Today I was returning an article of clothing to the store. I had purchased the piece in late August, right before school started. I apologized for the lateness and explained that I am a teacher and mom of four and… and I was cut off. She looked at me with all seriousness and intensity and said, “Don’t even get me started… I guess it’s hard getting back after getting the whole summer off…and still every weekend and holiday?” I was looking at a tired working mom, away from her kids during the evening, with her own list of complaints about her job. The jealousy was thick in her voice, and I chose to restrain myself from informing her that teachers really work so much more than our allotted school hours. I reflected on her words while driving home, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew she was right. God knows I work hard, way more than I’m paid for, but there are some incredible perks in teaching that I often take for granted! I’m sure you have heard some complaints, too, maybe in the teachers room- complaints about our workload, whining about our schedules, stares of sheer and utter exhaustion at the driving pace of the curriculum. And it’s real- all of it!
In my 17 years of being an educator, I have seen many changes and can attest to the fact that it is hard to teach, and it is only getting harder. I hear teachers becoming more cynical, tired, and even angry. I hear myself talking about the “good ole days of teaching”- although, I don’t know how I got old enough to be able to say that! We are forgetting the reason WHY we went into teaching, and forgetting the reason WHY we come in every day. We are already approaching some much needed breaks, offering some time away from the constant needs of our classroom and students. It’s the time of the year when we pause to reflect on all that we are thankful for. It is true that we as teachers have been seeing harder times, and I get it- I live it. But let’s take some time to remember and be thankful for all of the great things about our job. I LOVE my job- I do. I do not work a mundane and tedious vocation. My days are filled with excitement and changing daily events- changes that I plan and create! That’s right; I might have to be here Monday-Friday, but I get to decide the ins and outs of my day. I come in every day, close my classroom door, and I make it happen just the way I envisioned (great for “A “ type, controlling teacher personalities!). I always get the weekends off, always get my holidays, and this hardworking mom, is as good as a stay at home mom to my kids, because we have matching schedules! This is such a gift, and one to remember and be thankful for. I have heard from working moms in particular, how lucky I am to not have to worry about working holidays or weekend days, and they are so right!
Teaching is not about checking boxes (most of the time, although I have checked many boxes in my days!). We have jobs that are helping to raise a future generation. Child by child, lesson by lesson, one smile and explanation at a time. Our jobs matter- I mean really matter! We touch lives that will touch other lives, and ripple out to their successors. We wear so many hats, and are expected to be so much more than teachers- but I am so thankful for a job that gives me purpose, and honored to be given the opportunity to affect the future. It really is amazing, and it is so much more than summers and weekends off.
Amongst all the chatter of poor grades, difficult parents, and never-ending paperwork, take some time this holiday season to remember why you went into teaching, to read those amazing “payday” notes that we get from students that are sincerely touched by who we are to them. We are constantly reminding our students to be say thank you… but when’s the last time you mentally or verbally appreciated the career that you chose? It’s time to think thankful thoughts, time to say it out loud, remember it, and own it. I am thankful to be a teacher!
Jessica Cicalese Kurtz is a veteran middle school engineering and science teacher at Toms River Schools. She has experience as a curriculum developer, teacher trainer, and is a regular contributing writer of NJ-teachers.com.