Teaching Is Not the Job for a Wimp. I Am a Wimp.

A special kind of commitment.

Could a wimp teach these kids?

A week or so ago, Doc forwarded me a a part-time listing. (As a freelancer, I’m always on the hunt.) The local school district is looking for substitutes, and according to the listed requirements I qualify. I didn’t apply. I am a wimp, it seems. I’ve often thought about how much I’d like to teach. I’ve even done a little, and I currently tutor writing at a local university.

But that’s one-on-one. I absolutely love being a dad, but that’s one-on-one, too. I cannot understand how one survives a classroom of 20-30 little kids. By the end of Day One, I’d be hysterically giddy just to have survived. Assuming I did. Forget about teaching the children anything.

Doc and I have had a lot to complain about with our kids’ teachers, and I’ve written about some of it in this blog. I get it: As a well-educated vegan family with adopted children from China, I imagine we can be a pain in the butt. And few of our teachers have been kind of belligerent. Just a few, though. Mostly, they’ve been great people who care deeply. I shake my head in admiration at their career choice. They are not wimps. No way.

This morning, after we took our annual first-day-of-school front-step pictures, Doc took FD to her first day of high school (owieowieowie), and I escorted SD into her first-grade classroom. Her teacher met us at the schoolroom door. She has no doubt been thinking about today and this year all summer, and looks ready. (How about a great video from a fourth-grade teacher in Chicago for his new class?)

Here’s the thing. Anyone who’s genuinely committed to teaching, especially young children, is a hero in my book. The opposite of a wimp.

It’s totally upside-down in the U.S. that teaching is such a disrespected, low-paying profession. And it’s absolutely wrong that as little money as they make, parsimonious school budgets cause teachers to have to spend their own money on supplies they need to do their jobs properly. And then catch grief from parents.

There are tricky dances going on these days: teachers with administrators, administrators with school boards, school boards with politicians, and politicians with corporations who say they’re only outsourcing because we don’t teach enough STEM subjects, when really it’s just cheaper to hire abroad. It’s a mess, and I don’t claim to know how to fix it. But it may begin with us parents making it clear that we treasure and stand by our teachers, and that we know teaching is possibly the noblest profession there is. Maybe instead of steering our kids away from that career choice due to the crappy pay, we instead talking about how meaningful a job it can be.

Going forward, I’ll no doubt continue to share school-related issues other parents can relate to, but underneath it all you should assume my profound respect for these people. On this first school day of the year, they have my gratitude and admiration. Not one of them is a wimp.

Eyecatcher of 1960s Soviet kindergarten children from Copper Kettle