I was talking to my brother the other day about teaching, where things have been and where they might be going. He brought up the fact that my niece wanted to be a teacher, but was worried about doing so. She’s active on social media and has witnessed the struggles that I have gone through trying to decide if I wanted to continue teaching.
People are so hard on teachers and teaching right now. We are in the middle of a war between what is best for our children and what makes the most money for businesses. Our elected officials use education as platforms to further their careers, often to the detriment of those who education is supposed to help. I am not even going to get started on the devaluing of education itself. It’s important to realize that the current environment is doing nothing to create new teachers. If anything, it’s driving them away.
I haven’t been helping. At all.
I’m changing that right now. This is my letter to future teachers. There is hope. Believe in yourself and your love of your students.
Dear future teacher,
I know that times are hard now in the world of education. I know that you may think that it isn’t worth it to enter into the politics of the educational system. And the kids… oh, the kids. You read about how horrible they are, how disrespectful, how disruptive they are. There is even video evidence of their horribleness. It’s no wonder that you’re doubting.
I am writing this to tell you that these things are just a tiny drop in the ocean of education. Yes, it is stressful right now as the government plays tug-of-war using the education system as a rope. Yes, there are some kiddos that are… well… jerk-faces. Some adults are too. It comes with living in society. Unless you want to be a hermit, you’re going to have to deal with it. It’s so much easier to forgive a 15-year old for being an asshole than it is to forgive a 35-year old for acting 15.
Teaching is so much more. It is being there for a young man whose parents are in the midst of an angry divorce, putting him in the middle of it. It is working with a colleague who cares about the kids as much as (maybe even more so than) you do. It is hearing your name screamed across the aisles of the grocery store because you’ve affected that child’s life so much that they are excited to see you outside of school.
Teaching is encouraging the parents of a child who is struggling. Every parent wants what is best for their child, but many don’t know what to do when their child is lost. I have had so many wonderful meetings with parents that started out with tears and frustration and ended with smiles and hope. Teachers have the tools to guide parents and students when they struggle.
Teaching is standing up and fighting for the needs of your students. You are the buffer, their line of defense, holding back well-meaning but misinformed next-best-thing strategies that are supposed to fix education. You translate their “failures” into jumping off points. You protect the children and help them to succeed in spite of the obstacles that the government and administration tosses in front of them.
Teaching is knowing that you are making a difference every day. Every single day. You may not know it at the time, but what you do sticks in your students’ minds. They remember you. They grow because of you.
Teaching is a service. It is often thankless, especially on a day-to-day basis. If you feel that you are called to be a teacher, don’t decide not to because of what you read online or see on television. Those stories always ignore the most important part of education, the essential element that makes it all possible:
My life has been enriched by my years as an educator. I’ve grown to understand so much about myself and about life because of it. I will never, ever, ever regret my thirteen years as an educator. EVER.
Be a teacher. The world needs you.