When I first telling people I wanted to teach, I was met with many reactions. Most of them were negative. I was told there wasn’t a lot of money in teaching, that the hours are long, and the political aspects exhausting. All of which is true. But what people didn’t tell me is that teaching high school is freaking hard. And not because of the money, hours, or politics–or not only because of those things.
Teenagers think they know everything!
Admittedly, I was a teenager not long ago. And when I was in high school I probably felt the same way. However, I don’t know if it’s because of the generation or geography, but my kids aren’t shy about letting me know they know more than me, and they don’t see the point/won’t see the point in what I’m trying to teach.
It’s exhausting, frustrating, morale-killing.
I was 23 when I started teaching. A baby. I was five years older than some of my students. FIVE.
I was also naive, idealistic, optimistic, and energetic. My first year of teaching was probably my best year. I loved my students, not saying there wasn’t struggles, God knows there was. I had to establish that I was the boss, that I wasn’t going to tolerate being treated as a peer, and that I wasn’t to be fucked with. I did.
My first freshmen are graduating this year. The classes that followed them have been bright, but so frustratingly….arrogant. I think that’s the only word that really establishes what I’m struggling with. I honestly question my career path more than once a week on the good weeks, and daily on the bad weeks.
Some of this is my fault. I took on too much every year of my teaching. My first year I was planning a wedding; my second I was pregnant; my third I had a baby and a brand-spanking new diagnosis of anxiety, and this year I started grad school in addition to fighting my demons. (I admit, I’m crazy.) I let them get to me, I come to school exhausted and short fused. But I still want to believe in what I’m doing, and honestly, it gets harder every day.
I believe that literature is essential to life in many ways: it makes students stronger writers with better vocabularies. Frequent readers are often more empathetic. You can escape daily problems in the right book. There are books for everyone! But, damn. I can only argue this so much. And for the old-school, yes, I can lay down the law-and do-but it doesn’t change the attitude toward it, or honestly make them do it.
Is it May yet?