Teacher Stress

No Stress?It’s been a long time since I have written about my job.  Mostly because my once “anonymous” blog became more well-known.  However this topic needs to be explored tonight.  Many years ago I was an excited first-year teacher.  I went to a place that all teachers knew so that I could make die-cuts for my brand-new room.  I said hello to everyone in there and saw that several people signed in with the name of the school I was assigned.  I loudly said, ohhhh that’s my new school!  Who works there?  Not a single head came up.  Hmm. I thought.  Strange.  I guess they left.  As I was leaving the room, one man approached me and said he worked there and would see me at the start of school.  There were plenty of people still in that room who worked there I later found out.  Odd they didn’t speak.  What was their deal?

Fifteen years later, I guess I finally figured out what was wrong.  They work all day and have little to no time for a bathroom break.  If you happen to work in a school with no planning period, you get approximately 15 minutes in the morning to use for the bathroom, but since the time is so precious, you get busy working on setting up your room, answering e-mail, working out a bug in your lesson, or doing attendance and by the time you realize it, your class is back and you never left the room.  You stand on your feet, crouch, bend over or sit in lilliputian chairs.  You sing even when you have no voice, dance even when you don’t feel like it, and smile even if you just got bad news.  That fire that destroyed a home?  Yes, that was your student and now they have nothing left, so you organize a clothing drive.  That man who committed unspeakable acts?  Yes, he was the father to one of your students so you organize counseling.  The mom they found living in her car?  Yes, she still gets her baby to school even without a home, and you do everything in your power to help only to find out they decided to go to another school.

So, at the end of the day, when other people have come home from their jobs and left it all at work, these teachers might be worried about how their children are going to make it from day-to-day.  At Christmas, when they see the joy their children have in opening presents, they might be shedding a tear for that student who walked to school when he missed the bus.  When friends and family smile at them and tell them how great it is that they have a “break”, they might be worried about what their students will lose while no one is reading to them at home.  And if that one person dares to say “Well, at least you get the summers off”, they will try their hardest to act like that is the best gift in the world when in reality, they are always thinking about the year to come and if their six sick days will make it until the next year (they usually don’t).

Now I understand why the teacher’s lounge is so quiet when I go in there to heat up my lunch.  Why hardly anyone looks up when I say hello or acknowledges my presence during our 30, sometimes 20 minute, lunch break.  I know we are all tired and exhausted at this time of year.  This is the time we are most stressed, and I realize it, but we have to start lifting each other up.  We know the burdens we carry, and they are great, but so is our character.  Never underestimate the power of a good teacher.

“Teaching is not a lost art,
but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”
~Jacques Barzun

P.S.  If you are a parent reading this…your child really did that thing we said they did on the note, and we have witnesses.


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