Did your stress level just go up from reading those words? Because mine went up from typing them.
For the past six years, the start of the school year has meant my husband and children would go off to school while I worked from home. But this year is different. This year, I am also going to school.
I’ve had a bit of a career change recently. OK, a BIG career change. I decided to take my Theatre degree and become a full-time Middle School Theatre teacher. I taught Theatre classes in Chicago for a wonderful company for seven years, and I loved it. That part-time gig was one of the best experiences of my life. But that was only part-time. I need to be involved in the theatre world full time. Once you catch the theatre bug, it’s with you the rest of your life in one form or another. For me, that means turning my experience into a teaching career.
As I’ve started on this journey, I’ve come to realize that there are so many things about being a school teacher that I never knew before. Becoming a teacher myself has given me a MUCH higher appreciation for my own kids teachers.
My husband is a P.E. teacher, and I see how much work he puts into that each day. My college roommate (who is still one of my closest friends) is an elementary school teacher, and the amount of work/hours she puts into her job has always amazed me.
I’ve always known it was a lot of work, but until I started doing it myself, I didn’t realize just how much was involved. This school year is going prove to be a lot tougher than previous years due to the pandemic. That kind of goes without saying.
But, putting that aside, being a teacher is loads more work on it’s own than I ever realized…
Each school operates differently, and therefore, has it’s own set of rules and expectations of teachers. On top of crafting lesson plans for my classes that incorporate the SC state standards, I also have to make sure they are done in a specific way, in accordance with our school values. My school has a very specific model they like teachers to follow. It’s a wonderful model, but it means I have to be extremely intentional about the way I create my lesson plans.
Speaking of creating lesson plans … I knew that teachers have to adjust plans for students who might have an IEP or a 504 Plan. Heck, my own kid has a 504 plan, so I can understand that. But what I’ve never thought about is how one teacher can have multiple students in one class period, needing multiple accommodations.
I looked at my IEP and 504 plan lists last week and almost had a break down. This is my first year of teaching (teaching during a pandemic, mind you), and I not only have to figure out what the heck I’m doing in general, but I then have to figure out how to make specific alterations to my lessons for multiple students in one class period. And each of those students has their own specific accommodations. But as their teacher, it’s my job to ensure that ALL of my students are being taught in a way they can understand the material. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. But it won’t be easy.
You know that phrase that goes, “One step forward, two steps back?” Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever said that first must have been a teacher. Over the past two weeks, every time I felt like I was finally getting a jump on things, something else was thrown my way. I felt so overwhelmed at one point that I just sat in front of my computer and thought, “I have so much to do but I don’t even know where to begin.” I may or may not have also had a good cry at that point. According to my husband and college roommate, this is just the beginning, and very typical of teacher life.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, there is also creating lessons, quizzes, tests, and worksheets. Then there’s all the grading that has to be done. Not to mention faculty meetings, parent-teacher conferences, before and after school duty (arrival/dismissal), dealing with classroom management and discipline problems…
There is SO MUCH that a teacher does every day.
And, here’s the thing, many teachers are also called upon to not only teach, but to be a source of comfort and safety for their students. Teachers become the support system and positive influence in the lives of so many students who, unfortunately, don’t have that at home. And I think that is going to be very evident this year especially, when students will look to their teachers for extra support and stability, in a world that feels so out of control and unstable right now. That’s a lot of pressure and expectation sitting on a teachers shoulders.
Add a pandemic to all of the above, and you’re going to get a teacher who could quite easily find themselves feeling stressed and overworked. The pandemic means teachers have to figure out how to give their students the best experience possible over a computer. There are districts, like mine, who have gone to a hybrid model. Those teachers need to not only structure lessons for in-person learning, but also for online learning as well. As someone currently in that boat, I can tell you that it feels like I’m doing the work of two people, not just one. And, I’m only teaching one subject. I can’t imagine what it’s like for elementary teachers who teach multiple subjects a day.
I say all of this in hopes that by reading these words, you will understand a little bit more why teachers are so important. I want you to understand just how much your children’s teachers do to ensure their students receive the best education possible, even in the most difficult circumstances. And when teacher appreciation time rolls around, I hope you will show them just how much their efforts mean to you and your children. Even just a note of thanks will do wonders.
But don’t wait until one specific week of the year to show your child’s teacher how important they are. Teachers all over the country right now are starting school in the most unusual circumstances. We feel overwhelmed, confused, nervous, scared, and so much more. Send your kids teachers a note even at the start of the year to let them know you’re thinking of them and you support them. I promise you, it will make a world of difference.