By Jennie Scott
It’s almost here, fellow teachers.
Like it or not, we will wake up Monday morning much earlier than our summer sleep schedules are accustomed to, and we will walk back into the buildings we simultaneously love and fear. The newly waxed floors will look foreign without any tossed away papers and all used-up pencils, and the bare bulletin boards will mock us as we remember the cute ideas we saw on Pinterest.
We will make multiple trips from the car to our rooms, carrying bags filled with the magic we are convinced will make this year the best. We will stand surveying our rooms, hands on hips, as we envision a space that inspires and welcomes.
The plans will have to wait, though, as we sit through multiple meetings where we team-build and common-core learn and technology policy question… And don’t forget lunch-plans make, as this is the week – the only week – where we are allowed to leave for the sacred lunch.
Our non-teacher friends will roll eyes as we mention ‘heading back to work,’ and they will make snide comments about us having the whole summer off. We will roll eyes back as we mutter, “You just don’t get it.” And, bless their hearts, they don’t.
They don’t get that being a teacher – a good teacher – is like being a performer onstage for eight hours a day, five days a week who has also had to write the script, create the scenery, memorize each role, and research the backstory.
It means dealing with hecklers in the crowd whom security cannot remove and then being responsible for said hecklers mastering the nuances of the play she is performing. It means changing the script in the middle of the performance because audience members are nodding off, and doing so with zero funds because she spent her allocation stocking up on Kleenex and hand sanitizer.
It means not being able to go to the bathroom when she needs to, but racing to beat the other teachers before the tardy bell rings.
It means having her performance observed and critiqued by those who only see just a part, and receiving blame if the audience doesn’t rush to join her onstage.
It means so much more than any non-teacher can understand.
It means feeling like you have more children than you actually delivered, crying at their troubles and celebrating their victories. It means noticing the child who has no brand new supplies and no way of getting what the list requires.
It means sinking into your chair as the final bell rings, asking yourself if you can make it another day. It means arriving earlier the next morning to ensure that you can.
Being a teacher is hard. But it’s good.
Do me a favor, ok? If you’re not a teacher and you see one in the next few days wearing a look of panic – tell her thank you. Tell her thanks for cramming 365 days worth of knowledge into 180 (fewer if you count the interruptions and standardized tests). Say thank you for her being “on” every day when she steps in front of your child, leaving her own exhaustion, troubles, and worries at home. Let her know you appreciate the fact that she cannot just leave her work at work, but brings it (and thoughts of your child) home with her.
I guarantee she doesn’t hear ‘thanks’ nearly enough. You might even make her cry.