Love Teaching Week 2022 By Amanda Ladish
“Hey Miss, do teachers make a lotta money?” This wasn’t an unexpected question during an English Language Development unit where the language lessons center on economics. As I launched into an explanation about how finances can be relative, how most professions that require a degree means better pay, and that in some situations it’s considered impolite to discuss salary, another student interjected- “I googled it and you don’t make as much money as a New York City trash collector!”
These types of comparisons have been made before, and as teachers we know that nobody is in it for the money. I looked into it a little more and it does indeed depend on the location and experience of each employee in this scenario, but in some cases this statement is certainly true. (No shade to the Big Apple’s sanitation department, they provide a crucial service and work hard.) Nevertheless, it’s admittedly difficult to reckon with this statistic.
When the overwhelming responsibilities of this job threaten to weigh us down, it’s easy to fall prey to either toxic positivity or to mind numbing negativity. My greatest mentors have taught me to seek the silver linings. So, in the spirit of a silver lining mentality- whereby we don’t ignore the real challenges, obstacles, and heartaches of teaching - I try to focus on the life-giving moments:
When a new student from Afghanistan arrived at our school, they shared a high-five with my amazing instructional assistant after we figured out how to add Persian, Pashto, and Dari to the Google Translate keyboard. This tiny act of camaraderie was so touching and meaningful to both the students and teachers.
Collaborating with a colleague that you are politically diametrically opposed to can be challenging, but we all share a love for the students. Many teachers at our school posted an “All Are Welcome” sign bearing LGBTQ+ flags on our classroom doors. There is nothing more uniting than the incredible student reactions about feeling heard, safe, and relieved that there are teachers who will welcome and value them no matter what.
The love and encouragement from supportive management is a huge blessing that I am lucky enough to enjoy with all three principals in our building. I love teaching when a team becomes a family, and if you have this dynamic at your school, count it as a blessing.
Learn from your students. Stay humble. Lifelong learning isn't just a catchphrase in education, it is imperative. I love that a career in education means ideally you are always adapting and evolving, expanding, and analyzing your pedagogy.
Students are perceptive and sensitive to us and our motivations, moods, and methods. If we don’t love teaching, if we can’t find hope, if we dwell in the gloom, (of which there’s plenty) what will happen? Amidst the great resignation, and while fully understanding the reasons for an exodus from teaching, I have hope that kids will still seek careers in the education field. Technical skills and jobs from all labor sectors are respectable, valuable, and important. Obviously, not enough people are paid commensurate with their energy expenditure or passion. But if we love teaching, warts and all, then we have hope of inspiring another generation of educators. This love was evident to me recently when a young man from an underrepresented, underestimated culture called me over while working on a graphic organizer about long term goals. Eyes beaming, he showed me that his main goal was “to be a teacher.”
Amanda Ladish is a secondary English teacher based in NW Arkansas.