Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 110 of 365: What I Don't Miss

People mean well when they ask if I miss teaching. The problem is, I get it all the time.

I'll mention that I used to teach preschool and early education and people coo over my former career field. They'll gasp at the idea that my job could ever be stressful. They'll then ask, "But do you miss it?"

I know they don't necessarily mean it as so, but I hear, "But do you miss it?" as, "You know you'll eventually return because you love those kids so darn much, right?"

But I won't. That's the thing. I love the kiddos, but it's not enough to stay. And it will not be enough to return. As someone who plans on staying at home when she has kids, if I want to devote my time and energy to teaching a young child about the world, I'll do it with my own children. Because there is so much I don't miss about teaching:

1. I don't miss the large classroom sizes squeezed into small classroom spaces. Everyone gets agitated when they're confined to crowded spots (just look at how people act during rush hour traffic). So much of the behavioral issues I saw could've been avoided had the kids had their own space. So much of what frustrates teachers would be alleviated if the overall number of students were cut in half. The worst feeling you can have as a teacher is when you realize you are not teaching, but serving as crowd control.

2. I don't miss the long hours. Very rarely does preschool/early education fit into school-hour format. So many places open at 6 in the morning and close at 6 at night and some of those kids get dropped off at opening and picked up at closing. And for some, that's unavoidable. But it doesn't make a teacher's life any easier when they walk into a room already filled to the brink with students and leave at night with so many students still there. It's not healthy to be constantly on with next to zero down time.

3. I don't miss my students forgetting who I am. With the exception of my Pre-Kers, none of my students will remember who I am. Case in point: a month before quitting, I ran into an old student and his mother at the grocery store. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the mom, said hi to my former student, and went on my way. From behind me, I could hear, "Mommy, who was that?"
Oh, no one. Just the person who taught you how to wash your hands. Just the person who snuggled you as she gave you your nebulizer after getting pneumonia. Just the person who taught you the beginning of sign language and the alphabet. Just the person who looked after you for 40 hours a week for an entire year.

4. I don't miss administration. I don't miss the general lack of support when things got tough. I don't miss being told to work nights and weekends and during my break -- without pay -- because it was "for the children". I don't miss watching leader after leader after leader shrug their shoulders at me and go, "You're the teacher. You need to make it work."

5. I don't miss parents who felt I could do no right. I've been yelled at for everything from a 5-year-old leaving his mittens behind on the playground to a 2-year-old who was teething. I'd then hear my own friends and family members talk about their own children in child care, accusing the teachers of everything from, "They let the kids climb on the chairs," to, "They lied about his fever so they'd have one fewer kid in the classroom." I'd hear it with that sinking feeling in my heart because I know that, verbatim, that is what my kiddos' parents were saying about me.

6. I don't miss being stressed out to the point that I didn't understand why I was doing this job in the first place. Burnout turned me into someone who dealt with the aforementioned and couldn't even see the point of it. People would say it was for the children; people would say it was to raise a better generation. But I didn't see it anymore. All I saw was stress and frustration and a dead end.

I don't regret being an early education teacher. I met some incredible people, learned some interesting things on how children act and interact, and walked away with just a little bit more knowledge than I had coming in. But I will never -- ever -- return to teaching.

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