What it truly means to be a teacher
I haven’t posted in nearly 2 years. But after a few stressful weeks at work, I was inspired to write this when I got home today.
I read about teaching constantly in the news, and it doesn’t seem to reflect what I experience each day. It’s been increasingly frustrating to me. While it’s very difficult to express in words what a teacher’s day is like, I gave it an honest shot here (warning: there is a little bit of profanity).
What it truly means to be a teacher
12:45pm. I am teaching a 7th period class; we are focusing on the costs and benefits of British rule in India. The students are working on a t-chart on their own, referencing a textbook.
A girl in the front looks upset. Her eyes are glassy. She is finished the assignment far before the others because her reading level is on grade level while many of the students in the same class are still struggling at grammar-school reading levels (I teach 10th grade). She is drawing circles on her paper.
I know she was supposed to audition for the X-Factor, a TV show, yesterday; she had been excited about it for months. I heard through the grapevine that her dad wouldn’t let her go. I kneeled down. “Are you okay?”
Another student shouts from a few rows over: “Ms. D, I need you to show me my grade.” (Yesterday, as I tried to get him to start his work, he told me to shut the fuck up.)
I ignored him for a moment to see if he would notice I am mid-conversation with another student. She nods and says, “I’m fine” unconvincingly.
Again- “My grade Ms. D, I need to see my grade.”
“I’ll show you your grade after class- I’m trying to talk to another student right now.”
“I need to see it though,” he insists. “Is this good? Am I done?” He holds up his t-chart. I’m still kneeling in front of X-Factor girl as she absentmindedly traces the already-drawn circles on her paper.
“Ms. D,” another student shouts from across the room. “Can I stay after class and see my grade too?”
It’s been 1 minute.
1:01pm. We have 4 minutes in between classes and the bell has just rung to mark the end of 7th period. My 8th period class is honors-level and they are preparing for a debate. I need to move the desks from their standard position in rows to 2 large groups before too many students file in. I start in the back and manage to get 2 desks flipped around.
A girl runs in who should have been in my 7th period class but wasn’t. “I came to say bye, Ms. D. I’m not gonna be here anymore.” She’s standing by my desk at the front of the room.
“What?” I ask, not fully processing what she’s said.
“I’m not coming back,” she repeats.
I walk up to my desk. My 8th period has started to file in. “Guys, if you could group the desks into your 2 teams, please,” flitting my hand at them since I’ve been pulled aside.
“My foster mom kicked me out and I’m going to a homeless shelter,” the student continues. “I can’t go to this school from there.”
A student I advise in NHS comes in. “Ms. D, I need to see the papers I gave you earlier today- I think I stapled something to them that I wasn’t supposed to.”
I reach for the file of papers that I had put hers in earlier that day. “You can’t come to CHS still while you’re at the homeless shelter?” I’m flipping through the pages.
“No,” the homeless student says. “Ms. M says I can’t until I’m placed, then maybe I can get transportation.”
I hand the papers to the NHS student that she’s requested. “I need you to sign these- they’re from the donation drive,” she says. I put them on my desk and sign quickly, looking over them to make sure they are what she says they are.
I turn to the homeless student again, not sure even what to say. “Do you have paper? Will you keep in touch? Call me if you need anything? Please?” I write down my phone number for her.
NHS girl waves a paper in front of my face. “Do you need this to verify my hours?” I shake my head.
“Ms. D, I have a question!” calls a student from across the room. I walk over.
The bell rings for 8th period to begin. I turn around and the homeless girl has disappeared; I didn’t even get to truly say goodbye.
It’s been 4 minutes.
1:20pm. My honors students are in their teams, preparing for their debate. There was tension in this class yesterday; the teammates weren’t getting along well. One of my students approached me in the morning saying she felt as if her team was not taking her comments seriously.