Teaching is an art, a sacrifice, and has the goal of changing the future one child at a time. It’s a noble profession, but does that make you all that you are?
I think the public forgets we are more than teachers. We are parents and children. We are husbands, wives, and significant others. We are artists, historians, and scientists. Most importantly, we are human. And I know you are going to say, well, of course, you are human. Sometimes, I think people forget that we are imperfect, busy, trying to be happy, and trying to keep everyone else happy (an impossible task).
A few things to remember when you think about your child’s teachers:
I am not at your ‘beck and call’. I do not live at the school, though I feel like it sometimes. I will not answer every email sent after five or answer every text on the weekends. The shop is closed. I need time to be with my family, not my school family, but trust me even while I am cleaning and dancing to Moana my mind will always wander back to the classroom. I will notice the stack of papers that need to be graded or the lesson plans that need to be written. Let me be with my family a little while.
I probably have a side hustle. We all know teachers aren’t paid enough, but I am not getting into that debate today. I am here to say that your child’s teacher probably has a second job anywhere from bartending, writing, selling-makeup, selling clothes, coaching, tutoring or working in a coffee shop. It is a reality. I have to pay for the posters and pencils I bought for my class this weekend. No, there is no “supply closet” at my school. And it is just easier to buy materials than ask my kids to bring them in. Trust me. If I can’t stay after school on Wednesday, there is a reason. I am not trying to be difficult. Do think I want to admit that my student loan debt cannot be covered by the career it helped me obtain? I’m sorry I have to make smoothies after school or I have to tutor a college student, who will try to con me into writing his paper for him. I have so much on my plate; please forgive me if I forget to call you back or make a copy of a progress report. There is so little time in the day. Please be patient.
I love things you don’t approve of. I am not going to fit every parent’s ideal teacher. If I post pictures of myself belly-dancing, I should be able to do that. If I have a same-sex marriage partner, I should be able to post pictures of us from our date yesterday. I have strong political views one way or another I should be able to post them on my facebook wall. (Naturally, I am not talking about any racist, sexist, or morally inappropriate things.) Truly professional teachers can keep views out of the classroom and just teach. You may not like that I write adult novels or that I protest societal ills. But these are things I am passionate about; just like I support your child’s dream of becoming a YouTube star. You don’t have to dislike me for what I love. It takes all kinds to make the world go round.
I miss so much of my child’s life for yours. All those wonderful field trips that we plan for your child. I probably won’t go on a trip for my child. If I go to my kid’s trip, who is going to teach yours? And I know you didn’t ask me to do that, but it is so much harder to miss work than actually to go We don’t get off at three like so many would have you believe. While I am taking care of your child’s social and educational needs, another teacher is taking care of my child’s, and that is one of the hardest things a teacher has to come to terms with.
My family is jealous of my school family. I know I should leave everything at the door, but I can’t. I take home piles of papers and hours of lesson planning, and my family is not happy about it. In every teaching household, there are arguments that will fall along the lines of I wish you spent more time with us instead of school. Or do you really have grade now? Do you have to chaperone again? Why are you tutoring again? Why are you falling asleep on date night? Or in the words of one teacher’s child, “ I wish you just worried about me and not them.” A harsh reality in our life.
If all these things are going on, then why bother with it all? Why teach?
While I am not at your beck and call after school or on the weekends, I promise my heart and soul are with my students from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm. I give everything I am to them. I am at their beck and call: teaching, mentoring, listening, explaining, and believing in everything they are.
My side hustle is probably for your child. Yes, I work another job so I can teach. If I didn’t, I would not be in the classroom because frankly, I just can’t make it on my salary. As much love and joy as my job bring me, love and joy simply don’t pay the bills. I work an extra job so I can do what I love. So I can bring in extra posters and fancy markers, our kid’s love. So I can decorate my classroom and make it feel warm and inviting. So I can buy new and innovative books and materials so our kids can grow and understand the material in a new and exciting way.
I am my own person. Our kids have to learn to respect people from all walks of life. I am that for them. We don’t have to agree with each other’s lifestyle choices, but as long as I am a good teacher, what I do in my personal life should not matter. Let me live my life. A happy teacher is an amazing teacher. If I have to worry about my personal life being judged by parents, I promise you; I will not make it in the classroom. This is not 1890. I am allowed to marry and hang out at the ice cream shop.
The time I give up with my child to teach is yours is one of the most difficult things to explain. A child of a teacher understands it when they are older, but the seven-year-old struggles with why their mom can’t make another field trip or is late picking them up.
On the same note, my family knows that our family is not just us. It will never be just us. Our family includes all my students and our love is infinite.
I am more than a teacher. I am not just the teacher “giving” your child a C. Or the one emailing you to set up a conference during my professional period. Or the one writing a reference letter for your senior. I am all these things. I carry every one of my kids with me. I carry the guilt of not having time with my family because of one thing or another. So before you call the school board about my post about or if you email me on Sunday night to complain about your child’s test grade, I just put in. Remember I am not just a teacher. I am not a computer or standardized test. I love your child and want what is best for him or her just like you do.
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