Why Teaching is the Best Job in the World

Money, lawnmower parents, fame.

Asked and answered. End article.

Juuust kidding.

So why the need to write this?

Because today is the end of the first few chapters of my teaching career.

To be fair, until recently, it never crossed my mind to leave my current school district. I’ve worked there since I was 22, trying to make my way up the “T Chart” of a pay scale — this magical place on the corner of a piece of paper where I thought my hard work would all pay off by reaching that top salary 16 years in —all while making a difference and changing the lives of kids along the way.

I like to think I’ve made some simple sacrifices for my career in teaching while working to “get there,” because I genuinely care about the kids that cross my path in life.

I said no to a trip to visit my best friend in Hawaii (Hawaii, people) when I was 23 because, “I’m working summer school and starting my first grad class.” I said no to many a happy hour because, “You can’t teach with a hangover,” or, “I’ve got 80 essays to grade.” We all know you could get by, but you’re not going to have much patience, energy, or passion that next day. I’ve turned off many Steelers games early (please don’t tell anyone around here) because, “I’ve got a meeting before school, which means I have to get there an extra 30 minutes early to get my day set up.” I wasn’t going to mess up each of those next days with the kids for those “other” things going on in life. Those kids, my kids, were just too important. All 25 of them. My life revolved around my classroom plans.

That was the case for the about first 6 years.

Little by little, changes occurred. In myself and in my surroundings. Personally and professionally. Budgets tightened and restructuring occurred and people’s jobs were broken apart and added to other people’s plates. Attitudes soured and colleagues seemed heavy with the weight of high expectations and less and less support to help meet them. I left the classroom for a support position that I thought would highlight my strengths and help the greater good, but it never felt like it would or was going to be enough to operate successfully as one person in the role.

More and more often I kept hearing myself say, Somedays, I just don’t know about this anymore.

In fact, I’ve felt more suffocated by that T Chart mentality every day. Maybe it’s age or experience, or having two children of my own now, or knowing that the hard work of many isn’t rewarded with an end of year bonus. There’s zero flexibility, and now that I have kids, I need it more than ever. The state testing flat out sucks— yes you need standards and high expectations—but it kills teacher creativity and passion and the way you look at students’ efforts some days. The paperwork is overwhelming—SLOs, behavior charts, input forms, data … Why bother anymore? There’s less planning for teaching and more accounting for every move.

I am not a tree, I can move.

I’ve always believed you’re in control of your own happiness. Your thoughts and actions are created by you. If you’re unhappy, of unfulfilled, it’s on you to make a change. This past summer I came across a job posting to be back in the classroom teaching again. After serving in a support role as a party of one on what can feel like an island, I decided to go for it. I interviewed for a classroom teaching position in my home school district. Sixth grade literature and writing, my sweet spot. I love the age, I love content, I love teaching on a team.

I was fortunate to be hired by the district, and my first day back in the classroom will be tomorrow. A good one night off tonight between my support position and starting in the morning tomorrow with 90 awesome kids.

Yet with all of the disappointing pieces that can be a part of public education why not find something else to do? Why not change professions, take time off, or focus on my website?

Because teaching is the best job in the world.

  • It is a place where you can be a lifelong learner yourself: Technology, learning trends, student needs, professional development, the latest Fortnite move- you can’t enter a modern classroom without being up to speed and keeping up. It’s a necessity to evolve for your own survival, and when it comes to your dance moves, your dignity.

  • Your colleagues are your friends and your family: We work with hundreds of families, and we are a big one ourselves. We know one another’s strengths and weaknesses, push one another’s buttons, and challenge one another to become better. We know each other’s birthdays, favorite drink, kids’ names, actual family drama and heartbreak, and favorite recipes. We cover for one another when sick, and we save the day for one another on so. many. occasions. Just like family.

  • Because teachers are the most inspiring people on the planet: Our words and actions have power to shape perspectives, beliefs, and pathways of the students in our lives. We read our students and develop relationships first, because we know without the heart you don’t get into the head. Mic drop, Rita Pierson.

  • Teachers always make the best of things: State testing? We’ll find you the most creative way to teach mood vs. tone. We’ll create carnival games relating probability to the real world and design fantasy birthday parties to look at place value and working within a budget. We’ll code it, we’ll 3-D print it, we’ll teach our kids to write a formal argument to make it better. We’re making the landscape brighter together.

  • Oh, and the students. Those dang little humans that are ours for the year. We learn so much about them that we fall in love with them. Those that are the most unlovable that have the most heartbreaking stories — we want to do everything in our power to set them on a straighter path. Those that make us laugh with their sarcasm at age eight. Those that make our jaws drop at the level of insight in their writing and speaking. Those that inspire us to stay on our toes to provide them a better lesson, a better conversation, a better experience tomorrow.

So tomorrow, and for as long as this next chapter continues, I look forward to working with my whole heart and remembering my thoughts tonight. Wherever you go, there you are, right? I’m less worried now about getting somewhere on a chart and more focused on relationships. I’m inspired by doing my part to put good into the world. About being the engaged with what is right in front of me. Students, colleagues, friends, family. I’m going to be there for these kids and show up in the best way possible. First tomorrow, then again the day after that. And then for years and years to come. Wish me luck.