Congratulations! You’ve decided to become a teacher, you’re muddling through your teacher training, you’re starting your first teaching role, or you’re a veteran taking on another term. Regardless, you’re climbing the mountain.
Teaching is a great profession, one that I have enjoyed and, God willing, will continue to enjoy for a long time. However, teaching is not an easy job. Let me say it again, teaching is NOT an easy job.
It bothers me to no end when my friends, and random people I meet, say something along the line of, “Oh, you’re a teacher? The long breaks must be nice!” This statement just underlines the prevailing idea that teaching must be an easier job than most. We get long breaks, must be nice, right?
Truth is, those “long breaks” are not really that long, and there not always breaks. In fact, I would dare say that if you take out the time I have to spend planning and preparing lessons during non-term time, the tutoring I provide because teaching doesn’t necessarily pay well, and any odd jobs that must be done to sort the classroom for the next academic term, then my time off is comparable to the average salaried employee.
Additionally, as a teacher, I don’t get a lot of time during the school week to plan, organize, or sort out random tasks presented to me. Remember, we’re in the classroom, teaching. This means our focus must be on our students, working to keep them engaged in the learning process, ensuring they’re understanding what it is they are expected to understand.
Why am I starting the first post of Way of the Teacher negatively? I don’t necessarily see what I’m saying as negative. I know what I signed up for, and I’m happy to do my part. In fact, I consider myself a very happy, fortunate person because I have a career I truly enjoy. I briefly mention the expectations of work as a teacher so that I can highlight the ultimate truth of teaching – It is hard, rewarding work, and only those dedicated mentally and emotionally will succeed.
Climbing the Mountain
Teaching can be akin to climbing a mountain. Your journey will be filled with moments of stress as you climb up the steep face, joy when you reach the top, and reflection as you go back down. Whether your starting new, or have been teaching for some time, the beginning of a new school year is exciting.
You have a new class, maybe a new curriculum, and if your lucky, some new, usable resources. You have been planning over the break, and now you’re ready to take on the mountain that is the academic year. You are at the base of the mountain.
As the year progresses, the amount of lesson planning, marking, meetings, and classroom prep becomes a great load to bare, and the stress mounts. This is climbing the mountain. You must have ways to get through the stress and strain because the top beckons, and once you’ve reached the end of the school year, the top has been reached.
You feel exhausted, but excited that you got there, that you helped your students succeed. We must not live for this moment, but live in each moment of the journey, otherwise you’ll fail to succeed. However, the feeling of finishing the year, giving all you could is exhilarating. This is the top of the mountain.
As the school year ends, you’ll take down your room’s resources and displays, sort student work into their appropriate storage areas, and reflect on what worked during the year, and what didn’t. This is climbing down the mountain, and reflection is paramount.
As the next academic year approaches, you’ll begin planning your journey up the next mountain, using what you reflected on from the last climb. Each year you’ll do this, never perfecting the art of teaching (mountain climbing), but always becoming wiser, and sharing this wisdom with others so they can be successful on their journeys.
This post is the first step in a process of helping you climb the mountain, whether you’re a teacher in training, new, veteran, or considering the teaching profession. It will be hard, and there will be naysayers, but remember that it’s up to you. You get from teaching what you put in. So, in a phrase, get after it!
Until next time!