Hey, Hey, Everybody. I’ve got a little secret: we have possibly the best job anywhere. And by that I don’t mean the easiest job — far from it. We work %$#@! hard, harder than most people realize.
At the end of a day we are tired. Our jobs can be highly emotional, be it from the demands of dealing with teenagers —singly and in groups — or from their parents, or from the school’s administration, or from certain colleagues or from the sheer intensity of our lessons. Every time I teach the mole concept, it’s as if it were the final lesson of my career; balancing redox equations is rife with drama; my big lesson on the gas laws can leave me (literally) breathless.
We get to teach an accessible, relevant subject to (mainly) interested, motivated students. Our labs work. We can buy much of what we need at the supermarket or the drug store.1 We get to explode things and can demonstrate the coolest of the cool — liquid nitrogen, for example. I get it — we’re geeks, but we’re super cool geeks. Chemistry teachers get respect. We know stuff. Useful stuff.
We are masters of the multi-task: we develop and prepare curriculum, evaluate student work, prepare laboratory work, communicate with parents, coach the yodelling team (Swiss teachers only), attend professional development workshops —some of which are useful — and counsel young people. And between all this we might teach a class or two.
We do this for love of our students. We do this to make the world a better place, one student at a time, one stoichiometry problem at a time. Our impact on students goes beyond what anyone could imagine. Our refined, ever-sharpening relational skills show teenagers how a productive, professional relationship looks. Our good humour shows our students what compassion looks like. We model respect because we value the importance of respect. When we make a mistake, we show students what an honest, heartfelt apology looks like; we show them what ownership looks like.
Every one of us has a story about teaching, be it from a student’s or teacher’s perspective. Teaching is a human endeavour, so there will be some bad experiences. But for most of us, the good outweighs the bad by many orders of magnitude. We impact people’s lives more than we will ever know. It may be a life-altering conversation which affects a student’s career plans; it may be a simple “hello” in the hallway — either way it is an impact.
We don’t work to “meet our quota”; we don’t have sales targets, we’re not slavin’ for the man. We’re slavin’ for every man.2
Celebrate the great work that you do.
- I’ll write about this in a future column.
- and woman (!)