Recently, as I walked out of a staff meeting regarding student behavior and mental health warning signs we should look for in students, a fellow teacher said one of the truest statements I have ever heard: “Where is our support?”
We have spent hours and thousands of dollars supporting our students in the school system, but who is supporting teachers?
Teachers have endured unheard of situations over the last few years. Most recently, a teacher was shot by a six-year-old after she had warned her administration THREE times he had a gun and no one took action. We have teachers who have to keep children calm during bomb and gun threats, and once the threat is resolved, they are expected to continue teaching as if nothing happened. Keeping children safe has become harder than ever.
I truly don’t think the general public understands the responsibility of a teacher in 2023.
During every class change, I smile and greet every student who walks into the classroom, knowing that my smile may be the only smile they receive all day. I make sure to hand out snacks to any hungry child (snacks I have purchased with my own money). I often serve as a therapist when a student needs to vent. After every class change, I clean up wrappers, pencils, paper shreds or supplies left behind by the students. During class, I have to monitor any blocked site a student has found on their school-issued computer. I have to constantly remind students to stop making Tik Toks and Snapchats during class. I have over 100 students to monitor who are on a “high-risk” suicide list (and that’s only the students who we have been made aware of). As teachers, we adjust our lessons to accommodate students with learning disabilities. When we don’t have enough subs, we are asked to cover each other’s classes. We constantly monitor every single nook and cranny of the school, looking for vandalism, vaping, and PDA. We keep up with students’ preferred names and pronouns in a classroom of 35 students (x3 classes a day in high school).
At the end of the day, we are beyond exhausted.
Teaching is my passion and I know I don’t have to be a teacher. Someone has to though. A few teachers and I have purchased shoes, backpacks, dinners, washed clothes, cut hair, etc. for children in need. I truly do love my job. I can admit though, that the hardest part about teaching is the acting. So many teachers I know have chronically ill children, family deaths, substance abuse issues with a spouse, discipline issues with their own children, are going through a divorce, or are facing their own health issues, yet we have to be at school every single day with a smile on our faces because we aren’t allowed to put our head down on the desk or call in. If you ask any teacher, they will tell you that it’s more work to prepare for a sub than it is to be at school.
Next time you talk to your student’s teacher or any teacher, give them grace. We are surviving on caffeine and at the end of the day, we are all humans.