I was informed on the last day of school that my services would be better utilized teaching ACT Prep classes and overseeing distance learning students working on the computer. This certainly led to many questions, including, “How do I pack up 13 years worth of stuff to move to a new classroom in 2 hours?” (good efficient friends), “Who am I if I’m not a math teacher?” (To be determined but at least I have been promised 1 semester of a problem solving elective so I can still claim some mathiness), “Will I still be welcomed at TMC?” (yes), and “Seriously, why am I keeping handwritten worksheets from 10 years ago?” (because after the apocalypse I can’t boil all my own water and make new notes about factoring), and the biggest question:
Why do I put up with all of it?
Why do I continue to work in an environment that undervalues its employees? Why do I put up with all the politics and in-crowds? Why do I still want to do a good job even if this is the reward I get?
The flippant answer I give most people as to why I teach is “summers off,” which I think we can all agree is a very nice perk. Plus I get to buy and use school supplies every year. Flair pens! Notebooks that I get to decorate! Posters!!
An answer that may seem silly is I like feeling smart. I still get a little thrill when I work through a long homework problem and get the right answer. I love digging into a new topic and figuring out the best way to teach it. That “a-ha!” moment when a student asks a question or shares an insight that suddenly makes everything click into place? A treasure. When another teacher asks me for my advice on a topic and we work through it together, or when someone tweets me for suggestions or tells they used my worksheets, it makes me so happy inside.
Also, I like creating things. I can get into a zone of designing a lesson or a NoteTakerMaker and all of a sudden two hours have passed. Yes, when it’s Sunday night at 8 and I still have to make homework for tomorrow, I sometimes wish I had someone to share the load. But I like going into class and offering up something that I made to the students.
One of the biggest reasons is I like teaching and I’m good at it. I love being dramatic about holy cow, isn’t math awesome? I love guiding groups to discovering knowledge on their own. I love study guide days when students are sharing knowledge with each other. When we make Desmos art and everyone wants to show me what they created, it warms my heart. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, I make mistakes. But on the whole, based on the opinions of students, colleagues, and supervisors, I’m pretty damn good at what I do.
But the biggest reason, the reason I put on a happy face for first period after I stress-cried all morning, the reason I stay up past my bedtime trying to perfect the next day, the reason I put up with every single obstacle they create is this:
Even with all of the above comments, I kept questioning, maybe the powers that be see something I don’t and teaching math isn’t what I should be doing? Then yesterday I checked out at the grocery store and a senior who just graduated that I had taught as a junior was my cashier. She started off by asking for my ID so already she’s on my good side. Then there was this exchange:
S: You excited about summer?
Me: Yes, but I bet you’re really excited.
S: Yes, but it will be weird not going back next year.
Me: Where are you going?
S: <college name>
Me: What are you majoring in?
Me: What? That’s awesome. I bet it was because of your Algebra II teacher, right?
S: Yes it was!
Me: Ok, you don’t really have to say that. I was just joking.
S: No! Really! It was because of you!
Me: What are you planning to do with your major?
S: Be a teacher! Like you!
Me: DAMN THESE SUDDEN ALLERGIES.
S: No, really, yours was my favorite! I mean, I liked my senior teacher, but I want to have a class just like yours with everyone in groups and learning. (She may have said more but I was now focused on keeping it together in the middle of the grocery store.)
Me: I’d come around and hug you if I didn’t think it would be frowned upon.
S: I think it might be.
Mr Craig: I don’t think you know how much she needed to hear that today!
That is why I put up with all of it. That is why I will continue to work at being the best teacher I can be no matter the outside circumstances. That is how I can sleep at night knowing that this is my calling.