In the beginning, I struggled a lot with teaching (for the reasons that I will elaborate below). Now that I have been focusing way more on my job and responsibilities, I find that I have been enjoying it more. Now I haven’t been teaching for that long (I just passed my four month mark), but I want to share a few challenges that people probably don’t think about when they consider a teaching career….
1. Illnesses. Constant illness.
I have literally been sick since the first day that I started teaching. Little kids don’t always cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and they are very good at sharing…germs. I have fourteen 3 and 4 year olds, plus 2 other teachers in the classroom with me. Usually if somebody is sick, everybody catches it, but unfortunately I can’t stay home from school every time I have a sniffle. I end up at school, boiling water in my boss’ office, gulping down abnormal amounts of tea trying to keep my body functional.
2. The Kids.
They are not YOUR kids, and you can’t necessary problem-solve with them the way that you would with your own children. You have to be a role model, constantly, even when lecturing them and setting limits with them. Sometimes they don’t pay attention, or they have tantrums out of nowhere, sometimes they have emotional/psychological conditions, sometimes they have learning disabilities, you have to be prepared for anything. And at the end of the day, you are responsible for their pass/fail. Good luck.
3. The Parents.
They are a bigger challenge than the children, in most cases. I know that children don’t come with a manual of any kind, but I feel that there are some basics that we should all know, a few being: know how to set limits, how to pack a couple different lunches a week (not the same for a year), how to take pacifiers away from children after the age of two, how to bathe children and brush their teeth, and most importantly how to support your child while they are on their educational journey. Don’t refuse to help your child do home projects because you aren’t “good with numbers” (0-10), especially if they are behind. Don’t let your child walk all over you, they are a child, not a bengal tiger. Don’t send them to school in dirty clothes, unbathed, with unwashed faces and unbrushed teeth. This makes even the kindest teacher crazy.
4. The Schedule.
Training. Class. Afterschool programs. Weekend and evening events. “Homework.” The time commitment that you make when you decide to be a teacher is enormous, and it never stops. In Mexico, all schools–private and public–are required to have Professional Development days at the end of each month. Also, depending on your training, you might be at school until 7 o’clock in the evening, after a day of teaching. And sometimes, because you make an effort to plan great things for your students, you take home work with you. You also take home the frustration, anger, stress and anxiety from teaching.
5. The Work.
You plan, you execute, you revise your plan. As a teacher you are constantly planning for your lessons, your meetings with parents, your units that you are covering. Plan plan plan. But, plan for your more advanced students, plan for your not-so-advanced students. Plan extra activities for students that need extra help. Oh, and if someone is sick, you might need to cover for them (which is what happened today). I may teach preschool, but today I covered for a kindergarten class. Crazy. Sometimes you explain things 4 or 5 times, and the eyes still stare at you blankly. Sometimes if you speak to your students in English, they ignore you and hold out for you to translate into Spanish.
6. The Fellow Teachers.
You love them, you understand them, and they still make you crazy. Enough said.
7. Your Pay.
It is modest, and not commensurate to the amount of work you do each day, or to the amount of thought you put into your work, nor the amount of concern that you feel for the children under your care.
In the end, you don’t teach for money, for the vacation schedule, for the discounts in school. You suffer, you work hard everyday, you deal with the unexpected all the time. You teach because you care about the children, because you love children, and because you want to help raise people that will make the world a better place.