With One Foot in the Door

I’ve been substitute teaching where I used to teach for seven years.

I’ve realized something…well, maybe I always knew it.

But it seems like there’s an unwritten rule that you aren’t supposed to talk about how difficult your job is.  I mean, people just don’t want to hear that.

But now I only have one foot in the door…so I think I can talk about it.  I’m technically an outsider now.

Being a public school teacher is hard work.  (Probably any school really…)

Being a sub has been pretty great…mostly because I don’t have to do all the things the every-day-teachers do, well, every day.

1.  Teachers work eight-hour days.  And evenings.  And often weekends. (Without a doubt it covers the “off” time of the summer.  I think no teacher has ever dared to calculate it because it would just end up being depressing.)

2.  They have a thirty-minute (or less) lunch break, unless of course a student comes by for help, copies need made, or the bathroom must be visited.

3.  Speaking of bathroom visits…Teachers need to train their bodies to go to the bathroom only during prep periods and lunch.  And those are not necessarily the same time each day.  Talk about biological confusion.  Unlike most people in the world, they can’t simply go to the bathroom whenever they need to.

4.  Teachers have to diagnose each of their students, create lesson plans that cater to all their needs, and effectively execute all of those plans to meet their needs simultaneously.

5.  Teachers need to memorize names…lots of names.  I figured that in the seven years I was teaching, I had to learn well over 1,000 students’ names.  Then, any and every time I see one of these students, for the rest of my life, I am expected to remember them.  Seriously.  Every time I see a former student, they expect me to instantaneously remember their name, when they were my student, and whatever memory made our interaction unique from the other bazillions of students.  They don’t state those expectations with their words; they say them with their eyes.  So, I’ve decided to just face it head on and tell them before they get offended and I get embarrassed, that there is a good chance I don’t remember their names.  Because it is embarrassing to forget–especially when you know they were a student who spent tons of time in your room, shared personal things, and you had a big impact on.  But it happens.  We forget.

6.  Teachers not only need to please students and administrators, but also the parents.  Now, this has become quite a difficult thing to do in our current culture.  It seems most parents believe that their child could never be wrong, nor as insubordinate as they are described, and deserve special treatment compared to the rest of the class.  This gets a little bit complicated to manage within the classroom.

7.  The beautiful season of spring is tainted because student behavior is always extra crazy in those last weeks before school ends.

8.  Grading.  I mean, it’s just so time-consuming.  And tedious.  And necessary.

9.  Teachers can see potential in students, even when no one else does, including the students themselves.  But sometimes a teacher will work painfully hard to help those students believe in themselves and make better choices.  Yet those teachers often find themselves disappointed when the students are perfectly comfortable throwing their education away.  (Or sometimes they are discouraged/defeated by home situations, other teachers, etc.)  It can be exhausting.  Worse, it can cause premature burnout, making a teacher doubt whether or not it is worth the effort for the next one.

10.  Teachers constantly have to hear things like “those who can’t do, teach” as if teaching is an easy job and a career choice that results in not being able to make it with some other dream.  It implies that people expect mediocrity and inadequate teachers for their children.  No one wants that, so it’s a bad joke!

11.  Salaries.  Let’s just be honest.  One of the biggest paradoxes in our culture is that a relatively low-paying position in society is to teach and train our children.  Now that just isn’t logical.  Aren’t our children what’s most important to us?  Some of the biggest decisions we make as families are for the sake of our children’s education.  So why do we pay those directly responsible for it so poorly?

12.  The school day starts so early.  I mean, really early.  As a result, it’s a real challenge to stay awake past 9pm on a Friday night.  Ask any teacher, and they will concur.

So…those are some reasons that I am enjoying subbing these days.  This job is much easier. Although the day still starts really early.

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