I’m sure there are plenty of blogs out there that have many negative things to say about being a public school teacher: from the horrible pay to the mistreatment by legislators out of touch with the classroom to the violence that could be visited upon any school. I, however, would like to list 5 things about being a public school teacher that I enjoy very much. They are not grand things, or even things that most people would think are even that exciting, but they are things that make my job worth doing my best.
1. Spirit Week – I absolutely love spirit week because it usually gives me a chance to dress down and not wear professional attire for a week. Spirit week allows students and teachers to show their spirit by dressing up in different costumes or wearing certain kinds of clothing. It allows me to wear jeans and a t-shirt which are more comfortable, allowing me to have a break from dressing in slacks and button down shirts. Students dress up depending on the theme of the day: NBA Day (we wear our favorite NBA team shirt), Retro Day (I break out the flannel shirt, ripped jeans and Doc Martins), etc. Last year during “Nerd Day” I dressed came to school dressed in my screen accurate Ghostbuster‘s costume complete with proton pack.
2. Holidays – As teachers we have many days off throughout the year. Good teachers will use these days for planning and other things, and I am glad we have these days off, because to me they are not really “days off”. I spend my entire summer working on strategies for the next year (when I’m not writing a novel). I spend spring break preparing lesson plans and writing new and interesting Keynote presentations for my classes. As a writer, having these holidays is a plus. I don’t know how writers who have year round jobs complete their writing projects. It has to be tough. I love having this time to write and to spend with my family, but this time is never wasted.
3. Student Success – Let’s face it. I’m a tough teacher. I’m the English teacher that all students wish they could skip. However, after they have navigated the crucible that is my class, they see me in the hallway as seniors and are glad they succeeded. Students come back to our high school time and again to see me and thank me for teaching them how to write essays, and to love writing. My success is measured not by test scores but by the success stories of students who came from very humble beginnings who then go out into the world and find great success and happiness.
4. Free Games – As a courtesy, I and a guest may enter any school sporting event that is a home game for free. It is exciting to go watch students play a variety of sports, sports that are not driven by money or payoffs or endorsements. Most of our students play for the love of the game, and that makes those sporting events that much more entertaining to watch. I’ve been there when we are behind fifteen points and there is only one quarter of football remaining in the game. I’ve been there when we have buzzer beater moments. I have watched as our star wrestler wins yet another state qualifying match. Sadly for some of them, I am the only “parent” that might show up to watch them play, and that makes all the difference.
5. Writing Material – As a writer, many of the personalities, dialogue, colloquialisms, slang and pop culture that ends up in my novels come from some of the things that have happened or have been said at school. I have taught for 15 years, and some of the things students discuss and things I discuss with my fellow faculty usually become fodder for a novel or a vignette within a novel. I never use any of their names, of course, and I do embellish somewhat, but the realist in me is informed by the lives of my students and faculty. After all, real life is stranger than fiction.