Ex-friggin’-hale. Then be nice to us.
Your child is the center of your universe. We get that. Your world revolves around your child. We get that, too. You’ve put years of blood, sweat and tears into raising your offspring. Or, even if it hasn’t been that dramatic, you have likely got years of midnight feedings, trips to the doctor, arguments, exasperation, hopes, fears, successes and lessons learned invested in that hormone-filled adolescent body. Kudos to you. I wouldn’t do it. I have no desire to have children. Why bother? I have 135 of yours.
That’s right. I have 135 centers of the universe. 135 of the most important children on the planet. 135 of your babies. And I will do the best I can by each and every one of them.
But hola crapola, people. Let me do my job.
How many of you have more than one child? Yes? Now tell me something. Do you occasionally prioritize the needs of your kids? Make judgment calls? Juggle conflicting demands? Wait…what’s that? You do?
How many kids do you have? One? Three? Five? I’m going to guess that even in the largest families out there, you don’t have thirty kids. And I’m damn well certain that none of you have thirty kids from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and socio-economic classes. Thirty kids with thirty different histories, intelligence levels and family values all crammed into one room.
But I do.
And that’s only an hour of my day.
So sometimes I’m going to prioritize. And sometimes, your kid may not be at the top of the list.
There will be days, I promise you, when no matter how many times you email me I will not enter your child’s late homework assignment into the gradebook. Sorry. I was busy dealing with her friend whose father just died. I didn’t return your phone call the same day? Whoops, my bad. I thought that maybe that first I should deal with the child who had just admitted to being sexually abused. Judgement call.
In my decade of teaching, I have dealt with a mother whipping her teenage daughter outside my classroom. I’ve seen attempted suicide, successful suicide (if that’s even an appropriate term), alcoholic mothers picking up their children (in cars, of course), eating disorders, drug addictions, guns. I have counseled kids through heartbreaks, divorce and dropping out. I deal with mental illness on a daily basis. And, still, in the middle of all all this mayhem, I teach. And despite massive budget cuts, increasing classroom sizes and constant public criticism, I will continue teaching. Because it’s what I love. Because it’s what I’m good at. But folks, you’re going to have to cut me some slack.
I am not superwoman.
We teachers are used to complaints. We’re used to being yelled at. We’re used to never doing anything right. That doesn’t even faze us anymore. I’ve got file upon electronic file of email documentation on children’s behavior, parental concerns, academic progress, complaints and worries. I keep them, should I ever need them. But I never look at them.
I much prefer digging out the other folder. The one where I keep all my thank you notes. Where I find my successes, both big and small, in the form of little piece of stationary, a drawing, a message scribbled on a test. But here’s the thing: most of these notes come from colleagues and students. So I know I’m doing something right. But parents? In the last five years as a teacher, I can count the number of out-of-the-blue thank you notes I’ve gotten from a parent.
If you want to get somewhere with a teacher, it’s almost too easy. Be nice to us. It’s our Achilles heel. Ask us how we’re doing. Ask us what’s going on. And if you bother asking, maybe, just maybe, you’ll discover that I demanded your student stay after school because his behavior worried me, not to punish him. Or maybe you’ll find out that I haven’t entered grades because I had a bag of tests stolen and I’m scrambling to find a solution that’s fair to all. But don’t ever assume that it’s because I don’t care.
If anything, I care too much.
Do not coming screaming in my room without an appointment. Do not demand that you be at the top of my list. Do not tell me how to do my job.
I know what I’m doing.
I will take care of your child.
But I am not superwoman.
So, please, drop me a note every now and then. Let me know when I’m doing well. Because this balancing act of 135 centers of the universe? It’s not easy, folks.
But I’ll be damned if I quit trying.