I remember the first time (it was in a grocery line) someone asked me what I did for a living that I could answer, “I’m a teacher.” I’m pretty sure I stood up straighter, I know I smiled, and I probably looked around expectantly. Angelsong and orchestra music. That’s what I was expecting. Maybe a little ticker tape? I wasn’t expecting meh.
After twenty years, the thrill is not gone. It’s a bit matured and tempered, more measured and less impetuous. More assured and less wide-eyed. But I still expect some trumpets or a drumroll when I announce my chosen profession. How can anyone not see this as the most awesome job ever?
Oh mind you I have quit this mostawesomejobever an average of five times per school year. Fortunately I’ve kept it to myself, but all they have to do is check my browsing history to know I’m serious. It’s just stinkin hard sometimes.
And then this week something happened that caused me to question the professional respect my bosses have for me. Before despair hit, God intervened and I spent the rest of the day in a cerebral state, evaluating myself as a professional and how I’m seen in the eyes of others and letting God do His thing – show me the God stuff, the true stuff.
I am one of the countless teachers who does her job quietly but well and often in the shadow of the more loud and flashy. I know my curriculum and know how to tweak it to best meet the needs of my students. I make sure to cover what they need to be successful on stupid tests I don’t agree with, but also in the years after they leave me. Aware of the risk of becoming staid and stuffy, I try new things, dare myself. We do extra stuff in my classes to beef up the curriculum and to make sure they have fun with language and writing and books since I am fully aware that they are being set even now on a lifetime literary path and want – I NEED – them to learn a love for it.
My classroom is controlled and I am not their best friend. Indeed, I am the merciless god of their non-democratic universe. Respect – for me, their classmates, and themselves – is key. Yet daily the sounds of laughter emanate from our room to the point where neighboring teachers have asked me, “What are you DOING in there?” Laughter, it seems, is quite a distraction for the math classroom next door.
In the noisiness of our halls and in the professional shadow of the loud and flashy, my fellow teachers and I make eye contact with our students as they approach, waving them into the room. Then we sweep in after them, pulling the door shut behind us, and enter The Sanctum. This is the place where magic happens, where worlds are uncovered and voices discovered, where all that matters is them.
Because that is the bottom line, is it not? I don’t teach language arts, English, or reading. I teach THEM. THAT boy. THAT girl.
And I marvel – seriously marvel – at the moment they turn and look at me, expectant, smiles on faces and in eyes. Not every child. Not every time. But enough. Enough to keep me going and anticipating it. Enough to be awed and prepared and scared witless at the responsibility.
And the professional rejection that stung goes *poof* and I don’t even notice the wisps of smoke as it drifts away over our heads. Because they are watching and waiting and I’m about to affect lives.
Sounds pretty flashy to me.