If I had to explain what it feels like to be a teacher I would say it feels like getting punched in the mouth 94 times in a row and you know that it’s only going to happen 86 more times. The first few weeks you still think you can take it because you’ve got all this adrenaline and you were excited to get into the fight and show what you are made of. It never seems to ease up though.
After being punched 94 times you just start to feel numb. I think your brain must be a powerful thing if it can shut out how awful you truly feel without you having to tell it to. So eventually, you just feel numb and you wander around all dizzy and fuzzy and you try by gosh but ultimately you are left at the end of each day more fuzzy and dizzy than before.
I once compared it to trying to put out multiple fires with a Dixie cup but it goes further than that. Putting out fires can be accomplished. You see when one fire goes out. You can see the difference. With punches you never know what side it’s coming from and it leaves you aching and empty. Fuzzy and dizzy. There’s always another one coming and it doesn’t take much effort to throw a punch. Starting a fire takes time and materials. Throwing a punch takes neither.
It isn’t just sitting at desk, grading papers, and teaching lessons. It’s never sitting down, forgetting to eat lunch, grading papers, writing lessons, posting the lessons, having to justify teaching those lessons, making groups, rearranging those groups, looking at test scores and re-rearranging those groups, calling parents, meeting with parents, having to improvise, changing the lessons every evening before you leave and changing them again once you get to school in the morning, walking on eggshells, keeping track of 26 iPads, making sure every student turns in every paper even when you complete seven papers throughout the day (that’s 182 pages I have to sort through to make sure that one student turned one of them in), keeping track of how many times each student has used the restroom today. It’s coming in to school at 7:00, staying until 4:00, and going home to do work until you go to bed. It’s waking up at 2:43 every morning and panicking over lesson plans, data, testing, consequences, are you really doing what’s best, is what’s best for this one best for the group, are you going to have a job in five months because of budget cuts or student test scores, is one of your students going to injure another today, will the parent you emailed show up at school unannounced the next day and shout at you in front of your class, will they even care? What happens if it really is my fault that everything is going wrong? What should I be doing better? Who can I trust that will tell me the truth? Where did I go wrong today? What if the students don’t improve at all and I have wasted a year of thier education?
The terrible sad truth is that you can’t just stop thinking these things or doing too much work. You have no choice. What will happen to the kids if you stop? Clearly there are very few people fighting for this one. How can I give up on them too?