For the past several years, I have been working at a K-8 school. I am neither a teacher nor an administrator, rather, I am the one who walks around capturing little magical moments (of which there are many) and sharing them in articles and on social media.
Because I am at school a lot, the kids all know me as Julie: the lady who is always taking pictures. I am in tune to the kids insofar as knowing who is camera shy, who will jump in front of the camera whenever humanly possible, who is photogenic and who is having none of it. The kids don’t necessarily know that I post the pics up on our Instagram and Facebook accounts with a pithy description of any given magical moment (again, there are many), but their parents do. And they kinda dig it. Who doesn’t love seeing their kids being totes cute? It is one of the joys of parenting: knowing your kids are doing just fine in your absence.
As a parent, I have had at least one child in school every year since 1999. I have one who is done, and three more who are active students.
I have been to umpteen conferences, back-to-school nights, school committee meetings, and assemblies, both as a parent and a school employee. Some I even paid attention. Some I even enjoyed.
Over the years, I got to know many teachers. Not to brag, but I was pretty much universally loved by them, mostly because I refused to come from a place of “not my kid”, rather, I assumed it was my kid. And it usually was.
I am still in touch with many of them, because, well, they not only put up with my kids, but returned them back to me in an improved form. And for that I am grateful.
I naively thought I had a pretty good grip on what it might be like to be a teacher.
And then I took on a new role: proctoring middle schoolers while their amazing teacher valiantly teaches from home via Zoom.
Remember when I said I had a good grip…yeah, that was a lie.
Folks: Now is the time to bow down, cherish, adore, and heap gifts upon every single teacher you know. And even the ones you don’t. I don’t care if they never taught you or your kid…they deserve capes to accompany their Super Hero status.
To be clear, in my new role, I am expected to impart exactly zero knowledge to the kids. I am little more than a placeholder for the real deal. Rather I am there for two purposes: to keep everyone alive and be the grown-up in the room.
Let me tell you something: there is not.one.single thing easy about being a teacher – even if you are not actually teaching.
Every single kid in the world is awesome. At least some of the time. (What? You thought it!)
Every single kid in the world is unique in how they learn, interact, opine, and share.
That being said:
This kid never has a pencil. That kid talks too softly to be picked up on the microphone. The other kid finished all the work ahead of everyone else and is, argh, bored.
This kid seems to literally have ants in his pants. That kid is all about mask breaks. The other kid is crazy smart and knows every answer before everyone else, every time – in a good way. Except when you are the adult trying to keep things under control.
This kid is less interested in the lesson than in talking with that kid. That kid cannot stop herself from responding. And the other kid, yeah, she just got booted off of Zoom. Again.
They are kids. Doing their job. Nothing to see here.
That is where the teachers come in.
They are calm when us mere mortals definitely would not be.
They are patient for way longer than you or I would be.
They are accepting because they know exactly what they are working with. And don’t hold it against a kid. Like, ever. Oh, sure, they might think some less than charitable things, but they never-ever-ever let on how frustrated they might be. Super power.
They have this laser focussed ability to pick up on each child’s needs and manage each kid so seamlessly that it looks easy. Newsflash: It is not easy.
They are teaching with masks on. All day long. The only upside to this is that they need not fret over chin zits which are a direct result of wearing said mask. Not that that’s happened to me.
They are reliant on computers and applications that should, but very well might not, work. And, just to keep things fun, one never knows when justonemore Zoom attendee will crash the whole internet connection.
Now, I would never dare to call myself a teacher of anything other than, perhaps, the virtues of McDonald’s french fries, but I will dare to say that if my limited “teaching” (you know, the one void of lesson plans, creating tests, and, um, imparting information) is any indication, these folks are numero uno super humans.
To the millions of teachers I have had in my and my children’s lives, let me say this:
Sure, I was a parent that teachers dug because I hung on every word they said, but I am willing to bet that to every one of me, there were dozens of the other kind. You know, the “Not my kid!” kind. They stink. I am truly, truly sorry you had to deal with them. Or any other jerk – adult or child.
Thank you for loving my kids when they might have been a little unlovable. Which was not altogether unusual.
Thank you for having the patience of Job. (Sidenote: In 2nd grade I had a teacher who was not a numero uno super human. She did not love me when I was either lovable or unlovable, and had no patience at all. She actually definitely hated me. And did little to hide her feelings. Ah, Miss Estelle Cassidy…or, as she will forever be in my mind: Miss CassAssidy.) (Note: It is okay to talk smack about her for the following reasons: she was wicked mean to me, I believe the only thing she taught me was self-doubt, and she is long dead.)
Thank you for showing up every day, ready to take on whatever might come your way. Particularly knowing that “whatever” could truly be anything.
Thank you for being wise enough to teach all those things that I know nothing about – like math and science – and, further, being able to teach them to my kids who, because half of their genetic make-up came from me, were at a potentially lethal disadvantage. (Aside: they happen to have done great in both math and science. Go figure.)
Thank you for not only figuring out, but slaying the whole remote learning gig. From where I stand – as a parent and a stand-in fake teacher – it is kinda hell on earth. (Legit question: how many of you are teaching with sweatpants on?)(C’mon, you can admit it, I won’t tell anyone.)
Thank you for picking up where a lot of us parents/mortals fall short or, more to the point, don’t understand this funny new math.
If you have children who are or were in school, as in ever, please go socially distantly hug a teacher. Or send them a note. Or give them Starbucks for the rest of their lives. Or get down on your hands and knees and bow down to them. And thank them like you’ve never thanked anyone ever.
They truly have the hardest job on the planet. (School administrators have a hard job, too. Feel free to hug them.)
Oh, and I could use a hug, too.