they are there to humble you with their innocent and honest observations about your appearance.

A few months ago, upon returning from Florida, I was rocking’ a deep, dark tan. I was flaunting my sun-kissed skin and basically using my classroom as a runway, when one 10 year old boy took one look at me and told me I looked like a “burnt hotdog.”

Extra points for the creative simile.

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thanks?

 

4. The Weirdness

If I had to manage adults for a living, I think the turnover rate at my company would be alarmingly high. I am very, very weird . I can’t help it. I was born like this. I love that kids GET my weird.

All of the following are statements that would make perfect sense to almost all of the students that walk through my doors:

“If you aren’t going to bounce like a baby kangaroo, you will sit on Broccoli Island.”

“You guys are only giving me a Parmesan Cheese level of participation. I need to see more Sharp Cheddar.”

“Ms. Wiley, can we dance to this song ‘Spicy Nacho’ style?”

“Guys, you know that while Cottage Cheese is still expected behavior, you make me happiest when I don’t see any of it at all!”

(yes, there is a cheese scale for attitude, engagement and participation in my room).

“Are you at Belly Button University right now?”

Need I say more?  It sounds even weirder in Spanish.

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Me pretending I am lost in the Amazon and need to be rescued. #weird
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Agreed, kid. Agreed.

 

5. The camaraderie with other teachers

While teaching is definitely about the kids, the relationships and bond I have with my colleagues is one of the highlights and most treasured parts  of my job.

Teachers have a look they give each other in the hall when they pass and when they can’t audibly say “I am about to pull my hair out if I hear my name one more time…”

Work friendships are amazing. This morning, a colleague, and dear friend, brought me coffee. I frequent the classroom of another dear friend to break into her stash of 3 year old gum balls when I need a rush of sugar. I know where the chocolate drawer is in most of my teacher friends’ rooms.

Those small interactions, encouragements and moments with my amazing teaching family  keep you sane and keep your caloric intake high.

The most comforting thing of all is when you have another adult, like a beautiful, priceless Paraprofessional (God bless you, wonderful people) in the room with you and something insane happens and you can look at each other and say “Are you seeing this???” “Is this our life right now?”

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Cheering on a teacher friend as she runs a marathon!
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I have an open coffee tab with most teachers in my building.

6. Shake Your Head and laugh moments

I am sure most careers have funny, memorable moments. But oh, if the walls of Room 7 and Room 22 could talk. There are moments in my classroom where all I can do is laugh.

Hilarious, unbelievable moments.

I have a kiddo who is fiercely protective of me. I have had him for years, and we have a very special bond. If this student ever perceives someone isn’t treating me well or I am in ‘danger’, he comes to my rescue like a flash of lightning.

A few weeks ago, I was eating an apple and teaching. That combo has never typically worked out well for me, but that day I was confident I could do it.

I had choked a few times and cleared my throat, but finally after the third time I choked on a piece of apple, I exclaimed, “Uh! This apple is trying to kill me!”

Upon hearing this, the student immediately snatched the apple out of my hand and threw it in the trash can forcefully. There was NO place for an ‘evil apple’ in my classroom.

With every bone in his little body, he was protecting me from that apple. It was the most precious thing I have ever seen.

Once, first graders were having a discussion amongst themselves about why I wasn’t married yet. Before I could chime in to encourage them to change the subject, a passionate 6 year old yells “Don’t rush her guys! She’s not ready yet!”

Those types of moments are ones that keep me coming back, day in and day out.

A more concise list…(I am getting wordy. And if you are a teacher, you should probably be grading, lesson planning or doing 17 other things right now, so allow me to wrap this up.)

7. Pajama Days

These are the best. There is nothing left to say.

8. Birthday treats

It’s always some kid’s birthday. Except for when I go on a strict diet (2x a week), birthday treats are the reason I make it until 3:45pm.

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This was ONE day’s worth of birthday treats. #summerbirthdays

9. Summer vacation and Snow Days

Duh.

10. When you watch students “get it” right before your eyes

This is a magical, inexplicable moment. When you have a breakthrough with a kid and try not to cry and then they laugh at you for being so emotional.

11. It’s always an adventure.

No day is the same. You can try your darnedest to ensure an airtight plan and seamless routines and transitions: but EVERY day, something unplanned will happen. Every. Single. Day. You roll with it. You get really good at that.

