A is for Appreciation, T is for Teacher

In all the years of my life that I worked grownup jobs, from that first job as a Salad Girl (yes, that’s what it was called) at a steakhouse through years of burnout social service jobs, to my most recent role as a policy nerd, I never found one that made as much of an impression on me as my current gig. No, I’m not doing brain surgery or solving the mysteries of the universe. I’m a substitute teacher. I didn’t really choose this role. Having been out of work for months and recognizing that I couldn’t make a living writing a blog and sitting around eating bonbons all day, I thought I’d try out substitute teaching in our local public school district, purely out of necessity. 

It was with a sense of dread that I took on each assignment. I began by bouncing around daily from school to school, trying out early childhood, elementary, and even junior high. If you asked me how I liked it that first month, I may have started crying. I hated it. But eventually I found my sweet spot. I worked at Margot’s elementary school a few times and found that I really liked it.  Then they asked me to stay on as a “permanent sub”. Meaning, I have a regular job assignment that I do every day, but I’m technically still a sub so I can take time off anytime I need to for interviews or whatever. It’s been a great gig because I get to really see the inner workings of the school my daughter attends. I get the inside scoop on how Margot is doing everyday and most of all… I get to be around some of the most amazing and inspiring people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. 

First of all, teaching all day is hard! If I ever before doubted that teachers were amazing, I now know beyond a doubt. I’ve experienced firsthand the extent of the effort it takes to be with a student or a group of students who are not one’s own children and to be responsible for helping them not only live to see the end of the day but actually learn and grow every moment of the day. I myself am not even responsible for a whole classroom, or for developing curriculum, or meeting common core standards, or any of the myriad stressful things regular teachers do everyday, all year.  For me this is just a stint - a fun chance to dabble in the world of elementary education. It’s a short term arrangement until I go back to my “real-life” career (I hope). Yet I come home exhausted daily. In fact, some days I fall asleep as early as 6pm. And I’m not even a permanent teacher. I’m a substitute.

But the main thing I’ve learned isn’t how hard teaching is. It’s that people who teach are freakin’ amazing! I’ve had the privilege to experience firsthand the love, commitment, and passion of literally every teacher I’ve come across. Nobody does this job for the money. It’s a labor of love. The teachers I’ve met not only mold young minds; they inspire. They care deeply. They tie shoes before P.E. so little feet don’t trip, they stay late making copies (even though they have a master’s degree) so students will have just the right materials. They manage classrooms like lion tamers at a circus and they make it all look so easy. 

Have you ever walked into your child’s classroom and just taken it for granted that students were quiet and working diligently? I know I did. Schools are supposed to be quiet studious places. Well, let me tell you, that crowd control thing in elementary and junior high? Not as easy as it looks.  It’s only possible because of an act of God or a very skilled and firm teacher at the helm.  Everyone should have to spend 6 months as a substitute teacher to see what amazing people there are in our schools. I have a renewed sense of appreciation for the quality of education my children are getting because of the dedicated people who work with them day in and day out.

Like a good Pinterest-obsessed mom, I scoured posts to find the perfect little token of appreciation for this week’s Teacher Appreciation festivities. Many thanks to Rebecca at Simple as That for the great template! 

It’s way too small and doesn’t come close to expressing what we owe these individuals. But, teachers ARE the balm! The balm for a weary mom who is so thankful to know that skilled, loving people care for my children in the hours they are away from me. Thank you.


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