Today, a representative from theladders.com emailed me asking if I could promote the site on here with a post for new teachers.

Either spambots are getting smarter, or there’s been a sudden spike of interest in the blogs of recovering math teachers turned tech coaches.

Although I’m not trying to find a job, their suggested prompt is a good one, and I have a litany of writings from my early career that show how much of a struggle it is to be a new teacher.

Ahem:

Dear New Teachers,

It gets better.

Really, it sucks now, but you’ll have more and more great days and less and less days that you wanna quit and move in with your parents.

See?

See? Math proves it.

Working with new teachers in my role as a coach, I ask the question: “Why are you a teacher?” Their responses are as diverse as the teachers themselves:

  • I want to make a difference for kids
  • I love English and I want to share that love with kids
  • I had a terrible History teacher and I want to make sure there are some great ones out there, so I chose to be a great teacher
  • I want summers off
  • I want a paycheck
  • I don’t want to work hard

Four years ago, I was hired at Moreno Valley, and the clerk in HR that processed my application said, “I can tell which teachers will make it and which won’t.”

While she was probably full of it, you–the new teacher–can probably tell which of your classmates aren’t going to retire from the field of education. They’ll retire from Plumbing or Business or Politics or something that has nothing to do with kids or teaching.

Education is a noble and just profession charged with equipping the young future-citizens of the nation, and it’s an honor that you get to be part of the solution every day.

You–new teacher–got into this job for one of the reasons above, and that reason alone will sustain you in this career. If, at any point, you realize This isn’t worth it to me,

…you’re right

… and you should quit.

Seriously. Quit.

Leave the field before you get jaded, complacent, grumpy, or rude. Leave the field of education before you cast a shitty shadow on teachers who love their job and want to make a difference.

Leave before you make the rest of us look bad.

If you choose to stay, be prepared for hardest job you’ve ever had.
Be prepared for chances to affirm students instead of disciplining them.
Be prepared to work your ass off and still not be very good at your job.
Then be prepared to have your contract expire and start all over again.

beprepared

[Be Prepared joke goes here]

All of those things were necessary for me. See, after the worst year of my life, I had to figure out if the hard work was worth it for the theoretical payoff.

I decided that it was. That the potential to positively impact the lives of young people was worth late nights, unfair pay, and being asked “How old are you?” all the time.

Me in 2008. Notice I don't yet look very happy to be a teacher.

Me in 2007. Notice I don’t yet look very happy to be a teacher.

Further, teaching was the first thing in my life where I didn’t succeed quickly (you know… besides every sport during teenage years). It was years before I considered myself an average teacher, and I’m only recently getting affirmed by others as “a good teacher”.

Students have cried in my classroom to me (more times than I can count), have shared their lives with me, their breakups, their abortions, their addictions, and their struggles. As a teacher, I worked hard to be excellent at my job and the by-products of that role are still paying dividends.

A family friend is wrapping up her first year in the classroom as a Teacher’s Aide. She had this to say about her career:

When I describe my students and their lives to my dad, he cries every time. My friends gasp and cover their mouthes when I describe the neighborhood where my students live. Thankfully, I’ve been outside of the room every time one of my “all-stars” gets into a fight, so my only role with them is positive. I have students who don’t know their times tables in the same room with students who are bored with the slow pace of the teacher and I have to find a way to engage them all.
I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Dear New Teacher,

It gets better.

Be patient and keep working hard; it will get better.

~Matt Vaudrey