Our career choice is not meant for the weak. Everyone has an opinion on how we can do our job better. Disdain for our efforts to demand fair wages, healthcare, or funding for our classroom turn into a conversation about our selfishness. Our tenure is blamed for the breakdown of the educational system. Our teaching methods are criticized for being too rigorous, or not rigorous enough. Our expectations and impact are often unrealistic and overlooked.
With the recent increase in school shootings, students are told to be empathetic and show more kindness towards others, as if that would have prevented the tragedies. Bullying situations are on the rise, and like the students, we are also blamed. Creating lifelong learners is our job, however, bringing more awareness to the way that students treat others, has become just as important. Teaching empathy is now interwoven into our daily encounters and discussions. It has become our priority, even when other adults may not model it.
Critics have made it clear that our nation’s problems are often a result of a failed educational system. Expectations of our job duties are high. We must find the strengths in each student and challenge them to find their passion. We must identify their challenges, without being condescending, while assisting them towards improvement and success. We should use the knowledge and experience of our own childhood to show students that they can choose to improve, or emulate, their future through hard work and perseverance, no matter what their current living conditions may be. We should hold our students accountable for their actions, even if their family members do not.
The expectations placed on us, as educators, are limitless. We are expected to teach each lesson to mastery, so that some students do not fall behind the others. We are expected to create a flexible learning environment with differentiated instruction and critical thinking skills. In addition, we are expected to teach all grade level standards, in a specific time span, that will correlate with the standardized testing schedule, which occurs 6-8 weeks before the end of the school year. We are expected to maintain a high level of motivation towards reading, writing, math, history, and science, no matter what our students may currently be experiencing at home, or at school. We are expected to identify every area of improvement for each student, so that, if asked, we can answer on the spot. Finally, we are expected to create and cultivate a learning environment that will allow students to associate failure as a stepping stone towards success.
In order to do what is expected of us, remember that we all need to recharge our own batteries. It is also important to recognize that meeting all of the aforementioned expectations, on a consistent basis, is unrealistic. This is a major cause of teacher burnout.
Our youth’s future is important, but so is ours. Remember to take time for yourself. We are allowed to spend time with our family and friends. We are allowed to participate in a non-school-related activity after hours. We are allowed to have an outside hobby. We are allowed to read a book, watch a movie, or binge watch our favorite series. We are allowed to spend a work-free weekend, without the guilt of grading papers, creating new lessons, or reading articles about how to be a better educator. We are not only allowed to do these things, but we are entitled to them.
Educators are relentless. We do what we can, with the students that we have, in the time we are given. After their school day ends, ours does not. We care about their progress, their motivation to learn, and most importantly, their well-being. We hope that the death of their parent, sibling, or other tragic event won’t affect their learning. We hope that their parents’ arguments, divorce, or inconsistent home routines won’t affect their learning. We hope that their current foster home situation won’t affect their learning. We hope that visiting their parent in jail after school won’t affect their learning. We hope that their family’s recent bankruptcy, foreclosure, or homeless situation won’t affect their learning. We hope that current, or past, abuse won’t affect their learning. We hope that our students know that we care about them and their future success.
THANK YOU for choosing a career in education. Teaching is more than school breaks and “summers off.” It involves a commitment to educate today’s youth, no matter what else is happening in the world around us. Whether your classroom is in Arizona, California, Oregon, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, or New York, you have a made the commitment.
Lastly, you ARE making a difference. You need to know this, even if you don’t feel like it most days. We may never see the impact of our daily efforts towards lifelong learning, but somehow we stay committed to our students — our kids.
Stay strong. Believe in yourself, and your ability to influence today’s youth. Most importantly, take time to recharge with the people, places, or things that you love…guilt-free. You deserve it. Others may not always appreciate your efforts, but I do. Thank you.