What is it like being a teacher?
Recently, during recess, I was sitting on a bench outside my classroom, taking a break with my 4th grade students and enjoying the refreshing autumn weather. One of my female students perched on the bench next to me and hesitantly asked if it would be okay if she asked me a question.
"Sure," I said. "What's up?"
Her question: "What is it like being a teacher? I mean, what does it feel like?"
The answers that ran through my head: "Uh... It's rough. And right now, I'm super tired. Like, wiped out. And I kind of have a headache from telling some of your classmates to stop talking/pay attention/get on the right page/follow directions so many times this morning. And even though it's only October, I'm already worried about how you guys are going to do on state testing in March. And I get frustrated because I know you guys are smart, but you could probably do so much better if you worked harder. How can I make you understand that? How can I make you guys want do better? What else should I be doing to help you guys? And why are you asking me this question, anyway? What should I say to her? I need to be honest, but I can't tell her that much of the time I'm stressed out and frustrated. I don't want her to think I don't like my job. I can't tell her that there's usually a lot of paperwork and most nights when I go home, I don't want to take home a stack of papers to grade, but I have to, 'cause otherwise, how would they get done? And how do I tell her that the biggest reason why sometimes I seem like I'm being hard on them is because I want them to realize their potential? I want them to realize what they're capable of. I want them to know that i have high expectations for them because if they try their best, then I know they can do their best... But how do I explain that to a nine year old?"
Well, she asked. So I told her.
"Most of the time, I have a lot to do. I have papers to grade and lessons to plan. Sometimes I go home at night, and I am just SUPER tired. If you guys don't understand something, I have to figure out a way to re-teach it so that you DO understand it. Sometimes I get frustrated and sometimes I worry. But when you guys are listening and paying attention, and you finally catch on to something, and I see the light bulbs starting to click on above your heads, that's the best feeling ever! I get so excited when I see that you guys finally understand something, because then I know that I did my job well."
My student said, "Oh. So that kind of makes it all worth it?"
"Yes," I said. "That makes it all worth it."
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