Someone said to me today, “I should have been a teacher! I hate working evenings and weekends.” Let me tell you: Teaching is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a 5 to 9 job. I get excited when we have a vacation or a two-day break so I can catch up on all of the grading/planning I need to do. I love being a teacher, and I’ve chosen this field, but I refuse to let others tell us that we’ve got it easy.
I go home every night and grade, and the nights that I don’t grade, I go to bed feeling guilty about it because that’s one more day I have to hold out progress updates from my kids and their parents. Teachers spend more time with children than parents do (and I’m saying that as a parent also, because it’s true). I teach an 80-minute class, so 5 out of 7 days a week, I talk to a child more in one class period than that child speaks to the parent all day.
And we’re broke. Not broke because we don’t get paid enough, but because we frequently spend $20 here or there to stock up on index cards, posterboard, highlighters, books our kids would love but the library doesn’t have. I buy bananas the mornings of big tests because I’m afraid some of my kids haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday. And even when I get lucky enough to find a book on Amazon for $1.50, the shipping costs triple the amount.
And teachers worry; holy shit, do we worry. We worry about the kid who goes home and takes care of himself and three siblings. We worry about the child who’s magically slipped through the cracks of the system and has shown up at our door with a 3rd grade reading level. We worry about the boy whose dad is overseas defending the country. We worry for the girl who thinks she might be pregnant, and she’s only 13. We worry that we didn’t teach a topic the right way, or that when an administrator walked in, we didn’t have the date written up on the board. We worry whether the copier is going to work because, “What the hell am I going to do with empty hands and 27 eyes just staring at me?” We’re hard on ourselves, too hard, all the time, because we never make it far enough through a lesson, we didn’t get through to one kid, we promised a child we’d find a certain book for him and we forgot.
But teachers keep coming back, day after day, because we love those kids like they’re our own. Teachers have hearts like a cow has stomachs, one for our own family and 3 more for all of the class periods we teach (some teachers have even more). We’ve picked this profession, but we were given 40, or 70, or 200 kids because they need us as much as we need them.
So, to the person who said she wants to be an educator so she has weekends and evenings off, I’d say teaching probably isn’t the right profession for her.