Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: Being a SAHM v. Being a Teacher, part 1

This review is a two-parter. I taught high school for 8 years, 5 of them while being a mother. I really think I have experienced two of the hardest jobs that has ever existed. Because both jobs are such an important part of who I am, and because both jobs should receive their own review, I'm going to split this into two sections. Both of them I will focus on the job itself, comment on how it has affected my relationships, and comment on my role as mother during both jobs.

Since it came first, today's review is going to be about teaching. 

When I was a child, one of my favorite games to play with some of the neighborhood kids was playing school. I actually prepared my "lessons" before we came, had "worksheets" for my friends to do, and then gave homework, quizzes and/or tests. I wonder, now, why my friends wanted to play with me. :) But we played over and over again. I grew up wanting to be a zoologist. I wanted to study animal behavior in Africa. Little did I know that the career I finally chose to do was not that far from that. When I decided to become a teacher, it hit me how all but two of my jobs were always jobs that involved children. Even working at Frankie's Fun Park, I spent a lot of time with the kids who were there to have fun.

My senior year in high school I took one of the best classes the school had to offer, and it changed my life. Teacher Cadets brought the teacher out in me. I chose to go to college to major in English (although my grades were always better in math), and specialize in Secondary Education. If you have ever talked to a high school (or even middle school) teacher, she would tell you it was the same thing as double majoring. I always had such incredible English teachers. I loved how the story came to life, and how what someone wrote so long ago can still apply to me today. Because I had such a love and passion for literature, I wanted to inspire others to see the joy in it as well.

The job:
So many people say it, but I don't really know how many people believe it, but TEACHING IS THE HARDEST JOB. I have taught at three different high schools, and all of them were very different. The first school I taught at was very scary. My first day of teaching EVER, I was physically accosted by a student a foot taller and two feet wider than I. I was afraid to crank up my car every day, afraid of what might happen. One student became so obsessed with me, she broke into my house, stole pictures of me, sent me lewd pictures of herself, and "gifts" to my house. But in my classroom, I LOVED teaching. I met some incredible students who were (and still are) my bright spots in a situation that was otherwise scary. By the end of the year, I was offered cigarettes (an honor, if you knew the kid who offered) and that big kid did work for only me! I must have done something right. :)

The second school I taught at was a little country school (just like the first, but different...clientele). I was immediately placed in classes that I had never taught. I had one class of freshmen repeaters (and three-peaters, and four-peaters), one class of public speaking of 39 students, one class of science fiction, and one drama class of 44 students, which I had to move to the cafetorium (and some other classes changed DURING and THROUGH my class). It was a busy, busy year, but I really developed as a teacher. I learned the value of parent involvement, and developed some great friendships with other teachers. I hated leaving that place, but we were moving back home!

The third school I taught at is one of the largest in the state. The senior class was the size of the entire school of the last two schools. I came in to a situation half way through the year where I was the 4th teacher my students had had that year. Needless to say, they were tired of new teachers, and they weren't very welcoming to me. By that time, though, I knew that no matter how long I had been teaching, or what my credentials were, a teacher starts at the bottom with the faculty, staff, parents, and students the first year any where. I had to be tested...and I was. Again, I developed friendships with other teachers that, to this day, I still hang out with on occasion. I matured as a teacher and as a woman. I ended up having my best year AND worst year teaching at this school. But that goes with the territory.

A teacher has many, many, many, many roles. First, I was a teacher, an English teacher, and I taught high school. I held the graduation ticket for hundreds and hundreds of students (as I was reminded by administration, guidance counselors, and parents every year). I took my teaching very seriously. I always told my students that if they went to college, I wanted them to go full of knowledge and be able to give their success credit to what they learned in my classroom. My name would forever be attached to their future education, and I didn't want to be blamed for not teaching them. So I did. I taught them to the best of my ability, every day. As any teacher can tell you, we do NOT get weekends off; we do NOT get evenings off; we do NOT get holidays off; we do NOT get a Christmas and summer break. We work. I cannot tell you how many times I carried stacks and stacks and stacks of papers with me wherever I went just so I could get the job done in a reasonable time. My job was ALWAYS on call.

Other jobs: parent, guidance counselor, actor, job trainer/advisor, police officer, disciplinarian, chaperone, nurse, banker, game show host, technical guide, STUDENT, facilitator, modesty coach, role model, cheerleader, organizer, and I'm sure other teachers can chime in to other jobs I missed. Even though I no longer teach, I still play some of those roles to my former students to this day. When I signed up to teach, it was so much more than I expected...and I loved it...and some days, I miss it.

How it affected my relationships:
Teaching affected all of my relationships. Some days it brought me closer to God; others, I can honestly say I put God on the back burner so I could focus on my earthly job. It affected my relationship with my husband. I would come home and vent to my husband, who then wanted to march right up to that school and stand up for me...which, of course, I would not let him. My house was always a mess, and if I wasn't talking about school, then I was just flat out exhausted. Which also affected my relationship with my children. Because I was ALWAYS working, and I was always exhausted, I spent very little time watching my little ones grow, and I brought my frustrations with work on to my kids. And I regret that.

Before I became a mother, I wanted to work as a teacher. I wanted kids, but I wanted to teach as well. I LOVED it! But when I had kids, I was torn between my OWN kids, and the 150+ of other kids I taught every year. I know that sounds weird, but I am a very loyal and dedicated worker. Because we couldn't afford for me to stay at home, I was trying to do the best I could at both jobs. Sometimes, though, my teaching job took precedence. I dreaded when my children got sick, not necessarily because my babies were sick, but because (and PLEASE READ THIS PART CAREFULLY) when a teacher is absent, it is three times as much work as it is to just go in (whether I am sick or not). Taking one day off puts an entire class, easily, 2 days behind, no matter how good a sub is. So I was a decently good teacher (some will say better, some will say worse), and an okay mother. It was the hardest five years of my life.

Overall review:
Teaching is incredible! Despite all the "horrors" and hardships that can come with teaching, there is nothing like seeing a student suddenly get it. Developing relationships with students can be so rewarding. I love, love, love my students (even the one who accosted me on that first day...he turned out to be just misunderstood). I love, love, LOVED teaching. I loved getting into the characters, do the research, GRAMMAR, the endless creativity my students continuously astounded me with.

BUT if someone puts her work before her family, then something is wrong. As much as I loved teaching, I loved my family so much more. So, if you can make both work, GREAT! I know so many people who do! I know God put me with those students in those classrooms in those schools for specific reasons. But I also know that my time of teaching is over for now. I may or may not go back. But I know that I was blessed in so many ways while I was there.

Here's an example of why I loved teaching so much. This is a video by a student (a minority who spoke very little English...in my classroom). This was his interpretation of the Monster in Frankenstein. Every time I watch it, the work brings tears to my eyes and chills all over! (NOTE: IT WON'T ME UPLOAD IT RIGHT NOW. AS SOON AS IT DOES, YOU WILL SEE HOW INCREDIBLE THIS VIDEO IS AND WHY I LOVED TEACHING) 

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