So, I intended to write about writing, or something suitably deep. Instead, I’m writing about general etiquette.
I nearly lost my cool in swimming lessons today.
For the last couple of weeks, there have been these two women who discuss, very loudly, EVERYTHING. Last week, they were discussing how my children must be in the same class because I requested it, and that’s against the rules and blah, blah, blah. I mean, who cares about the truth when you can speculate loudly in front of those children’s parents, right? After all, since we aren’t allowed to leave, and we’re all crowded into a room together, it’s not like it’s a “Whoopsie! I didn’t realize you were there” conversation.
But whatever. I ignored it. They didn’t know what they were talking about, I knew they didn’t know, and so they could suck it.
But today… Today their conversation just about made me insane.
I get that people like to bag on teachers. We get summers off, so everyone who has worked for more than five minutes in the last ten years works harder than we do. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you only work 9-3.” I get it from family members, I get it from members of the public, and it doesn’t matter how often I say, “That’s when the kids are here. I work longer hours than that,” no one seems to believe me. Because I have magic fairies that do my mountains of paperwork, right? The minimum of 105 meeting I have in each year just magically occur without my being present, or somehow happen between 9 and 3. Whatever. I get it.
Today, these women discussed how their child’s teacher needed to be fired because she didn’t have the experience necessary. Sure, it’s only the second day of school, but they have it dialed in. One of them went on and on about how she has “most of the classes for an AA in Education” (Do they even give those? I don’t even know), so she knows “how the system works.”
Huh. When I had sixty credits under my belt, I knew, precisely, jack shit.
But whatever. She knows best.
See, here’s what gets me. Everyone and their brother thinks they know how to teach. Some people have even taken education classes. Some taught 40 years ago, and think they understand how it’s done today. And yes, having taken education courses, sure, a lot of them are wastes of time, especially at the undergraduate level. I’ll admit that. But I’ll tell you this: teaching is far harder than the coursework. To do it well requires time, effort, and passion. Teaching is as much a calling as being a pastor or a doctor is. You have to love it to do it well, because Lord knows, you’re not doing it for rockin’ used Subaru you’re gonna get with that fat paycheck.
I would argue that you can take all the classes you want, and you won’t know what it takes to be a teacher. It’s harder than it looks. There is no such thing as average. In any given classroom, there will be the English language learners, the kids who have a speech or language delay, the kiddos who require resource support, the little one with autism, low readers, high readers, and your gifted kiddos. Each one of them has different needs. Each one of them deserves your time and your effort. A single teacher might have a couple of different behavior charts, a token economy, a schedule for reinforcement, behavior plans and testing accommodations, 504s, healthcare plans, and IEP modifications and accommodations to follow. She has to take into account personalities, which student work well together, who needs to work alone, who needs help following rules, who has a small bladder and really should be allowed to go to the bathroom nine times a day, and who is doing it just to escape work (and, alas, sometimes these are the same person).
And then, she actually has to teach. And it’s not just reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s computers and PE, character development, social skills, sex ed, drug resistance education, science and social studies. Oh, and she has to prepare them for mandated state and national testing, too. Let’s not forget that.
But despite this, many people seems to think that they know better. They know who should be fired, and who’s a terrible teacher (on the second day of school). Having never taken an education class, they can tell you what’s wrong with the district, the current math curriculum and the reading assessments. They can tell you all about how teachers do everything wrong.
They’ll do this without knowing what it really takes.
They’ll do this, not knowing how my colleagues and I spent hours pouring over a file, and then proceeded to spent over 18 hours attending doctors’ appointments with our students, to try to make sure that our concerns were being followed up upon.
They’ll do this, never understanding how we’ve written letters and filled out paperwork to try to get our students disability benefits.
They’ll do this, never knowing how many companies we’ve called to see if we can get donated hearing aids, batteries, glasses or iPads for kids who really deserve it. They’ll never know how we bought birthday and holiday gifts for students whose families couldn’t afford to get them anything.
They’ll do this, never knowing that we go out on our own time to watch our students in the rodeo, or in a baseball game or a play.
Teachers will give the shirts off their backs–I’ve never met such a giving group of people. Sure, there are bad eggs, just like there are bad lawyers and bad doctors and bad businessmen. But for the most part, teachers are good, well-intentioned people. No one gets into teaching and thinks, “Gee, I wonder how I can screw someone up today.” And, quite frankly, most of us work harder than we’re given credit for.
So today, as I listened to those women bag on teachers, one thing became perfectly clear to me.
Next week, I am totally bringing earbuds.