I still get nervous.
After 13 years in the classroom, I still get a little nervous. You know those butterflies that tickle your stomach right before “going on stage.” It’s a mellow version of that. When my students in Speech class suffer from nerves before going up to the lectern, I always respond with, “Good! That means you care. Apathy would not result in nerves.”
So, I guess I care. If you are an educator who doesn’t think they feel “nervous,” think back to the relaxation that overtook your body on your last Professional Development day or your last teacher work day with no kids. “What? I get to talk to my colleagues, do some planning and grade for 7-8 hours?” Teachers consider these days (days without students) “days off.”
Yes, we are still at work, but it’s not work - it’s so easy compared to teaching. Ironically, this for many professionals is an average work day. Spending time in an office, working on paperwork, discussing issues, and solving problems with colleagues. But, to teachers, these days are equated with a day at the beach. Why? Because our most precious commodity is not there: the kids.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my students as do many, many educators, but this doesn’t make the job “easy.” Managing the energy of youth is taxing and, I believe, is what makes keeping new teachers in the profession so very difficult.
We are on stage every day. We cannot be late, even by a few minutes or we have 35 kids “homeless” outside of our door. We cannot use the restroom when our body begs us to, or we are leaving students unattended. We cannot eat a little snack when our tummies growl...must wait for the bell! It is a very odd profession. In Teach LIke a Champion 2.0, Doug Lemov compares teachers to artists stating, “Mastery of tools does not just allow creation; it informs it. The process is often far from glamorous; an artist’s life is a tradesman’s life, really, characterized by calluses and stone dust, requiring diligence and humility, but its rewards are immense. It is a worthy life’s work.” (2015, p. 2)
We are artists as much as we are tradesmen and this is why the work is taxing. Mix in the fact that we care and boy, here come the butterflies.
So, when I meet people for the first time and tell them I’m a teacher and they respond with, “Man, I could NEVER do that,” I smile and think to myself…”No, you probably couldn’t.”