Labor of Love: A Former Teacher’s Thoughts on Teacher Shortages

Disclaimer: I’m not a real teacher.

That is to say, I’ve had little formal training as a teacher; never took courses towards a teaching degree even during my miniscule collegiate experience; and never harbored even the teensiest trifling thought of teaching anyone anything on any basis before my Lord called me to homeschool our little brood of three.

So by the current American view of what it takes to be a “professional” teacher, I’m not one. But I have played one in various contexts. In doing so, I’ve discovered three facts that make me appreciate teachers even more.

Fact #1

Teaching is less a job and more of a lifestyle.

Most teachers are required to have a college degree. Some places even require them for preschool – a truth which never ceases to boggle my mind (as if your average, non-substance-addicted human being isn’t capable of teaching the alphabet, letter sounds, and color recognition !!).

Yet I doubt any degree can prepare you for the actual job. Despite the classroom time, most teachers spend hours arranging and decorating the classroom itself (often partly out of the teacher’s own pocket).

Untold hours are devoted to grading, brainstorming new ways to present key concepts, licensing requirements, helping with athletic events or drama productions, attending meetings, and so on. For many teachers, an average day begins around 7:00 a.m. and often extends past 9:00 p.m.

And despite the stigma, not many teachers take summers completely off. Summer is a time to sleep past sunrise and do some lesson plans and/or curriculum tweaking without the pressure of skipping lunch or prepping for that kid who simply will not stay on task.

And that’s for teachers who are supplied a curriculum. Some of us write our own.

Fact #2

The teaching lifestyle is not highly profitable.

One former teaching colleague graduated with a degree in data science and was asked to step in to fill a sudden gap in the math department during the school year. And he loved the job – until he moved out of his parents’ house.

College degrees are not cheaply obtained, and teacher salaries make the payback difficult for those who enjoy eating every day. Not only is teaching not for everyone, it isn’t affordable for many of us.

Fact #3

Teachers often burn out from fighting battles on too many fronts.

American teachers are often treated as the enemy – or even the servant of the enemy – rather than as the professional, hard-working, child-loving human beings most of them are.

Even in the very warm and wonderful environment I taught in, I experienced a few parents who reminded me of my waitress days and what I always called “low priority customers” – something to think about next time you’re treating your waiter as an inferior being. ūüėČ

In social settings, I’ve spoken with well-meaning parents who simply cannot grasp why a teacher with fifteen or thirty other kids can’t provide the one-on-one time their little Charlie or Susie needs to flourish. It’s as if some folks indulge a bizarre belief that a teaching degree confers upon a person the ability to sidestep the space/time continuum and also perform actual sorcery.

The truth is, most teachers have bent over backwards so often, a side gig as a sideshow freak is a viable revenue stream.

If little Charlie or Susie were the only child with unique needs, it would be possible to help. But close to 15% of today’s kids have some type of learning challenge, while the rest of them are dealing with the heaviness of modern life. The teacher is left trying to present the day’s lesson multiple ways, competing with near-invisible earbuds and fifty-million video game hacks while still giving individualized attention to several kids – all in less than an hour.

Of course, this is assuming the day goes smoothly and there are no external distractions. Which happens, well. . . never.

Support Your Teachers!

If you are a Christian, please remember we are called to treat others as we would like to be treated and to consider others as more important than ourselves. This includes teachers, even if they are getting paid a few coins to shape and mold the minds of our future.

If you are not a Christian, you are still human. You may not have the motivation of realizing Jesus died to pay for all those horrible things you’ve done (though He DID, and He’s always willing for you to accept the free gift of eternal life from Him), but you can still be a decentish human.

Just be nice to your kids’ teachers. Please.

Tuesday Prayer: Teacher

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 
(2 Timothy 4:8)
Good¬†Teacher, today we praise Your name because even though You are the Most High and Sovereign over all, You also offer Yourself as a Tutor to Your people. You have given us the Word of Truth as our textbook so that we may know You and discern good from evil.¬† As if that isn’t enough, You’ve also given us Your own Holy Spirit to be our Guide. What a legacy You have bestowed on us in these alone!
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
(Isaiah 30:20)
Our Lord, thank You for giving us these gifts here in this in-between time where we look both backward and forward. In the past, You walked the earth as a Man, fulfilling the promise given through Isaiah that the people of Israel would see their Teacher with their own eyes.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
(John 16:13)
In the present day,  we are thankful for the Divine Presence in the person of the Holy Spirit who continues to instruct us in the Word of Life.  We cannot see this Spirit of Truth except with the eyes of faith. And we do have faith, Lord. Please increase our faith.
But neither of these past or present manifestations of our great Teacher are the sum of Advent. This season, we also look forward to that great Day when all of us who have loved Your appearing will behold with our own eyes the splendor and majesty of the King.

 

With praise and with humble hearts we ask You: Teach us well of Your Truth! Please grant each and every one of us, young and old alike, a driving desire to know You better and an insatiable hunger for Your Word – to study it, to love it, to store it up in our hearts.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
(Psalms 119:11)

Thank You for being a Teacher who is patient with us even as You hold fast to Your truth and for being both firm and kind when You discipline us. We know we can trust You, Lord, for even when You rebuke us, it is truly for our eternal benefit. You alone are good and we know that all that is worthy comes from Your hand, including all worthwhile instruction.

This Christmas, help us to fully realize the incredible Gift we’ve already been given in You our Teacher. May we be teachable, humble before You and patient with others as they learn just as You are patient with us. Teach us to walk in Your ways and to love them more than we love this world. Teach us to love You more, even, than our own lives. May our lives be lived for Your glory, amen!