Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Teachers are Superheroes

Ah, another year over and what have you done? Well, I completed my twenty-first year as a teacher, and, is often the case when I'm finishing a school year, I've got mixed feelings about the sustainability of this as a career choice.

While I watched students take state and federally mandated tests for days on end and tried not to the let the rage and heartache of all that wasted energy eat me alive, I considered the idea that teachers are superheroes.

Now, I don't mean anything very touchy-feely by that, though, of course, we do change and save lives. But I'm at the cynical end of the year, and will need to spend summer recapturing my optimism and faith. Right now, I'm just thinking that you *have* to be a superhero to do this work.

There are so many similarities!

Teachers need secret identities. Remember that time you saw your second grade teacher at the grocery store and just about had a heart attack thinking that teachers might go shopping? There's also the way people FREAK OUT if it turns out that a teacher (who is old enough) drinks a beer in public, or is photographed wearing a bathing suit (at the beach) or cusses in a social media post.

It's changing, and is definitely better from the days when you couldn't teach if you had a husband and being a teacher was akin to being a cloistered nun in the public eye, but many of us still build a protective persona and keep our private life as separate from the work as possible. It's not quite a cool domino mask and a cape, but there is a whole separate me hidden from my work life.

It's a job, but it's also a calling. Just like being a superhero.

Teaching is also one of the few professions where people who have no qualifications, expertise, or experience beyond having attended school themselves feel free to pass judgment on how the job should be done. I try not to be bitter about this and dwell on the idea that this is because teaching, at least through high school, is a female-dominated field.

Like superheroes we are vilified or lauded in the press and public discourse with very little in between, and we are expected to do the job for very little material gain because we're supposed to have a nobler, higher calling (which apparently matters more than whether you are a college educated professional who qualifies for food stamps).

So, if get the vitriol and criticism of superheroes, do we get the powers? Here are some of the superpowers you need to handle this job.

Endurance: Depending on what's going on in your school building on any given day, you may have to go as many as six hours in a row without any kind of break--bathroom, food, coffee, silence, and personal time are for wimps! You also have to be "on" for six hours a day, responding with grace under serious pressure and dealing with every curve ball thrown your way.

Speed: Teachers in my building get 90 non-supervisory minutes a day (if you don't have any meetings
taking up that time) in which to prep 2-7 lessons (depending on your course load), complete any assessment and correspondence, research and collaborate with colleagues, eat and see to personal needs. I can get more done in 90 minutes than many people can do with an entire day.

Extra-sensory awareness: Alone in a room with 30 tweens? You'll need eyes in the back of your head AND a sixth sense for trouble. A little ability to foresee the future wouldn't hurt either. I'd stay away from mind-reading though. You *don't* want to know what they're thinking.

Bullet-proof flesh: Kids are mean. Adults are worse. You'll need that bulletproof flesh to protect you
from attacks of all kinds. (Sadly, some of these bullets are literal, but we'll keep the focus metaphorical for this blogpost).

Reflexes. Emergencies, real or imagined, abound in buildings full of children. A teacher has to be able to jump in with no preparation and build a functional airplane before we hit the ground, all while calming panicking people.

Flexibility. Make all the well-constructed lesson plans you want. They WILL change, usually at the last minute. Resources will fall through, disaster will strike. The wifi will fail.

Wealth. Okay, this one's a pipe dream, but you'll have to teach with fewer and fewer resources every year, because this country likes to SAY it values education, but if you go by where our dollars are spent, we value LOTS of things more highly than education. So, it would help to be independently wealthy, so you can afford to buy all the clothing, food, and school supplies your students come to school without. If I *were* Bruce Wayne or Oliver Queen, you can bet my students would be spoiled rotten with all the best equipment, trips, and experiences.


  1. They sure are! They are unsung superheroes. My English teacher freed me to write. My math teacher freed me to be intelligent. My Typing teacher wished I typed better. <3 Teachers are wonderful!

    1. Thanks :-) We all need to hear that from time to time.

  2. I agree so much! Great teachers are super heroes. They change so many lives and rarely get the credit they deserve.

    The wonderful teachers I had in my life made a huge impact, and I'll never forget them.