Just when you think you aren’t making a difference, a kid’s flip flop breaks so you tape paper all the way around it  so they can walk home with their shoe still on.

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#changinglives

 

I don’t want a ‘normal’ job.

I want this crazy, exhausting, hilarious, stressful job.

I wasn’t born to be normal, anyways.

Here is to the last few weeks.

Jenna

jennawiley@yahoo.com

 

Hearing from you is pretty much my favorite thing. Love to hear teacher stories and connect with people all over the world. Shoot me an email or follow my blog on Facebook.

My Blog on Facebook!

 

 

 

 

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49 Comments Add yours

  1. Iyona says:

    Oh my goodness…you “hit the nail on the head” with what you shared!!! This is our lives too that you have described! !! Thank you

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting! There are days I am just like “I seriously could not make this stuff up if I tried!” ha! It is such an exciting life….ha ha!!

      Like

  2. Angela Figueroa says:

    LOVE this….You NAILED it!!!!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Thank you!!! For all the craziness that is teaching, we have to stay positive if we are going to make it til the bell every day! ha! Thank you so much for reading!

      Like

  3. Jenna, you’re amazing! Thanks for sharing! By the way, I’m a 35 year full time educator who has now substitute taught, after “retirement,” for the past seven years! And certainly NOT for the money! Keep doing what you do! You change lives everyday, and they change yours, too! Thank you!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      35 years!!! I hope you have some sort of trophy showcased at home. And another 7 as a sub? The only job that actually might be harder than teaching?! Those are some superpowers! ha! I am wrapping up year 4…and I am tired! haha Thank you for the incredible encouragement to keep pushing through. Love the education family! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  4. Ashley says:

    I absolutely loved this post and can relate to everything you said! I am finishing up my fifth year, teaching full time, and the stories I could add… Oh my! I have gotten to used to the phrase, “trust me, I can’t make this up if I tried” and feel it should be made into a poster in my classroom. I teach kinder babies, so the stories, excitement, humor, and joy never end! Thanks for sharing!!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Hey Ashley! My sister and my best friend both teach Kinder full time- I only have Kindergarten 3x a week for an hour…and I LOVE them…BUT I am ready to send them back to their classrooms after the hour! ha ha! Much respect for Kindergarten teachers all over…God Bless you!! haha have an amazing rest of the year with your precious ones:)

      Like

  5. Loved this! Thank you! 🙂 We’ve got 5.5 weeks left and it’s been a struggle the last few days. I needed these words!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Hey Kasey! 5.5 weeks! Certainly the homestretch. You got this 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting ❤

      Like

  6. Denise says:

    Hi Jenna,
    I really enjoyed your article! I’m an infant teacher in Ireland and just recently overheard a conversation between a group of my five year olds. Each one said how much they loved me with the last little girl adding “I love Mrs Hooper so much, I hope she doesn’t die soon!!!!!” How sweet! And I’m only 43!
    Denise

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      In Ireland! Wow! What is an infant teacher? Is that like our Kindergarten in the states? I think teachers should all start a hilarious comments journal…if only we had time during the day to jot everything down we hear that makes us chuckle!

      Like

  7. Lisa says:

    Love it! We want those balls in our classroom! Did you purchase them or find a grant to purchase them? Do you like them?

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      They are amazing! I teach while bouncing on one sometimes! ha ha! I started off introducing them slowly and had bought them on my own but then they were such a hit, I put in a request with our Parent Club. BUT if you have a FiveBelow store near you, the balls only cost $5 each!!! Such an amazing deal!!! I have had them almost two years- the only ones that have popped are from not careful students with sharp pencils! lol

      Like

  8. 28 years into this… you KNOW all the reasons why I stay! …and noooo we could NEVER make this stuff up! LOL A few weeks ago, one of my first graders asked if I would mind if he borrowed something from my desk. I was in reading group and I nodded thinking he wanted to borrow a huge eraser that he has sort of fallen in love with. Well. You could have knocked me over when reading group was over and I turned around to see him sitting at his seat reading with my reading glasses on! He said they helped him read. I called his mom that afternoon. He now has his own prescription glasses! …but mannn the vision of him in my old lady “cheaters” still makes me giggle loudly! …and there is NOTHING quite as wonderful as a snow day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jennakay says:

