The Secret Lives of Teachers: Appreciate This!
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Teacher Appreciation Week is from May 5 to May 9. I love that there is a week to honor teachers. And while I’ll eat all the chocolate that enters my room, no doubt about it, I just wanted to take a moment to get real about my life in the classroom all those other weeks of the school year.
There is a persistent belief that a teacher's workday ends when the 3 p.m. bell rings — that we are finished with anything teacher-related when we leave the schoolyard. It simply isn’t true! Teachers live their jobs in a way that most folks cannot understand. I will lift the veil as I reveal the Top 10 Teacher Secrets.
I work nights . . .
. . . and weekends, and summers. Children may leave my classroom at 3 p.m., but that doesn’t mean my day is over. We have faculty meetings, meetings about kids that are in danger of failing, meetings to learn new and different teaching techniques, and meetings to plan school events. Sometimes we have meetings about meetings. I have to clean my classroom that somehow goes from fresh and tidy to “What exploded?” during the course of the day. After my own children are fed and in bed, I grade papers, create new lessons, and prepare files for the next day. In the summer, I attend professional development for weeks at a time, read journals and ideas, and write curriculum for the upcoming school year. Even while I am out enjoying the zoo with my family, I’m wondering what field trip options are available and asking if the worker with the monkey will come speak to my class. Teaching is a full-time job.
I cringe at the thought of a substitute.
Now subs, don’t get me wrong, I love that you are able and willing to fill in. I believe you have one of world’s hardest jobs. However, I’d rather show up on my deathbed (and many of us have) than prepare for a day out of the classroom. Leaving notes to indicate the precise treatment for each child and type of emergency that might arise during the day while never knowing if you are able to get through the normal everyday dramas that can take place in my classroom, is terrifying. It takes me longer to plan beforehand and recuperate the day after I get back than if I’d never been out to begin with. Trust me, if I have a sub, there was probably an ambulance involved. Besides, I get two precious personal days a year that I have yet to take for actual personal reasons because I’ve used them for professional development (I paid for out-of-pocket). Two measly days. If I’m using them, it is for a good reason.
I have a bladder of steel.
You think I kid! Find me a teacher that cannot hold it for a solid eight hours. I cannot leave my 6-year-olds unattended, and I certainly couldn’t leave my 9-year-olds in previous years. I go to the bathroom when I get up, and after the three o’clock bell. And forget the notion of some luxuriously-appointed teacher’s lounge, restroom, or even a normal grownup public lav. I get the same pink tile mini-potty as every girl under the age of 8 in my school. I’ve honed my personal potty dance to look like well-executed classroom monitoring, and I’d advise anyone considering the teaching profession to do the same.
I kill trees.
Yes, I am a certified murderer. Even when I would prefer another route, there are always necessary copies to be made. Our school is all digital, and yet there are paper copies that must be provided to go with our math series. They are not in the purchased workbooks, nor can they be rewritten onto loose-leaf paper (both of which consume trees as well). The weekly worksheets alone have likely resulted in major deforestation.
I know what you did last summer.
I also know what you ate last night, where you are going this weekend, what you bought on your grocery trip, and what color underwear is your favorite. The younger the student, the more likely I am to know every detail of your personal life. You think you get a lot of, “Mrs. Everette said . . . ” stories? You have NO idea what I know about your bathroom habits.
I like cafeteria food.
Yup, I do. And I really miss the days when the lunches were less healthy too. I know, I know, there is an obesity problem. There is also only 20 minutes to sit for lunch and I want all the flavor I can cram in. My favorite is the rectangular school pizza. It is usually served with corn and some kind of fruit ice thing that doesn’t actually contain any sugar. Hamburger day is good, and I wouldn’t turn down a Crispito. Truthfully, if I didn’t have to get up early and make it, if I don’t have to reheat it, and if I don’t have to remember to bring home the Tupperware to wash after school, it’s all right by me.
Sick kids are not so cute.
You know how when your own child throws up it isn’t quite as terrible as anyone else doing it? The same does not apply to teaching. I am not a germaphobe by any means. I despise hand sanitizer. (It gets in your cuts, the kids drip it all over, it smells funky, and the off-brand that gets donated turns a weird color when left on the shelf too long.) That said, I don’t like watching noses drip, kids coughing themselves inside out, or identifying weird skin rashes. I don’t want to see a wiggly tooth dangling by a thread or admire someone's three-day old scab. There are times, of course, when I need to do these things, but I am totally shuddering on the inside.
I hate homework.
Besides the countless ways to get kids to do homework, the benefits of at-home practice, or the satisfaction that comes from knowing Mom has to see what kind of crazy answers her kid creates, I seriously hate homework. I do a little happy dance every time I see one of the countless studies proving homework doesn’t matter. Do I think learning should extend to the home and that some project responsibility should be managed? Totally. Do I want to find, copy, distribute, hunt down, and grade half-done ripped pages soaked in last night’s ketchup? Negative.
I get paid a reasonable salary.
I think teachers are professionals. I think we work incredibly long hours (see #1) and do not truly have the life of “off-at-three-o'clock” luxury some perceive. I do think I’m paid an average wage. I will not be a crybaby about it. I do not expect there to be some unearthing of funds in our state that will bankroll teachers or somehow repay the nights away from my own family and the thousands (yes, thousands!) I spend on my own classroom. There is not enough money in the world for that. An unattributed viral post talks of paying teachers like babysitters only to find we would be making much, much more than teachers actually make. You know what I want? To be respected as a professional and be able to pay for my child’s summer camp when I attend professional development in the summer. That’s all.
I love back-to-school time and the crayons appearing in aisles. I love the smell of the school hallways. I love field trips and snack time and kids sweaty from PE. I love seeing ankles poke out of pants in the spring after a winter growth spurt. I love hearing "k-i-s-s-i-n-g" being sung, or hearing the anticipation for this weekend’s camp-out and big game. I love Valentine gifts that were half-eaten on the way to school, ragtag folders on their last legs before dumping homework everywhere, and the exasperated eye rolls shared among stressed coworkers passing in the hallway. I love being a copy machine technician, curriculum writer, nurse, psychologist, family friend, disgusting ogre, counselor, and role model.
Best of all, I love when they accidentally call me "Mom."
Teachers, what deep dark secrets do you harbor and what should you really be appreciated for this year? Be sure and visit Scholastic's special Teacher Appreciation page with a note to all of us from Scholastic CEO, beautiful, FREE downloadable posters and printables, and a video featuring some of the bloggers you read right here on the Top Teaching blog!