I know you are frustrated by all the unrealistic expectations that the government, the administration, and parents have of you. We want you to cure all our ills (educational ones, health ones, and moral ones) because we won’t take the individual responsibility to do so ourselves, one child at a time.
Yes, the amount of red tape and checklists you have to wade through is ridiculous and has nothing to do with the real reasons you became a teacher in the first place. I get that.
It must be maddening to teach a lesson to a child and ask them to go home and have their parent work to reinforce the lesson, only to have the child return the next day making excuses for their unconcerned parent or absent parent, so that the lesson you taught the day before has slipped through the tendrils of the child’s memory.
When people make decisions for your work setting who have no clue what today’s classrooms are like, it makes you want to pull your hair out. I don’t blame you.
And so you begin watching the calendar and counting your years of service, calculating how much longer until you can finally retire. Or you simply throw up your hands after a few years of teaching and say, “I quit.”
I implore you, please don’t quit. Even though you don’t know it or can’t see it, you are making a difference in the lives of your students. I’ve recently asked scores of my patients if they can name the five wealthiest people in the world, the last five Heisman Trophy winners, the last five Miss America’s, or the last five Academy Award winners for best actor/actress. Guess what? Not one person has been able to identify all the names on any of those lists. But when I ask them if they can name a teacher who helped them when they were in school, immediately a nod and smile comes to their face, and they tell me about a teacher they remember by name and what a difference they made in their life.
Can there be any greater measure of worth than to have affected change in the life of a person, even if only one person? No one stands so tall as the one who bends down to help a child.
But there’s something else that you may not be aware of that I am. I have seen people from every conceivable walk of life, and no matter what job or career you have you will always have something about it you don’t like. In short, there is no perfect job. People who earn a six-figure income and people who make minimum wage have a complaint about their work setting.
So, dear teacher, that other job or career you’re thinking of switching to because it looks so much better than where you are might not seem as rosie once you get there. Your job as a teacher just might be the most important job of any in our culture today.
Keep focused on that aspect of your job that drew you to it in the first place – teaching young minds. And look at all those other prickly things, the things you hate so much, that are associated with your job as necessary evils.
Trust me, we need you badly.