      Robyn, this has to be one of my favorite teaching stories I have ever heard. I would have fallen over laughing. And the adrenaline rush of getting a snow day call is an euphoria that cannot be explained with words!! I love the teaching family!! Thank you for your comment and for the giggle your story gave me 🙂

      Like

  9. I am a Paraprofessional Aide and I work with pre-school, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. Just last week I was getting ready to read to a Kindergarten class, as usual the teacher has a comfy chair to while reading. I am a plus size woman and was trying to get situated in the chair when one of the students said “are you going to fit in that chair?” Another student added that the classroom teacher didn’t have any trouble because she was skinny! One of the boys became very upset and said “you shouldn’t say that, you are going to hurt Mrs. Bailey’s feelings!” It was so sweet to see real concern for my feelings especially from a little boy that quite often had problems staying out of trouble.

    Like

  10. Kate P. says:

    I am a fifth year teacher in North Carolina and have been struggling over the last few months (well, honestly the last few years!) whether to change careers. We are ranked 49th lowest teacher pay in the nation. With all the negative yet realistic posts on Facebook about the lack of respect from our legislators, it was so encouraging to read this post. I LOVE every reason why you are a teacher. Thank you for the incredibly encouraging reminder why I do this every day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jennakay says:

      Hey Kate! You are so very right about all of the negative (and yes, many times true and realistic) articles and depictions of teaching. We all know it’s hard and we all know the many downfalls, so I was excited to give a positive perspective of if…although I definitely have days I don’t feel it. Year 4 has been my favorite year so far- definitely not easy- but my most “positive year”. I am so so so happy this was encouraging to you. I LOVE the teaching community and connecting with educators around the world. It’s my favorite part of writing and I am so happy you commented:) keep up the amazing work- even when you feel under appreciated and underpaid- girl you are changing the world!!!

      Like

  11. Jen says:

    Every. Single. One of these. Yes. 🙂
    Loving your career makes every day so much better. ❤

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      I was pretty sure other teachers would relate but some of them I was worried I was just too weird!! Haha but I am so glad we all can relate in the little worlds that are our classrooms. It is such a crazy world!! Haha thanks for reading, Jen.

      Like

  12. rocrupesh says:

    I am almost in tears.

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      I hope good tears 🙂

      Like

  13. Danielle says:

    So funny… And yet so true! I’ve been teaching for 11 years and finally figured out the water bottle thing. Yesterday, it was quite warm out – I had to tell a Kindergarten kid to put his shirt back on during recess. How many other people get to say “Oh, honey – we wear clothes here”!
    Thanks for the early morning smiles as I get ready for another day with the world’s best class!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Hahaha yes!! Oh the fetching of the things from my desk is the best. I feel like we work so hard, enjoying these things is the only way we can survive and stay sane. Yesterday I had one kiddo bringing me my microphone, one bringing me water and another bringing me my coffee. It took me longer to explain to each kid what exactly I needed them to do but I relaxed in the comfort of my rocking chair 😂😂😂

      Like

  14. Lori says:

    So proud to be your colleague! Your singing voice, creativity, basketball skills, and now this! A blog worth following!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jennakay says:

      Oh, you are just a gem, Lori. Love you!

      Like

  15. Jessica says:

    This is beyond perfect. I love it when someone verbalizes all the things happening in my head at one time. I want no other job in the world but this crazy, stressful, hilarious adventure we call teaching. Love it!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Thank you for the comment and reading! Thank you for being an excited, enthusiastic teacher 🙂 your kiddos are lucky!!! (My phone auto corrected lucky to lunch so that was my chuckle for the day!) haha

      Like

  16. Joy Childers says:

    I love this! I am proud to be a teacher!!

    Like

  17. Dee says:

    This.is.perfect! Thank you! I needed to read this and be reminded of the deep down joy that my students bring me.

    Like

  18. Kaleigh says:

    I need to know more details about your cheese theme! Please share. I need a cheese scale in my class too- the kids would love it. I would love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jennakay says:

      I am going to do my next post all about the cheese theme!!! Stay tuned 🙂

      Like

      1. Heather says:

        I found your article very interesting. You must work in a private elementary school. God bless your little heart! Keep up with those positive behavior tactics and keep teaching those words. Maybe your students will do better in middle and high school. Once they reach middle school and it’s discovered that they can’t read @ the expected level, the positive school experience quickly erodes. Add all of the other political nonsense like testing, then it becomes Einstein’s definition of insanity. My hats go off to you still in battle. After 15 hardcore years of teaching in primary and secondary school in two separate inner-city systems, I resigned last fall. I won’t participate in anything harmful to students. I refuse to set anyone up for failure. Good luck!

