If you have a teacher in your family, then you need to first let me say sorry. The families of teachers spend so much time listening to us gush, fret, brag, cry, yell, and cheer about our students on a daily basis that its a wonder those of us who teach have anyone left around us to listen. The families of teachers don’t get enough credit they deserve for loving someone who is a teacher. Next, let me say you can join the teachers in vouching for the truth behind this statement: In teaching, there are good days, and there are bad days.
There are levels of both good and bad days, but the fact remains most teachers leave work in a good mood or bad mood, and they know it every day. You can roll your eyes and say everybody else does too, but it is not the same. When you are working with a child (or in our cases (125 children) it is different. A stockbroker can lose millions based on the market, but money isn’t the same as dealing with a person. I am not arguing we are better than stockbrokers I am just saying the type of day we have is different – nothing more nothing less.
Those of us who teach don’t do it because we feel we need to be thanked or because we want some sort of Pharisaical pat on the back. Lord knows we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love doing it. I believe teaching is very similar to going into the ministry. I did not choose to be a teacher. I feel in my bones, down to my very soul, that I was called to do this. There is something magical that I get to be a part of on a daily basis, and I feel so damn special that I get to do it. I will never be able to explain what its like to you so just trust me. It’s really effing great.
You learn very early on that there are good days and bad days and all the variations of each that there are. You learn that you can never assume a day will be a good day first period and still be a good day after the seventh period. You learn that some years you will have more bad days than good days. You learn that even though you think it was a bad day in any other career people would consider it a good day. You learn that sometimes it is impossible to meet the high standards you have set for yourself and that even though you can think it is a bad day it was actually a good day. And finally, you learn that you cry and yell and cuss (not in front of the kids) on both the really bad days and the really good days.
In the close to 9 years I have been involved in education from student teaching to the present, I have spent time in a variety of schools and grade levels. I have student taught, substituted on both the long-term and short-term level and full time taught. I have been in both middle schools and high schools. I have served a variety of students from a variety of homes. To protect the anonymity of everyone I have made the statements as general as possible and withheld any stories that would give away the identity of a student. These things have happened at many of the schools I have taught at:
- I have watched my kids lose their hair as they fight cancer.
- I have watched my kids take their lunch home in plastic bags because they were going to split it with their younger sibling for dinner that evening.
- I have watched as students graciously eat the instant Easy Mac containers I leave in my cabinet because they don’t want other students to know they are on free lunch.
- I have watched my kids look at as I tell them to stop talking, nod as if they understand what I am asking, then turn around as I am still looking at them and start talking again.
- I have watched as a eulogy is said for one of my kids, and I have hugged and cried with moms and dads who buried their kid.
- I have had kids lie, cheat, and steal from me.
- I have kids come to school with the same clothes on that they have had on the day before.
- I have watched as students were rejected from their top university.
- I have had kids try to throw money at a problem and think it will be able to get them through life.
- I have had parents of kids try to talk me out of writing their child up.
- I have had parents of my kids be sorry excuses for parents.
- I have bitten my tongue to keep from lunging across a table as parents have said their children are worthless in front of them.
- I have watched as some of my students have gotten pregnant.
- I have watched as some of my students have dropped out.
- I have watched as some of my students have been arrested.
- I have watched as some of my students head down a path that I know will lead them to nothing but heartache and cried at night or worried as I lay in bed because they aren’t listening to our warnings or advice.
- I have sat in meetings with doctors, psychologists, social workers, and several other types of people with fancy letters after their name have discussed the numerous types of despicable traumas that my kid has been through and what we should do to help them as I sit there to myself thinking how is this kid still breathing because I would be curled up in the bed in the fetal position.
- I have watched as grandmothers, or older siblings have raised my kids.
- I have seen the hurt in the eyes of my kids when I yell or scold them.
- I have seen the betrayal in the eyes of a child when I tell them I am legally obligated to report what they just told me.
If you made it this far through the list, you are probably asking yourself why any sane person would keep going back to work each day? The answer is simple, and there are two reasons. First, teachers are not sane people. If you had a room full of 14-year-olds who all want to simultaneously discuss Fortnite, the fight at lunch, the party they are going to this weekend, my love life, and why they think geography is boring you wouldn’t be sane either. And the second reason is the most important. Teachers are like Annie. Yes, that redhead girl from the musical (or if you are one of my kids reading this the girl with the afro from the musical).
Teachers have an innate ability to put on a smile and be optimistic about tomorrow being better than today. We do not cry in front of the children, and we do not show our fears on our face because we don’t want to speak them into existence. We tell the kids tomorrow will be better than today even when we sometimes don’t feel it will or don’t know it will. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, teachers are like Annie because the good days far outnumber the bad ones. Every teacher will tell you that one good day is enough to get you through 3 bad ones
Many of my good days I discuss below involve the same students from my list above. On the good days I have:
- Had students have their grandmother bake me a pound cake because they said I seemed upset the day before.
- Been given thank you notes like this:
- Seen students become the first in their class graduate high school.
- Seen students become the first in their family to go to college.
- Seen students become the first in their family to graduate college.
- Had parents of students who passed away tell me at the funeral that their child loved me and my class was his favorite.
- Seen the pure joy and accomplishment on students faces when they finally understand an abstract concept like globalization or Reaganomics.
- Cheered (and silently cursed the bad officials) as students have won state championships and national championships.
- submitted the names of students for awards and scholarships and squealed louder than the student when they won.
- watched in amazement as a student who started the year barely speaking English become the best writer in their entire class.
- beamed with pride when by the end of the year in Mr. Boliek’s class students will look at a student who just said the n-word, or faggot, or retard, or other derogatory slur and say “Dude…not cool….”
- stood up and vouched for students who were standing up for themselves or standing up for another student who was being bullied.
- Yelled and clapped at graduation (even though we aren’t supposed to) for a student who got pregnant, had the baby, and still maintained a 3.4 GPA.
- been shocked when students I had the year before who I was sure hated me see me in the hallway now and give me a fist bump.
- never respected students more than when they came up to and apologized for their behavior the day before.
- gained the respect of an entire class in one day by using a SnapChat filter on a student who fell asleep in my class and turning it into the background on my computer.
- brought doughnuts to reward extra talkative or unruly classes who saw an administrator come in to observe me become the class of perfect angels without me having to do anything.
- occasionally patted myself on the back when students have decided to do something outside the classroom to fight poverty, racism, misogyny, homophobia, or inequality we learned in class that they were not aware of before.
- been given thank you notes like this:
Like I said before, the good days of teaching far outnumber the bad. I am one of the luckiest people in the world I get to do what I do. And I wouldn’t change it one bit. However, I sit here writing this to you after I just spent last 4 hours or so on my couch in pajamas cuddling my Boston Terrier as I watched Keeping up with the Kardashians and shoved half a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups into my mouth. You might have guessed it, but today was a bad day. Not a really bad one, but definitely not a good one. Today was a bad day. And that’s ok. Because the sun will come out, you guessed it – tomorrow!