Today, May 15, is Teacher’s Day, which is of special interest to me as a teacher. It is compelling for reasons such as:
- I never experienced so much teacher appreciation as I have since I moved to Mexico.
- I have the day off, and what can be more interesting than that, really?
I am glad that Mexico finds it necessary to appreciate the work we do with her youngest citizens, because, I will tell you honestly, teachers sometimes don’t feel we are as valued as maybe we ought to be. It can be truly challenging to consider yourself appreciated when people are putting their feet on top of your new Kirkland Signature pants because they want their shoes tied and they don’t feel like asking just now.
It’s hard to know if people really see what you do as important when they are throwing up on you, or using your shirt as a tissue, or asking you what they should do when you just said it at least three times. It’s difficult to feel appreciated when the people with whom you spend your time tell you they want to go home, or lie down in the middle of the most exciting part of the story, or leave their half eaten grapes on the floor so you can take an exciting ride across the tile when you least expect it.
But, oddly enough, I don’t really spend a lot of time considering it, I truly don’t. Being a teacher means that you do not have the time or the energy to spend on a lot of deep philosophical questions such as “does anyone even care” because you are too busy eating your lunch with one hand while the other is making photocopies, or handing out real Kleenex, or wiping up grape juice.
More importantly, you are occupied with re-planning tomorrow’s lesson because your students aren’t interested in wild animals, they want to know why their pets die. They spent an hour today telling their various tragic stories about dogs being run over, or dying of cancer, or being taken to the vet and not coming home. So that unit on animal classification is just going to have to wait, because those tender hearts are the priority in your classroom.
You are busy wondering why your little student has changed from that happy-go-lucky kid who was always excited to play Alphabet Memory to the withdrawn, sad little person who wants to be alone all the time. You can’t quite fall asleep as easily as you usually do because you are mentally listing all the ways you can draw her out of her shell.
Your time is far too taken up by every child in your classroom to wonder if anyone notices the hours you put in on their learning, on their behavior, on their happiness. And it’s ok, because if you can’t get job satisfaction as a teacher just by doing the actual job, then you probably should change careers. Because if you really do need a lot of continuous back-patting, this job will stop being fun after your first circle time when the first five children ask to go to the bathroom.
And you will discover in random, sudden moments that your students really do notice. It’s in the tight hugs around your legs and you have to grab a chair so you don’t fall on them. It’s in the anonymous “i LoF U MiS” written in a crooked heart on your white board. It’s in the excited, shining eyes that catch yours when they sound out their very first word.
I’m not going to lie. Having a day where my career choice is celebrated is pretty nice. It kind of makes up for being a human Kleenex on the other days of the year. But having a job where I get to make a difference, that’s even better.