Around eight years ago, a starry-eyed, ambitious girl stepped into a school building. Armed with a few handbooks, lofty goals, and a pretty lesson planner, she blithely welcomed seventeen third-graders into her classroom… and her heart.
A mere four days later, this same girl sat at her big teacher’s desk, head in her arms, sobbing. She wished fervently that the thought of teaching had never, ever entered her mind. “It’s not like they said teaching would be like,” she realized.
Looking back now, I’ve forgotten what all went through my mind that evening (yes, that was me), but I know that teaching is never what you expect it to be. Currently in my sixth year of teaching, I’m still surprised at the curveballs teaching throws my way. Many of them are pleasant surprises, some are unpleasant, some are neither… they’re just things you’d never thought of.
Recently I had a conversation with a coteacher that inspired me to write a listicle on…
The Things They Don’t Tell You In Teacher’s Training
(not an exhaustive list) ;-P
- It’s not just a profession. It’s a lifestyle. Yes, technically weekends are free. But they’re not. Instead of pursing your hobbies, you’ll do fourth grade science experiments to make sure they work. Instead of reading an adult novel, you’ll read junior books about talking animals… and you’ll enjoy it. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s just something you’ll realize very soon. Teaching isn’t a profession you leave at work.
- You’ll hear weird things coming out of your mouth. “Don’t put that sandwich on your head.” “No, you weren’t born in 2019.”* “Take that out of your mouth (referring to dirty balloon the student found out in the playground).” Plus a few that I won’t mention! *gem from a first-grade teacher
- You’ll get strangely excited about back-to-school sales. While your friends shop for clothes, you’ll ‘ah’ and ‘oh’ over new markers, fine-tip Sharpies in 24 colours (!!!!!), cute motivational stickers, Smiley Face sticky notes… ON SALE!!!!!!!!
- Bonus Pro Tip: Don’t drink a glass of chocolate milk for breakfast, a 10 oz travel mug of coffee during your commute, and a 20 oz bottle of water during the first class time. Unless you come with a super-sized bladder, it’s disaster. Potty breaks are harder to find than that favourite green pen of yours.
- You’ll cry. Hopefully not too often, hopefully when you’re alone, and hopefully you’ll feel better afterwards. But you’ll cry. When a beloved student deliberately and repeatedly disobeys. When you pour all your heart out for a child, and know they go home to a horrid home situation. When parents side with their child’s twisted stories against you. When you are exhausted, drained, and at your wits end, and it’s only 12:06 am on Monday night.
- You’ll laugh. Oh, you’ll laugh. You can’t throw nineteen kids in a room for seven hours and not find something to laugh about. Sometimes you’ll laugh at their wild stories. Sometimes you’ll laugh at silly knock-knock jokes. Sometimes you’ll break into uncontrollable laughter during class time. (Yes, that recently happened to me during singing. Don’t ask.) Sometimes you’ll laugh… later. In the teacher’s lounge. At the supper table with your family. During the night. (Again, don’t ask.)
- You’ll feel like you’re a cop. Yes, we all had those visions of being surrounded by a group of adoring little children. And while you may have a few of those moments, it’s not the norm. Sorry, but it’s true. You’ll remind, discipline, and do everything in your power to motivate your kids to be good ‘citizens’ of your classroom. And yes, sometimes you’ll feel like you’re the bad cop of the show.
- You’ll learn. Yeah, yeah, you’re the teacher, but you’re also the learner. You’ll learn how to get along with a dozen different personalities. You’ll learn to love students in different ways. You’ll learn to leave your personal life issues at home and learn to put the needs of a dozen children above your wants. And you’ll also learn (or re-learn) other stuff. Who but an elementary teacher knows the five characteristics of reptiles? The dictionary definition of a linking verb? The number of Saturn’s moons?
- By becoming a teacher, you’re voluntarily stepping into the limelight. If you’re spotted at Wal-Mart by a student during the weekend, you’ll hear about it on Monday. If you cross each other at church or a social event, you’ll be smiled at, waved at, and hugged like some celebrity. It’s kind of cool.
- You’ll bond with other teachers. I once met a stranger, discovered she was a teacher, and we ended up talking for hours without getting bored. This one time, I sat next to a lady on a flight and after some small talk, we realized we were both teachers. Although I teach upper elementary in a Christian private school and she taught a college writing class in LA, we had lots to talk about. It’s a sort of global community.
- Little things will make your day. No, it’s not the paycheck that makes teaching the greatest job. It’s the little things. The happy dance of a student who just got his first 100% on a test. The bright “Good morning” accompanied with a hand-drawn card (on which your name is very, very misspelled). A sincere apology after you’ve disciplined a student. An encouraging note from a grateful parent.
- You’ll love. Yeah, I knew that I’d like my students, but I didn’t realize how they’d stay a part of me. In a way, they’ll always be ‘my kids’. You’ll pray for them, thank God for them, and love them with every ounce of you. You’ll root for their success in school and beyond. Their victories and achievements become your joy; their failures leave tears on your cheeks. As you watch ‘your kids’ grow up, you’ll see them becoming responsible, caring men and women… and you’ll smile.
No, teaching is not a glamorous, perfect profession. We get chalk dust on our clothes and pen marks on our hands. We mess up science experiments and lesson plans. We tie soggy shoelaces and clean up puke. We make mistakes. But at the end of the day, we’re teachers. And we’re glad we are.