Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Hardest Part of Teaching

Written By: Anachan - Jul• 08•14

A friend from college posted this story on Facebook:  The Hard Part.  It’s a blog piece by a teacher, Peter Greene, talking about what he considers to be the hardest part about teaching.

In Mr. Greene’s opinion, the hardest part about teaching isn’t necessarily the low pay, the disrespectful kids, or the parents who blame teachers for their kids’ low grades, it’s the fact that “There is never enough.”

“There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you.”  You know what your perfect classroom should be like, but the realities of limited resources, limited time, and the limited preparation of your students before they walk into your classroom, mean that your perfect class just doesn’t happen.

“If you are going to take any control of your professional life, you have to make some hard, conscious decisions. What is it that I know I should be doing that I am not going to do?”

When I read the piece, I wanted to fall off my chair in my excitement.  This is exactly how I’ve felt the last two years.  Given that my students often lack some of the basic skills, there is no way I can cover everything they need, according to the state, in order to prepare them for high-stakes standardized testing.  So I have to pick and choose, deciding what is more important.  Should I step back and review  remedial grammar, or should we plow through another piece of literature to gain a higher understanding of the characteristics of the various American eras?  Should I walk them, yet again, through the steps to write a five-paragraph essay, or should I give them a more challenging literary analysis assignment?

I read the article to my husband, who sat back with a somewhat bemused smile.  “What teachers don’t realize,” he said, “when they are writing things like this and thinking they are special, is that this is absolutely normal in business.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“In business, there is always something else you could have done or should have done, always some other avenue you should have followed up on, always some other person you should have contacted to make another sale,” he noted.  “There is never enough time to do everything you really ought to do.”

The more we discussed the topic, the more we realized that this is a problem common to many professionals.  If someone doesn’t have a job which is strictly in the moment, working on the clock to provide a service, they are likely to experience this frustration at one time or another.  Waitresses can go home when their shift is over and not worry about what they haven’t accomplished.  Factory workers know the same assembly lines will wait for them the next day.  But doctors have so much paperwork these days that they may worry about what they couldn’t get done in the short amount of time they were actually able to visit with their patients.

Come to think of it, I think we run into the same problem as parents.  There is always something more we could have taught, always something more we worry that our kids didn’t learn, and always another opportunity we could have given our kids.  But we have to make a living and then we have to make sure everyone is fed, clothed, washed, and more or less healthy, so there never seems to be enough time.  Or if there is time, there might not be enough money to fund that fabulously exciting art camp in the summertime or the drama camp in LA.  We have to make decisions, for better or for worse, hoping we’ve struck an adequate balance between offering opportunities and facing realities, so our kids will be prepared to be independent when the time comes.

“Not enough” is not such an unusual problem, after all.  But, as Mr. Greene states, “Even though we can’t get to perfect, we can steer toward it.”

I guess that’s about all any of us can hope to do.

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