“What’s it like to be a teacher, Miss?”
I scoffed at the eight year old girl who randomly asked this question as we walked to class. “Tiring!”, I replied too quickly, immediately feeling guilty. I tried to recover by giving a more inspiring reply to this young curious mind…
I was tired, though. It was my first proper part time experience in a school, teaching Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) in a primary church school.
If you have never been a teacher, then let me tell you something – it’s like being on stage performing for six hours a day. Half your mind is concentrated on what you are teaching, the other absorbed in keeping control and discipline (at least for a newbie!) For someone like me who is a woman of few words, talking – no, no performing – for six hours a day was depleting…(not to mention the time at home planning and researching plus juggling another job!) Oh, and your throat hurts when you don’t know how to project your voice well. Not to mention the constant doubts…Am I too strict? Too lenient? Are they actually learning from me? Did this lesson go well? Did anything stick in their minds? Is this how their previous teacher did it?
Anyone who states that infamous line that teaching is the ‘best job’ because of summers off, holidays and finishing work ‘early’ should be shot. Teaching is the best job, for some very special human beings and it’s not because of the time off. It is not for the faint of heart!
Teachers are in a unique position to meet with children, celebrate their beauty and acknowledge their struggles and guide parents to give them what they need. I remember one particular girl whom everyone deemed to be a bully. Her stature was so small, her skin pale and her voice soft, it was hard to believe. Child after child would come to me complaining about her. Her teacher showed concerns too. I sat down to speak with her and she told me how alone she feels. She admitted to her bullying and said she wanted to stop but didn’t know how. We agreed to speak to the school counselor to help support her in tackling this issue. Later, I received a hand written note from her, opening up further and asking for help. Upon speaking to her parents, she was to start therapy. That is the reach and power of an attuned teacher.
Dear teachers, you are my heroes. I know its hard. I know your work can be taken for granted by many. Remember, you are special and you are privileged in this trusted role. Society needs you, our children need you to be present, sensitive, attentive and caring. Above all, take care of yourselves first because you can be none of these can be achieved without proper self-care. Whenever you are feeling demotivated, remember that child with whom you connected and let that boost you forward. And when in doubt, remember there is a social worker here with deep gratitude for what you do!
Photo credit: Flickr omani_89