Hey Teachers, You Deserve a Break!

When a Kit Kat plopped on my desk a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I was hungry. With two teenagers and a college kid at home, snacks at my house run out just as fast as I buy them — and I never have time to go buy more. So a free treat from my sweet student was more than welcome.

As I picked up the candy, I noticed a cute little message on the front of it. “You deserve a BREAK! Thanks for all you do!” Awe how clever! And how sweet. How did she know just what I needed?

Turns out she wasn’t the only one. In the next few days I got more candy, EXTRA gum (because, as my card said, I’m EXTRA special), and even gift cards to Target. All for Teacher Appreciation week; something I’d heard of before but sadly never participated in when my kids were younger. Back then as a busy mom, I was running three kids to activities, cleaning up puke and bloody noses, mowing grass on warm days and drying snowsuits on cold days. When I sent my kids to school, I simply enjoyed the hours when I wasn’t being asked a million questions or breaking up a fight. I never even thought about who was taking care of them while they were away from me.

But fast forward to now, when I’m filling in as a long-term sub for 6th grade social studies — and I know exactly who is spending all their time and energy on these students. I am only here for 7 weeks, but I can see what teachers deal with on a daily basis…the situations they encounter, emotions they experience, and all of the sweet, wonderful, wild, and wacky kids they teach. It makes me want to go back to everyone who ever taught my kids — the ones who never received chocolate from me — and tell them how much I now truly appreciate them.

I appreciate how patient they were when I forgot to send a permission slip for the second, third, or fourth day in a row. I know now that they also had 150 other slips to keep track of.

I appreciate that even thought my daughter was quiet in class, they called on her anyway. I now see that it’s easy to forget about the silent ones when so many others are shouting “I know, I know!” but giving her a chance to show off her knowledge really boosted her confidence.

I’m thankful for the teachers who pretended to laugh at my middle child’s jokes, or listened to his burps in class. Those silly class clowns are loads of fun, but sure can be frustrating in the middle of a lesson.

I appreciate the nights that teachers stayed after work to attend my kids’ basketball games or choir concerts. I now know how long a school day can get, and that going home to flop on the couch probably sounded better. But when they saw that their teacher made the effort to show interest in something they loved, I’m sure it made them feel really special.

After going on a field trip in the wilderness with four busloads of 12-year-olds, I have a heck of a lot of respect for any teacher who tolerated my kids’ shenanigans at the zoo, or the symphony, or Golden Corral (I can’t imagine!). Dealing with students outside of school walls deserves a whole different level of appreciation.

In these past couple of months, I’ve enjoyed having my own classroom and made wonderful connections with kids, but I must admit I’ve had tough days. Just when I think a student understands what I taught him, he fails a test. When I try to switch things up and do something fun in class, there’s an hornery kid who ruins it for everyone. When I snap at an entire class that CANNOT keep their voices down, I can see the disappointment in the quiet kid who didn’t deserve to be lectured. Some mornings, I can’t wait to start school, but by the end of the day I’m on the verge of tears. Counting down the days until summer…until the time when I’ll return to my quiet home office…is sometimes the only way I make it through to the last bell.

That in itself makes me appreciate teachers.

Not many people can keep coming back to a job that makes them feel defeated. But no matter how many times they feel like giving up, teachers return day after day, year after year. Not because they have to, but because they know that the good outweighs the bad.

Someone once said to me that teachers have it easy. They get off at 3:00, and they only work 9 months. How hard can that be? Well, I’d now say that unless you’ve been in a classroom for a few weeks, it’s impossible to understand just how long those 9 months are…and that throwing in the towel at 3:00 is the only way teachers can save their sanity.

So to the those who never received candy from me, I’m sorry. My children, your students, turned out to be smart, confident humans, and I have no doubt you played a huge part in that. Had I known how hard you worked while they were in your care, I would have sent all the chocolate, cookies, and anything else that could show you how much that meant to me.

Enjoy your summer. You’ve earned it.

And you certainly deserve the break.

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