To me, a teacher is someone who wears many, many hats. I’d say at least ten on any given day. You’ll often find a teacher acting as a nurse, a therapist, a mom, and an office manager throughout the course of the day, along with someone who is also responsible for daily lesson planning, grading papers, and oh, ya know, actually teaching between 4-6 engaging lessons per day. This teacher must also be aware if the lesson was successful and gauge how well the class learned the material. This teacher has to be animated and entertaining, enthusiastic and smart. Your child’s teacher is not only teaching, but performing. 

Now let me start by saying that I am not writing this because I am a former teacher. I am writing this to truly share my appreciation for all of the teachers out there right now. Teaching requires blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of heart. It also requires some thick skin. You have to be able to hear criticism from your own administrators as well as some parents who are just never happy, despite how hard you work and your best intentions. 

In my experience, when I started as a teacher at a small private school at the age of 23, I really got a feel just how important my job was. I spent three years teaching at this school and always had very small classes. I believe I had around ten to twelve kids each year that I taught second grade. I got to know each student and what their strengths and weaknesses were. I learned about their interests and talents. I even got to know their families and still keep in touch with many of them. I worked very hard as a new teacher and since there was only one teacher per grade, I planned my own curriculum. I made all of my own tests and quizzes and was able to get creative with projects and trips. I truly enjoyed every minute of those three years. But there was one downfall and that was that unfortunately private schools don’t pay as much as public schools. I remember telling a coworker how I wanted to look into getting a job in a public school in New York City to hopefully make some more money and to be able to collaborate on a team of teachers and to have more support. She told me that she had been in that position and that while it seemed enticing, to watch out because public schools have a lot of “red tape.”  I came to find out exactly what that meant as soon as I started my new job in the city when I turned 26. 

I wound up teaching in the city for eight years. During that time, I worked so, so hard, as did my colleagues. Truthfully, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say that actual blood, sweat and tears went into this job. I worked before I had my daughter and after. I hate to say this but teaching is no longer the job to have as a mom. When I was in graduate school, so many people would tell me how great it will be to be a teacher after having kids. “You’ll be on the same schedule as your own kids! And the best part is you’ll have summers off!” Little did I know at the time that I would have less time with my daughter than some of my friends who worked corporate jobs had. I was clocking in early to set up my classroom, leaving at 4 pm everyday and leaving even later on days when I had meetings and extra work to do. I would then always bring home tests to grade and lessons to plan. The work was never ending. At the end of the day I could always be found with a pile of papers on my lap while my toddler played around it all. I was never fully present because the endless hours of paperwork consumed me. And as for the red tape, there’s not much room for imagination when you have to follow a curriculum that doesn’t know your students. “Teaching to the test” was my biggest gripe. I wanted to focus on student interest, but when your school is graded based on how they perform on state tests, test prep trumps creativity and interests. 

Most teachers I know work hard.  Very hard. They wake up in the middle of the night in a panic when a random teaching thought pops in their head at 2 am. I know this because this was me and I have had this conversation with many old coworkers. They are told not to answer emails after school hours, but they always do. They are always available to reassure a parent that everything went okay during recess time and that the situation with their child’s bully has been handled. These teachers will go above and beyond and hear what is happening at home and will offer to help in anyway. They will notice who needs a winter coat and make sure they have something for that child in need the very next day. They will use a large chunk of their own paycheck to buy tissues, sanitizer, and new markers when the old ones dry out. These teachers will feel your child’s head to see if it’s warm and make sure they get checked out by the nurse. They will plan appropriate lessons for your child if he or she is struggling or is academically advanced. He or she will suggest after school activities or support to the parents because they know their children so well. These teachers love your children. They love them like their own. They light up when that child who has been struggling with their multiplication facts finally gets a passing grade or makes honor roll. They cry happy tears when their little learners make the art club or win an award. They are your child’s biggest fans. 

Remember, if you have a question about your child’s education, always reach out. The majority of these teachers are parents and they have been on both sides. A good teacher will welcome the communication and make every effort to explain any questions or concerns you may have. But always keep the lines of communication open. I would bet anything that more often than not, these people are taking valuable time away from their own families to make sure that your child is learning every day, safe, and happy. Teaching is one of the most important jobs in this world, and is right up there with being a parent. So make sure the teachers you know feel supported. They also need to hear that they are appreciated and a thank you can be the biggest gift and make their day after a long, hard one. 

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