“Those Who Can’t, Teach”

teachers desk

I really dislike that quote.  We have all heard it.  It’s disparaging, it’s demeaning and it’s bullshit.  Teaching is a skill, it’s a passion; it’s something that really cannot be measured and has little to do with test scores.

There are really great teachers out there, those it really seems to come naturally to.  They easily connect with their students, they read levels of comfort and discomfort in their students, and they know when to push and when to ease up on their students when it comes to learning.  They know how to reach each individual student and they make an effort to do so even though their varied and overwhelming responsibilities both in and out of the classroom don’t really allow for it or support it.  They know how to manage a classroom and in the k-12 space, how to manage the parents.  They want to see their students learn and grow and they find a way to make it happen, usually at their own personal expense and time of lost sleep, fretting, pedagogical trials and errors, numerous meetings with specialist, parents, principals and other teachers.  They spend their own money to supplement classroom supplies and often on some students who can’t afford their own personal supplies.  They are creative, energetic, and passionate.  They work both in and out of the classroom: planning, preparing, grading, and organizing (the stuff that goes on beyond the classroom but has everything to do with what goes on in the classroom).  These are teachers.

Why does anyone teach?  I mean, really think about it.  With the myriad of choice available today, they don’t do it because they can’t do anything else.  They do it as a choice, because they want to teach and to make a difference in a child’s life.  I don’t personally understand why anyone would choose this.  I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t last 5 minutes dealing with the parents or the kids.  With all the bullshit they have to deal with on a daily basis: the parental politics, the school politics; as the kids get older, the attitude and entitlement.  I can barely handle the politics of a university setting and it’s not nearly as brutal as the k-12 space.

Oh I know why people choose to teach.  It must be the prestige.  No, maybe it’s the salaries and the fact they must like picking up second jobs just to make ends meet.    No, it must be the eternal gratitude of the parents and the kids themselves.   Maybe it’s the rallying support of a nation that values and appreciates all that teachers do to try to educate our future generations under the pressure and policies of an increasingly industrialized system, with limited resources, overflowing classrooms and sometimes overcrowded buildings that are falling down around them.  That must be the reason.

No, with all the potential job choices out there today, you have to want to teach.  You have to have a calling to do it.  You have to be passionate about it and damn good at your job. You have to be willing to sacrifice yourself, your time, your energy, a decent living and work in a system and country that refuses to treat you like the professional you are because you desperately want to make a difference.   Because there is no other reason any sane individual would choose a teaching career.  Teachers are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and under appreciated.  I am not saying every teacher is perfect.  There are some bad teachers out there.  What I am saying is that most teachers are doing the very best they can for their students with limited resources and increasing external pressures. Yet, all we can do is bitch and point fingers.  Way to go America.  Way to go.

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Tiffany Reiss

Passionate educator, entrepreneur and health promoter.