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…
- 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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
9. Summer vacation and Snow Days
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.
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.
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