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The Curse of Teaching

April 3, 2011

I’m often amazed that there are as many good teachers still teaching as there are. Having grown up surrounded by teachers, and today counting them among family and friends, I’ve seen them at their best and their worst. Teaching is as much a calling, as a profession.  While the salary in most states is spartan, and the working conditions can at times be quite challenging, the dilemma of teaching is more an emotional one than a fiscal one.

The best teachers are the one who care. This sounds self-evident, but it presents the crux of the problem.  The best teachers are possessed by the desire to reach their students in one way or another. The best can’t help themselves, they’ll be tortured and teased by the puzzle that is a problematic student.  They’ll lay awake at night worrying if their students will do well on this exam.

That is the curse of teaching, to do it well, you must care. But, by nature, you can’t reach every kid. You’ll have to watch as the child that is just out of your reach craters.  Most of the time, there was nothing you or your colleagues could have done to stop it. More often than not, the die was cast even before the child came into your classroom. More often than not, nothing you have power over could have stopped that child from failing. But it doesn’t stop you from wondering and trying, because you care.

The only redemption for a teaching soul is to see the flash of understanding cross the face of a child. That is the fix that keeps the good teachers going. But even the best teachers must be satisfied to connect with or reach only some of their students. Others, they must leave for someone else, and hope there will be a someone else.

Time is the real test here. If the benefit of connecting with a portion of their students is enough to keep them going, a teacher will stay with the profession. I have no hard feelings for the teachers that eventually find a change of career is in order. But there are a few that stick with it for many years. They appear to grow a thicker skin, and let go of students they can’t reach. I’ve known too many to be fooled though, that drive to try and improve the lesson, reach the extra kid, or frustration when one of theirs fails doesn’t go away. They have just learned how to not dwell on it, they move on to the next student spark of understanding.  I’m amazed that as many make it to that point as do.

About the author: Ryan Anderson is the area director of Club Z! Tutoring of Greensboro, and was raised by a teacher, married one, and counts several among his close friends and colleagues.

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One Comment
  1. Nic permalink

    I like this, and fell victim to the curse myself, that and lack of support/resources. I love helping kids, but…

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