My school days pass in one-hour segments filled with jokes, smiles, and as much learning as I can pack in, Spanish and otherwise. Sometimes the kids are great, other times not, but I figure this is what I signed up for, to care about and do what I can for every one of them.
After the students leave my classroom, it is different.
Vicious parent emails filled with insults and demands that require an hour's worth of careful email wordcrafting in response.
Administrators who treat your time as though it were Mary Poppin's bottomless carpetbag.
Politicians who pass laws without ever consulting an actual educator, only a budget sheet.
A local and national community that continually announces their contempt for practicioners of my profession and the dastardly way we have organized to make obnoxious demands, such as compensation comparable to other professions that require the same amount of schooling and expertise.
A public that believes my job requires little effort and less skill, and that probably any parent could do better, when in reality the complexity of what I do makes me (a dedicated overachiever who is actually really good at this) stretched beyond my limits on a daily basis.
Weekends filled with the week's overflow and hours of catch-up that is never, ever diminished.
Friends who remark casually about how I am "paid" for two month's summer vacation, not realizing that A) I have a ten-month contract, so my "pay" is only what I asked the school to withhold during the school year, B) I probably work enough during the school year to make up the difference in hours, and C) I still work during the summer developing and improving my curriculum, for free, and D) Have you ever tried to find a job for two months? What else do you want me to do?
I guess I am not surprised by this. I knew all of this on my way in. But I guess I expected it to be more distant, less personal, more abstract. But in fact, all of these negative features - the derision of parents and the community, the insulting comments plastered across the Internet, the laws passed and the administrator responses to disciplinary citations - affect my daily work in tangible ways. I frequently find myself feeling angry, overwhelmed, unappreciated and hurt because of these things.
If I quit before five years, like almost half of new teachers do, it will not be because I dislike my students, my school, my material, or because it is hard. It will be because a person can only be a national punching bag for so long before it's no longer worth it.