I am a big fan of the Facebook page Humans of New York. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a page where a very talented photographer posts pictures of people in New York, along with a sentence or two, allowing you a glimpse into their life.
Last week, there was a picture of a little boy and his mother. The little boy said he wanted to make a card for his mom, but the teacher was too busy to help him spell, so he drew a picture. I thought this was a sweet moment. Then, I read the comments.
People were bashing the teacher, writing things like “she should be fired”, “bad teacher” and “a good teacher would have helped him in her spare time”. I had to stop reading, as I was turning purple.
I have a small class of 18 students, but sometimes, I am too busy to help someone. I have three grades in one class. I do what I can, but I am human. Teachers do not have angel wings or superpowers. We also don’t have “free time” while at work. That comment was obviously written by someone who doesn’t have a clue!
My life as a teacher is a series of two minute moments. Here are a few examples of things that take two minutes:
– Explaining what an adjective is.
– Having a discussion on why it’s not nice to kick our friends.
– Finding a lost pencil.
– Eating half an apple. (You have to eat fast, and you rarely get to eat the whole thing).
– Talking to the parent who interrupted story time by bringing their kid in late.
– Dealing with a bloody nose.
– Reading an e-mail.
– Reminding the third graders that they know what synonyms are.
– Looking for someone’s shoe. How do you lose a shoe?
– Putting a hand on a kid’s forehead to figure out if she’s sick or faking it.
– Asking “who’s is this?” about 47 times.
– Reminding some people that crayons are not meant to be thrown at other people’s heads.
– Helping a first grader read one sentence.
– Listening to kids teach each other.
– Sounding out words so kids can spell them themselves.
– Feeding the lizard.
– Holding up a finger to tell someone to wait while someone is asking a question and someone else is tapping you on the arm with their warm, sticky, little hand.
– Reading the story a second grader wrote for you. It’s about a pink giraffe.
– Suggesting that reading might be a good alternative to staring at the ceiling.
– Trying to teach division while the kids would rather talk about dinosaurs.
– Looking up dinosaur info on the Internet.
– Filling out the millionth form of the month.
– Taking attendance.
– Saying hello to every student.
– Not flinching when a box of beads is dropped on the floor.
– Drawing a star on someone’s hand, because everyone knows that will give you more energy to help you work.
– Answering a questions about prime numbers/pronouns/birds/snack time/planets.
– Going to the washroom (if you’re lucky).
– Hugging the child’s who’s crying because her parents have separated.
– Laughing. Kids are funny.
– Listening to a bad joke. They don’t always tell them right.
– Motivating the kid who thinks everything is boring.
– Replying to an e-mail.
– Singing a song.
To be honest, most teachers do several of these things simultaneously. There are 157 2-minute moments in a school day, including lunch time, which is considered “free time”.
If you witness the moment where I’m laughing and singing, you’ll think “what a fun, happy teacher.” But if you see the moment where I’m telling a child he has used up almost every drop of patience I have specifically for him, you will think I am mean and impatient. One moment does not give you the whole picture.
If you know a teacher, don’t say “lucky you” when her summer vacation starts. Try “I know how hard you worked all year, here is a margarita and a piece of pie”.