        Like

      2. jennakay says:

        Hey Heather! 15 years in the classroom is amazing. Thank you for all the hard work you did for the kids. It is an exhausting, exhausting job. I actually work in a Public School at a Title 1 building, so it is definitely not a private school and has many challenges, but I am blessed to work in a great district that is very supportive. Thanks again for all you did for students in your classroom! Have a great day!

        Like

  19. Gayle Gray says:

    You’re piece just brought back many memories! After 33 years of teaching, I only remember the good days! (Well, mostly!) I loved that everyday was different, and my students made me laugh! Keep doing what you are doing! You are making a difference! I know I did.

    Like

  20. Kate says:

    Hi! Great Article! I saw it posted on huffpost. Any chance you could post a link to your cheese attitude scale? Love it! I’m a cheese fanatic and it’s such a cute idea. 🙂

    -Kate

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Yes a cheese post is coming soon! 🙂 you may have to correct some of the cheese placements for me!!

      Like

  21. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I am in my FIRST year of teaching (hot off the presses) and last week was by far the WORST week of teaching for me! I work with a girl who has emotional/behavioral disabilities and let’s just say there were one too many pairs of scissors thrown at me for me to want to go back tomorrow. But then… this. So thank you.

    One of my favorite teaching stories is when I was working with that girl and it was time to do reading. She refused to get out of the kid tent she was playing in so I grabbed the book and crawled in with her. Within a few minutes, she let out the biggest & smelliest toot! I told her to open the windows of the tent but she refused, so (laughing the whole way) I told her we had to evacuate because it was too smelly! We both got out quickly into the fresh air of the classroom & finished the book on the floor.

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Hey Rebecca!! Isn’t is crazy how the weeks can either be HORRIBLE or great? Ha, it’s like the kids all get together and decide what kind of week we will have! I know exactly how you feel, and I am so glad my words were able to encourage you. your story about your student is too funny! That would definitely fall under the “shake your head and laugh” unbelievable moments. only in teaching!!! haha. have an amazing monday and week!!

      Like

  22. lovekarie says:

    Oh.my.word. Thank you. What a nice change from the usual teaching-is-so-tough-but-keep-going posts. This is my second year with a Kinder & 1st combination and next year they’re adding 2nd to the mix. I’m dying & ready to quit this thing. But this post. I was cracking up with the whole “fetch that for me dear, would you?” thing imagining that taking place in a different work setting! Thanks. I’m going to print this and start a “Just Keep Swimming” self encouragement binder for the tough days!

    Like

  23. Jodi Mansell says:

    I have been in the classroom for 27 years now.. but it sure doesn’t seem like it! I’m starting to have children of the children I’ve taught, and I think, “How can that be?” You are so right when you say no two days are EVER the same – even after all these years! We build routine, and structure, and a safe place to be, but then the unexpected finds its way in. We laugh every single day. There are hugs and smiles, and joys and frustrations.. We learn, and grow, and love. I would not trade what I do for anything.. although a bigger paycheck would be so nice! I loved your message, and am going to leave you with a quote that also had meaning for me.
    “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.”
    ―Lee Iacocca

    Like

  24. smsiden says:

    I love this so much! I left the classroom at the beginning of this school year for a “normal job” with an Ed tech company. My heart hurts every day because I miss being in the classroom and the kids so so much! I hope to be back next school year, but really wish I had made this type of list before I left!! DONT EVER LEAVE FOR A NORMAL JOB! 🙂

    Like

  25. Carrie says:

    I think I need this cheese scale in my life…and my classroom. Please share!

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      Hang tight!!! It is coming before the school year starts (us Michiganders start after Labor Day!!!) 😊

      Like

  26. Jenn Zeglis says:

    Loved your article! Thank you!! And I too need to get in on these cheese scales! LOL.

    Like

    1. jennakay says:

      It is coming soon!!!!

      Like

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