When I’m at work and another adult asks me how my kids are doing, I always have to clarify, “My kids at home or my kids here?” This is what students are to teachers. They are our kids. Some tend to burrow into our hearts a little more than others, but for 10 months the children in our classroom, are our kids.
This is why when I think about the future of teaching and the slippery slope on which those of us in public education find ourselves, I can’t imagine not doing it. There are days when 19 more years in the classroom gives me heart palpitations–but I’m assuming that is the case with any career. 19 years is 19 years–it’s A LONG TIME. Imagining 19 more years of managing over 100 fourteen-year-olds every day…yeah, it’s daunting. BUT, the thought of not doing it and working in the private sector seems as foreign to me as working in another country. I mean, could I even function if I had to interact with adults all day?
I’m so conditioned to working on a bell schedule, that my brain is used to transitioning to something completely new every 42 minutes, while working in managed chaos within those 42 minutes. How in the world would I be able to work in a business office with that type of hyperactive personality? “Um, Shannon? Why are you standing outside your cubicle?” “Oh, just watching the hallways for three minutes. Do you mind if I high-five people and sing some Katy Perry really loudly also?” “Hey,I’m going to take my two-minute bathroom sprint. Can you watch my cubicle for a minute if I’m not back in three minutes?” “Shannon! Stop asking us for bathroom passes! We are allowed to go to the bathroom whenever we want!” “TURN DOWN THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. I understand it is the day before a vacation, but you may not watch movies today!”
When I have these fleeting moments of wondering what life would be outside of the classroom, I’m always left with the question of what can I possibly have to offer any business after spending the last eleven years in a classroom with freshmen? I know virtually everything about pop culture, Twitter, sock buns, the difference between a messy pony and a top-knot, cutting weight for wrestling, hunting season (bow and shotgun), and Drake. I know virtually nothing about conference calls and sales meetings, end of quarter strategies, ROI, or intermarket sector spread. I would be a disaster. It would be entertaining, but disastrous.
…on that note, although I know nothing about the business world, I do know kids. I know how to motivate them. I know how to show them their potential. I know how to make them laugh, and I know how to put them in their place when warranted. I know how to make dry material exciting. I know how to show kids that there is more to life than the school or town where they live and there is more to life than the subject that I’m teaching. I know how to teach manners and empathy. I know how to interact with teenagers when they are at their most influential age and I don’t take that lightly–it’s my job to make these teenagers into real people and send them out into the world to work with you.
Teachers, we are a special breed. We were made for working with kids. We are patient, creative, entertaining, empathetic, stern, flexible, kind, motivating, overwhelmed, and completely crazy individuals who actually chose to spend our adult lives working with more than we can handle. Working with noise and chaos, juggling 25 or more different personalities, needs, and abilities at once. We chose to enter into a career where we take the blame for most, but credit for little. We chose this. We did.
Even though 19 years seems like forever, I’m glad I’m in the trenches. It’s where I belong.
*Side note: I do, however, think that the major positive in working in the private sector would be smell. Classrooms are not large spaces. These not large spaces are filled with teenagers. Teenagers who happen to sweat and fart. It makes for a lethal combination and the assault on my sense of smell is brutal. We had a particularly hot spring last year and my classroom is on the second floor–the non-air conditioned second floor. I cannot even put into words the scent that was emanating from some of these children. It gets pretty ripe. However, I’m guessing (hoping?) that the business world is full of freshly showered and groomed adults who do not make it a point to yell, “Yo! I just beefed one and crop dusted all over this room, man!” (If you happen to work with an adult like this, I empathize. I get it, brothers and sisters. I so get it.)
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