I am a school psychologist. I was trained in behavior analysis, reading interventions, developmental psychology, therapy, statistics and so on. I crammed over 70 graduate credit hours into a few years immediately after completing my undergraduate degree. I was taught that I would be THE mental health expert in the public schools. I was told that I would be the expert in all academic and behavior difficulties that a student could encounter and a teacher could not handle. Frankly, I was trained to believe that I was smarter, better trained, better educated and more of an expert than teachers. After all, I have a bunch of letters after my name that can not be matched by anyone that spent four years working with posterboard and taking classes in bulletin board design.
I was taught wrong.
I can tell you the single moment I became a better school psychologist. It was when I was sitting in a classroom watching a teacher manage 25 students, teach a lesson, and try to implement some intricate plan I wrote. It was the moment that I realized that I would never want that responsibility. It was the moment that I realized that despite everything I had been taught, I could never be a teacher. Flat out, I do not have the skills.
Every single success that I have ever had with a student can be directly attributed to that student’s teacher. My most perfectly written plans or interventions are useless in the hands of someone that could not implement it. Someone like me. On the flip side, my weakest, most flimsy plans have been successful simply because I have had the fortune of working with amazing teachers who find a way to make things work. It is not because I am so smart or I took a ton of classes, it is because there is a talented, dedicated person who is devoted to children working with that student five days a week while I scoot off to another building to sit in meetings.
You have heard all the rhetoric. Teachers work tons of hours after school, they spend their own money, simply doing daycare for 25 kids/180 days week would make more money than a teacher’s salary, etc. Blah blah, but it is all true. Put aside all your beliefs and stereotypes of schools. Teachers only work nine months. They get paid no matter what the standardized test scores are. Teachers only want to teach certain kids. Kids that are different are booted out, labelled or disregarded. Even if you somehow actually believe that nonsense, ask yourself this. Could you do that job?
I have had to cover several classes for medical emergencies, sub shortage, teacher meetings, etc. and it terrifies me. At most, I have covered an hour and I walk out exhausted and grateful that nobody died. Try that for five days/week while teaching a curriculum that ranges from when the pilgrims landed to multiplication to explaining why an erection happens. And while you are at it, manage behavior and track peanut allergies. Forget it. One hour in a classroom and my goal is simply to make sure nothing burns.
For every horror story you can share about a teacher, I can line up about a hundred teachers who are dedicated, talented, caring professionals who bend over backwards for children. If you have a child in a school, please make sure to thank his or her teacher this week. If you do not have children, have children who are long past school-age, or just have no contact with educators, consider stopping by a building and saying thank-you to someone. Make no mistake about it, teachers have some of the earliest contact with the people who will be affecting our communities, economy, and you. They deserve your gratitude.
Thank you to teachers. I could never do your job and I am not too proud to admit that.