Friday, December 13, 2013

A spat of random, unorganized thoughts from a preschool teacher

Note: "Teaching" in this post is specific to my experience working with very young children and is not necessarily generalizable to all forms of teaching.

So there are a lot of good things about my job. There are also a lot of challenging things. Most relevant to this post, there are lots and lots of interesting things about what I do. (Disclosure: Just because I believe them to be interesting does not necessarily mean you will find them so. Proceed with caution [or time to waste].)

Some general reflections on teaching:

1) As with most things, everyone does it differently, and everyone is convinced they're the one doing it right (especially those who have never done it before).

2) There is a morality tied to everything you do. The stakes are different than lots of other jobs (Not necessarily higher or lower, just different. Perhaps "more personal" would be accurate). I think this is mostly a result of the specific service being offered. You work with children. Children are priceless. (Caring for children obviously is not. Either that, or you're being seriously underpaid).

3) As a consequence of point number two, any sign of attempted personal advancement is looked down upon. This is not a field where ambition is viewed with favor. You are not supposed to get anything out of it personally (except for perhaps an improvement in character [and the joy of shaping young minds]). Which is why I find it funny when people suggest teachers are only in it for the time off or the free money (Do you really think teachers--of all people--can't do math?) Fortunately enough, I am not an ambitious person.

5) As a further consequence of point number two, you are expected to love what you do. If you don't appear to love it (if, for example, the day you just had dealing with screaming toddlers makes you want to immediately go out and sell all your eggs before you have time to reconsider), that sort of makes you a heartless person, right? I mean, they're children. How can you not love children?

Admittedly, a lot of things I listed are just plain attribution errors, which happen to everyone in the world. Perhaps this is not specific to my job, but rather a function of working. Socially, we sometimes equate people with what they do (professionally speaking). I am a preschool teacher. I work with kids. If I don't love every minute that I work with kids, I don't love kids. Ergo, I am a heartless monster. Maybe the answer is to be less judgmental all-around...? To put more effort into seeing every person you interact with more complexly....? (Yes, this is impossible to do fully. But I think the effort is important, even necessary).

If it is to be done well, teaching requires high energy, high patience, and lots of preparation. Also, teaching (in a professional sense) is not for everyone, which is okay. Not wanting to deal with a classroom full of energetic toddlers does not mean you hate children (or are a horrible person).

Disclaimer: I am not going to quit my job. Every job is hard. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't pay enough to live on. I have just been thinking a lot about these aspects of my particular occupation because, let's face it, it's how I spend the majority of my waking hours.

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