Appreciate a teacher this week

As my fourth year of teaching full time trots toward its close, I find that I’m still adjusting to being a teacher – though I’m not adjusting to teaching. I have a petty good handle on that, and although I’m sure my practice will evolve over the years, I’m confident in saying that I have that down.

Teaching? Sure. Being a teacher? Ehhh….

When I worked in the private sector, conversations about my job were brief:

People: “What do you do for a living?”

Me: “Oh, I work in orthopedics. You know, knee braces and stuff.”

People: “Cool.”

Or not cool. Possibly something completely unrelated to my response as the topic of conversation was changed. In general, people didn’t really have a lot to say about my job back then

But it’s different now.

            People: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “Oh, I teach high school.”

            People: “What subject?”
Me: “French and English, mostly.”

People: “French is useless / I hate French / My English teacher was a bitch / Oh wow, I could never do that / Why? / You know what you need to be teaching in schools these days… ”

Amongst other responses.

And that’s the thing. There’s always a response. People always have something to say about my job.

But few of them actually know what my job is. Hell, I didn’t know what I was getting into until I had my first full-time contract.

I get it to a certain extent. Everyone has some experience with education. Whether positive or negative, we’ve all had interactions with teachers, so of course everyone knows something about teaching. But knowing something of teaching through observing it as a student – or as a parent – is very different from knowing what it means to actually teach.

So, I’m struggling to adjust to being a teacher. Because part of that title means that many people think they know what my job entails…when they’ve never actually done it. It’s something that I haven’t encountered in any other industry, and I find it disconcerting – and often insulting – considering this is by far the most complex and multi-faceted job I’ve ever had.

But I’m not going to sit here and try to explain the intricacies of what I do. I’ve done that to a certain extent in the past, and although I’m sure I’ll do it again one day, I have just one goal with this post.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and I have a request. If you appreciate teachers, please show us your appreciation by not assuming that you know what we do every day.

Ask us questions. Confirm your assumptions. Question how things have changed since you were in school. Get us to outline a typical day for you. Show that you respect us by finding out exactly what it is that we do.

Because after nearly four years, I can handle things in the classroom. It’s the commentary and assumptions that happen outside of it that I haven’t mastered.