This past week I started volunteering in Number 5’s first grade classroom twice a week.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I help out with reading for 30 minutes.
The last time I helped out in any of the kids’ classes was when Number 4 was in kindergarten and Number 3 was in first grade.
So it’s been four years since I’ve spent any appreciable amount of time in an elementary school classroom.
I used to be a teacher. I started out in Allentown, Pennsylvania as an aide in a 6th grade classroom that had about thirty students in it.
The next year, I was the full time aide to an autistic fourth grader.
And then for the next three years, I taught sixth grade in a self-contained sixth grade classroom in a K-6 elementary school.
Then I moved back up to Connecticut where I taught fourth grade in Wilton for six years until I got married and had kids.
I loved being a teacher.
But I didn’t love the increasing pressure put onto teachers to teach to the test.
I didn’t love the fact that the ability to be flexible was slowly being robbed from teachers.
And I really didn’t love the fact that parents are holding their children accountable less and less, and that they are taking their children’s word over that of the teachers more often than not.
So when I had the opportunity to quit teaching, I RAN.
And I will never go back.
I don’t miss all that administrative and bureaucratic bullshit. I don’t miss feeling pressured to cave to the demands of parents. And I don’t miss being incredibly undervalued and underappreciated.
But I do miss working with the kids, and until this past week, I didn’t realize just how much.
It has been really nice to get back into the classroom just for a little bit. To sit down on the floor next to a kid. To help out and work with children without having to deal with all that other crap that made me hate teaching.
And do you know what is cuter than a classroom full of first graders?
Well, except for maybe a classroom full of kindergarteners. So I am really grateful for the opportunity to be able to help out.
And, I do have a point here…
My point is that I don’t think anyone has any idea what teachers do all day. And when I say all day, I mean all day. And sometimes even all night.
Like you know how you are a stay at home mom and people say to you, What do you do all day? or How hard can it be? Or Stay at home moms have it so easy! or whatever other stupid shit people say about stay at home moms?
And you want to strangle them or punch them in the face or the nuts because they have no fucking idea how hard you work and how much time you spend worrying about other people and thinking of ways to make every single person in your house happy and comfortable even to your own detriment?
That’s pretty much what an elementary school teacher feels like.
Except they aren’t doing that for their own kids.
They are doing it for twenty or twenty-five other families’ kids.
Elementary school teachers teach because they love kids. And they love teaching. They want to make a difference. They spend all day being patient with the same kids who you might have wanted to lock in a closet that morning.
They are constantly thinking of ways to help your kids. They are thinking of ways to help them succeed and keep them engaged and active and excited and enthusiastic.
When they are in the shower and driving to school and on their lunch break and driving home and making dinner, and lying in bed, your kids’ teachers are thinking about your sons and daughters.
There really isn’t enough money in the world to compensate them for what they do for your children.
Which is okay. Because your kid’s teacher definitely didn’t go into this profession for the money.
So maybe the next time you see your child’s teacher you just let him or her know how much you appreciate how fucking hard he or she works every day. (Except maybe you shouldn’t say fucking.)
Better yet, don’t wait until the next time you see them. Take a minute tomorrow to write a little note to your son or daughter’s teacher. Or even an email. Don’t wait until Teacher Appreciation Day in May.
Do it now.
Trust me. Your kid’s teacher will appreciate it.
And he or she definitely deserves it.