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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

A REASON TO TEACH: THE WORK FAMILY

Updated: Oct 6, 2023



Teaching is like the marines. Or a professional sports team. Maybe a sorority pledge class.

What do these have in common, and what does this have to do with teaching?


These groups are bound together by grueling work, hours of practice, and walking through fire (usually metaphorically). All teachers have the common bond of being charged with trying to teach students who are not, shall we say, always cooperative. We are bound by the endless submission of lesson plans, by attendance at staff meetings that could have been e-mails, and by conference nights when only the parents you don’t need to see show up. Teachers understand each other. We watch each other’s classes so everyone gets a bathroom break. We stash chocolate and aspirin to share during our colleague’s time of need. When one teacher vents about the behaviors of THAT kid, or rails against another unneeded report required by the Powers-That-Be, the other teachers understand completely. Yes, misery does love company!


Many years ago, on a Friday afternoon, four teachers sat in a classroom. The lesson plans were written. Our rooms were tidied up. The copies we needed for next week were all run off. Monday’s lab materials were assembled. Phone calls to parents were made, and e-mails sent. New student work was hung on display. All the essays and tests were graded and recorded. It had been quite a day. Besides teaching our respective subjects, we each did our share of breaking up fights, calming student meltdowns, enforcing the “dress code” (you can’t wear your skirt on your head because you can’t see and you just walked into three students and a wall), and mediated the usual disputes over missing pencils, dirty looks, copying answers, and stealing friends. We had one hell of a week, but then again, we always had one hell of a week. It was 5:00. Why were we still there? Because we needed some quiet time together after the craziness of the day. We were the only people on the planet who knew exactly what we were going through. We would go to our homes and families very soon, but we had to have those few minutes of group decompression with our work family.


Fast forward to another scene. A teacher who did everything during lunch except eat lunch had read that you could make a hard boiled egg in a microwave. (That article was incorrect.) The teacher, in the last 10 minutes of the period, filled a plastic bowl with water and put her egg into the water for the specified amount of time. She removed the egg and brought it to the sink. She ran it under cold water until it was cool enough to handle. She brought the egg to the garbage can and cracked it on the edge of the window sill so she could peel it. It sounded like a gunshot. That single egg exploded everywhere- the floor, the window, her face (ow!), and her brand new black shirt. Not 15 seconds later, another teacher entered, noting that the room stank. Then she looked at the egg-boiling teacher. “You’re a mess. You even have egg in your hair.” She ran to her room and returned with wipes for the desks and a school tee shirt for her messy friend. She sent Ms. Egg to the bathroom with a clean shirt while she sprayed deodorizer, wiped the back desks, and collected both of their classes from the cafeteria.


Wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be an article about a reason TO become a teacher? This sounds like a nightmare job. Here’s the reality. Every job, every single job, has its plusses and minuses. I can’t vouch for people in other professions that I have never been a part of, but I can say that having my colleagues at my side as a teacher has always helped me get through the rough patches. They understood my struggles because they shared them. Just like the marines.

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