“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
Before I was a teacher, I thought I knew what it was like to be a teacher. In some ways I did.
In education, there’s this intangible characteristic we call “withitness.” It’s the ability to know all that’s going on in the room while you’re teaching. I had this in spades. My students really believed I had eyes in the back of my head. Withitness helps, but there’s so much more.
It’s hard to explain what teaching is really like. The exhaustion. The overwhelm. The joy. The love.
Many of us think we know what it’s like, probably because we spent so many years watching teachers.
I certainly thought I knew what it would be like… until I became a teacher. I had no idea of the endless hours I would spend planning, grading, organizing, researching, prepping, and so much more. All of these responsibilities happen in addition to the actual teaching day.
I didn’t understand how awful it would be to have students I couldn’t reach, no matter how hard I tried. I underestimated how challenging it is to never feel like you’re doing enough.
This is the story for every teacher I know, maybe even more so ten years later. There’s not a week that goes by without a teacher telling me about how much harder it is to be a teacher these days. They’re not complaining, they’re just tired.
Bottom line: While it may look easy, teaching is not for the faint of heart.
As we grapple with increased teacher shortages we must change the story or else we risk our future.
What do teachers need most?
Teachers need empathy. Recognition of sacrifices and challenges is always a boost for morale. Notes from parents or children saying how much you appreciate the extra hours and energy are a great way to validate what often goes unnoticed. Better yet, send a note or email of appreciation to the principal.
Teachers need support. Teaching is a collaborative venture. It is impossible to teach without the support of parents and community. Find ways to volunteer. Showing up to help increases student success in school by leaps and bounds.
Teachers need respect. There are several myths about teaching. Some believe teachers work less, receive paid summers vacations, are supplied with everything they need, and receive an adequate salary. Read this article to learn more about the falsehood of those beliefs. Show teachers respect by questioning assumptions about teaching.
Teaching is similar to parenting. Before I became a parent, raising children seemed easy. At least until I served the wrong pasta and said no to that toy in Target.
Teaching is way harder than it looks. What teachers need most is empathy, support, and respect. Oh, and an endless supply of Starbucks cards won’t hurt, either.