My fellow teachers,

I know how you feel, and I’m with you. While the rest of the world wonders how you have the audacity to moan about returning to work after weeks of lounging lakeside and waking when you want, I will never gasp and say, “What are you griping about? Your whole job is one big vacation.”

Non-teachers will never understand your anguish until they wake up in a cold sweat in fear that they:

A) Have arrived at school naked.

B) Can get no one to listen despite standing upside-down on one hand while delivering the world’s most engaging lesson plan on their head.

C) Have been publicly berated by someone’s parent in the middle of a staff meeting.

D) Realized that they have zilch prepared for six straight classes.

Even after 18 years of dragging myself out of bed for the first day of school, the nagging feeling that maybe this year my students will stage a coup and openly boycott English class has never gone away.

How can we explain to the rest of the world how much work it takes to gain a captive audience’s attention?

Because let’s not kid ourselves: Relatively still bodies in seats doesn’t mean minds aren’t on Minecraft, Snapchat and YouTube. We have to be magicians, singers, contemporary dancers, impressionists, contortionists, comedians, artists, jugglers, shamans, bakers and miracle makers if we have any hope of capturing the reluctant student’s interest.

Of course, teacher-friends, we’ve got hope. In fact, all we have is hope for the future, hope for these kids, hope that whatever we’re saying seven hours a day, five days a week, 13 years straight will somehow stick more than the Minecraft, Snapchat and YouTube culture they’re saturated in.

I know how hard it is to cling to optimism when once again, you’re about to swim upstream in a current bound to make you feel like you’re drowning – treading in paperwork, student work and committee work, and precious few lifeboats at the ready to rescue you – but hold fast and strap on your life preserver.

Rough waters are up ahead, and Scylla and Charybdis are on either side.

You’re going to encounter six-headed monsters, and you’ll feel yourself pulled into an enormous whirlpool of work that threatens to swallow you whole. Remember what Odysseus learned through his 20-year trial at sea: PATIENCE. The world is full of reckless leaders who think nothing about those they lead. Care for our subjects, both the people we instruct and the content we teach, can feel sadly absent from education.

This doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and say, “The system is broken. Nothing can fix it.”

We are the instruments of change in our world. Our belief in the value of what we offer, in the merit of the minds and hearts of our students and in the intrinsic power of knowledge is all the reassurance we need to get up early, brew that first cup of coffee, strap on those comfortable shoes and face our 19th first day anew.

The truth is, there is no better job in the world, and it isn’t the vacation time or free food in the teachers lounge that makes this so (although a long summer and free doughnuts never hurt). Teachers calm children from the cold sweat they wake up in. We give them the tools to make something of their talent, their curiosity and their biggest challenges and help them reach their greatest potential.

So let the world tell you, “Suck it up,” when you share how hard it is to go back to the trenches and pick up the shovel. After all, we’re the brave souls who volunteered to be on the front lines of raising children, and whether we’re ready for the onslaught or not, there is no shame in being terrified.

I’ll see you near the front. I’ll be the one with mismatched socks, hiking boots and a backpack full of essays. You’ll be there with your best back-to-school sweater, smile and catchy bulletin board. We can do this, but only if we stick together. We got this. What’s more: We chose this. Let’s change the world together.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.