Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why I Am A Teacher - Teacher Life

Being a teacher is hard. Really hard.

People think it's not difficult because teaching is easy because we don't make nearly as much as say, doctors and lawyers. We don't go to school as long. We don't work as many hours at our worksite.

But we have a hard job. We have to work with every individual student. We spend hours and hours shaping our lessons in order to shape our students. Then we spend even more hours assessing how well we're shaping our students. It's called grading. If you've never tried it, you can't possibly understand how hard it is.

Teaching is also, in a sense, expensive. I'm a college professor specifically and I make ZIP. I think the max I have ever made is about 30k a year. And my employment is not guaranteed. I can't count on my income.

I get offered new classes every semester from the two schools I work at. Sometimes I get offered two classes. Sometimes three. Sometimes only one. And I am paid per class per semester, which means the fewer classes I get, the less money I make.

I am NEVER guaranteed employment. EVER. And in fact, a lot of times, I'm NOT working. Summers especially are dry periods. I'm extremely lucky if I get to work over the summer. And in fact, this is the first summer I've ever been offered a class. It's the first time I will be doing MY CAREER JOB over the summer and I've been doing this for five years.

And I'm only paid for time in class. I am not paid for prep. I am not paid for grading. I am not paid for lesson planning. Very few teachers are. In fact, if you count all the hours outside of class that most teachers put into their classes, we barely make minimum wage. Not to mention the personal money we often put toward classroom supplies since the schools never have enough to cover everything.

My grading pile.
My specific subject is difficult to teach too. Because of things like Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and the myriad of Naked Emperor books that students are required to read in school, my students come to me HATING English.

I always ask my students on the first day of class if they hate English and usually a full 90% of my new students tell me they hate it. No one likes writing papers, no one likes reading, no one enjoys discussion or analysis.

So it's my job to make them enjoy it. It's why we do things like video games, Veggie Tales, Frozen, and Top Gear in class. English doesn't have to be boring, but schools often make it as such. I have to change that attitude in my students.

But despite all this, I am still a teacher. I shape people. I change them. I give them critical thinking skills and encouragement. I give them a desire to do something with their lives. I make a DIFFERENCE.

Teaching is extremely rewarding. It is, in my mind, the most rewarding job possible. Yes, if you're a doctor you save lives, and if you're a lawyer you can help people fight injustice, but you don't SHAPE people. Not the same way anyways.

Let me give you an example.

I teach at a community college. If you've ever been to a community college, you know that the students there are often students that couldn't get into university or they've been forced to go to school by their folks, or they just don't have confidence to go to a four year. Many of these people drop out and never get back in school. They tell themselves they can't do it and it becomes a self fulling prophesy. It's very sad.

My job is to encourage these students.

Image via
Yes of course I also teach them English. They learn proper grammar, spelling, and format. I teach them how to write a thesis, how to outline, what a topic sentence is, and how to make a proper conclusion.

But my main job is to tell them that YES they CAN get through school and they CAN do something wonderful with their lives. That's my JOB.

Another example. I also teach at a four year university. The students here have been pampered since gradeschool for college. They come already determined that they're going to make it.

And oftentimes they collapse under the pressure.

When I was in school, we took a minimum of 12 units a semester and rarely went over it. Students these days take 16 to 20 units a semester. That's five or six difficult college classes all at once.

But these are still kids. Someone once told me that the only difference between a high school senior and a college freshmen is a summer at the beach. But these kids are expected to be adults. They aren't given a break. And unlike in high school where teachers will often encourage and push their students to succeed, college teachers expect students to already be responsible. Students are independent, but they haven't always been taught independence.

My job is to teach that. I am not just a teacher, I am also a counselor. When something goes wrong in my student's lives, NOTHING is more important than helping them. When I have a student feeling discouraged, NOTHING is more important than encouraging them.

My students are my LIFE. Because I know I may be the only person that ever actually cares for them or their futures. This happens more times than I like to admit, but often times it's true.

And if I can say I've changed at least one person in my career, then I've done my job. Because being a teacher isn't about the money or the difficult grading, or the simple FACTS I teach my students. It's about shaping and changing the next generation to be ready to tackle anything that life throws at them.

In other words, I became a teacher to change the WORLD.

And that has made all the difference.

Have you ever had a teacher impact your life?

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