Teaching is a topic near and dear to my heart because I am one. My experience has ranged from that of a third grade teacher, to a sub, to a multi-grade teacher, and, now, a teacher pursuing my master's in special education. As a writer, I've always wanted to write a book about how amazing teachers are. I plan on calling it, Why Teachers Deserve Professional Sports Players' Salaries. (Just so you understand this is going to be THAT kind of a post, a get up on my soapbox kind of post, but I'm confident you can handle it. Besides, I have some pretty important things to say.)
Lately, I've been thinking about people who have careers, gifts, and abilities way beyond my own. From computer programmers, to engineers, to NASA scientists, I stand in awe of people with that kind of wiring in their brains. Or how about people who operate heavy machinery, or know how to pave a road, or design and build a structure. Yes, there are a lot of jobs out there that leave me feeling grateful for how uniquely gifted we all are.
It's funny though how I often play off and diminish my own skills when it comes to teaching. I mean teaching is that degree for those who can't get a real job, right? (Believe it or not I've actually heard that comment before.) I know I have skills and abilities as a teacher but for the life of me I can't figure out why they're all that important. Until now, that is.
It takes a special well-informed, well trained, and enthusiastic person to be a teacher, and that's only describing the abilities necessary to design effective lesson plans. There are so many other skills a teacher needs.
How about patience, understanding, and a reassuring manner--someone who loves children deeply and is committed to helping them grow and flourish. No big deal there, right? Anyone who's a parent practices these skills on a daily basis, too. That may be true, but most families have two to four kiddos not eighteen, or twenty-six, or even thirty-five. Imagine your worst moment as a parent when you've completely lost control. When you're red-faced shouting at your kiddo and they're blubbering back at you. Teachers don't have the luxury of losing their cool like that. Think about how difficult it is to hold it together when your child asks, "Are we there yet?" or "Why do I have to eat this?" a dozen or more times. Think about moments when siblings are shouting at each other in the back of the car. Times like that require lots of patience, right? Now, magnify that patience times twenty or so and you get the idea of how it takes a saint to remain that calm for seven hours a day, five days a week.
As a substitute teacher this year I've been in a lot of different teachers' classrooms, and not a single one has failed to prepare lesson plans, lay out materials for the day, and leave a nice note filling me in on the details of the day. Many of those teachers are making plans Sunday night, because one of their kiddos is sick, or worse Monday mornings because they are sick themselves. (It is the worst thing in the world to write out plans when you're sicker than a dog.) But almost every teacher does it for their substitutes. Why? Because they care. They care about helping their substitute make it through the day. They care about their students and want to give them the least disruptive day possible.
At the beginning of this post I remarked on how amazed I am over so many talented people doing work I could never do. Those people are doing important things, building homes, creating infrastructure, programming computers, attending to the sick. Teachers aren't doing any of these things. Except, they are preparing future scientists, NASA astronauts, architects, builders, artists, nurses, doctors and so many more to do their jobs and to do them well. They're the ones teaching these students the value of commitment, hard work, perseverance, honesty, and integrity. Teachers are just as dedicated, committed, intelligent, and hard working as any other professionals. So let's treat them and esteem them like the professional they are. And if I ever write that book, Why Teachers Deserve Professional Sports Players' Salaries, here's hoping it will catch fire and teachers will start getting the salaries they truly deserve.