I recently saw a tweet from @NicholasFerroni, reading:
Teacher: someone who loses sleep worrying about other peoples’ children.
I totally identify with this quote. Teaching is so much more emotional and nuanced than I ever expected. It’s also so difficult to explain this to anyone who is not a teacher. So today, I’m going to write a few lines about some of these nuances in hopes that I capture some small truths about the profession.
Teaching is relationships.
Teaching is knowing to give Jay space to read solely graphic novels in class. Teaching is making this call because his mom reads with him at home, and won’t read books with slang in them.
Teaching is watching Iggy read aloud to Aida even though they should be working independently. Teaching is knowing that Aida really needs the support, and since Iggy’s a popular girl, reading to her friend is the best thing for both of them right now.
Teaching is talking behavior problems with a co-worker, and finishing the conversation talking about awesome books you both want to read.
Teaching is a long staff meeting punctuated by cake.
Teaching is having an audience: I can point out instances of economic inequality in a book my students and I are reading, name the phenomenon, then engage in a conversation about the college admissions scandal. In moments like these, teaching leaves me energized about our youth’s noble sense of right and wrong.
Teaching is seeing former students in the hallways, met with ear-to-ear grins by some, and totally ignored by others.
Teaching is the grinding of gears when you try to call someone you know by name (or is my memory just prematurely aging?!)
Teaching is picking up markers and crumpled up papers, finding books with bent covers in the corner of the room.
Teaching is exasperation.
Teaching is agonizing over what a “fair” grade is, creating multiple versions of rubrics, grading 3/4 of the papers with fidelity, then giving up on that last class and just tossing number grades into a grade book right before the grading period ends. Teaching is feeling guilty and using the rubrics the next day to finish up that last class anyway.
Teaching is a never-ending to-do list.
Teaching is hip: I wouldn’t know what the kids are doing these days if I didn’t spend six hours a day with them. Fortnite? The dab? Knowing that “burn” and “diss” have been replaced by “EXPOSED!”? That’s teaching, too.
Teaching is hopeful: What other job lets you share the love of knowledge with hundreds of kids, hoping you leave a piece of yourself with them, just as they’ve left a piece of themselves with you?