Don’t Be a Teacher if You Don’t Like Teaching!

Janelle Harris

teacher license plateYou can always tell when someone doesn’t like their job. They’re just there for the paycheck and absolutely, positively nothing more. That doesn’t make life any easier or our interactions any smoother with, say, disgruntled retail employees and city bus drivers. But when it comes to teachers, I’m going to need to see some enthusiasm about their chosen responsibility to educate and uplift children because our children's mental health depends on it.

A University of Maryland professor concluded that students who have teachers who don’t feel respected by their colleagues and don’t have access to the materials they need to learn exhibit more mental health issues than students in ideal academic environments. Apparently the lack of warm and fuzzy feelings between educators and their peers can have a trickle down effect that ends up dumping on our innocent kids.

I’ve seen teachers frazzled for one reason or another, back when I was a student in school and again when I became a parent. It’s never a pretty sight. More often than not, they’re angry about the lack of resources in their classrooms or schools, or they’re irked about their low pay, or the disproportionate number of unruly students they’re charged with that year. But lack of respect from their colleagues sets them off, too?

Teaching is super hard. I respect the heck out of an educator who can take a roomful of mouthy ankle biters from all kinds of different homes, lives, and backgrounds and actually get information conveyed to them. I taught second grade and ninth grade for a year each and fled, screaming and hollering, for the editorial world. Not everyone is cut out for it, which is exactly why it’s the kind of job that not everyone should try to do.

You have to have a passion for kids, just like a nurse should have a passion for healing or a cop should have a passion for something besides just doling out tickets and flicking on a siren to blaze through traffic. They’re all the kind of jobs that you shouldn’t jump into if you don’t really have a heart for them. But because teachers leave such a deep impression on our kids, it makes their work that much more important.

Part of the problem with our education system, and one of the reasons why 15 million high school students have graduated unable to read at a basic level, is that too many people get into the field for the wrong reasons. They need a job. They have a degree. Boom! Instant formula to become a teacher. And it takes more than that to really make the kinds of teachers that produce the kinds of students who make the kinds of leaders that we need across all fields. More kids would be successful if more teachers were sincerely committed to the mission of educating.

The inner workings of our classrooms have been researched and analyzed and turned every which way and we’re still struggling to change the academic dynamic in our ‘hoods and communities. But I can only hope that these findings don’t fall by the wayside when our kids’ mental health is at stake.

What do you think is at the root of the education problem in America? How satisfied are you with your children’s teachers and school system?

Image via Hamner_Fotos/Flickr

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