One day a university professor said that about me in class. He complained that his wife, a kindergarten teacher, had been on leave for two years to have their two children. He specialized in language acquisition and reading promotion and used his wife’s classroom as an observation laboratory for years. While she was on leave, he struggled to find a replacement.
He always praised his wife’s skill and patience as a teacher. It was clear that he valued her very much, so out of total respect he joked, “Yes, I think she will continue to have children just so she won’t have to go back to work … I” I believe that a good teacher is a ‘self-abuser’ teacher! “
I had an immediate, visceral reaction at stomach level …
“This is me!”
I’ve always put 110% into my work. I worked hard to develop interesting lessons and tried to keep a close eye on the students in my elementary school. But each day ended in frustration:
- “I didn’t finish all of my lessons today. What am I doing wrong?”
- “The kids were pretty chatty today. I developed all of these ‘cool’ hands-on activities, but I still can’t get them to pay attention.”
- “The headmaster came in today with eight new students for my math class. I didn’t have enough desks, books or materials for them. The rest of the class went nuts because neither they nor I expected our class to be in the middle of ours Hour grow by 30% … “(By the way, the real story. I have no idea where those extra eight kids came from.)
- “Why can’t I have a day without interruptions?”
- “We had a ‘surprise’ meeting today that ruined our time in the ‘learning center’. The children were crushed. I feel bad that I didn’t warn them.”
- “I don’t know what to do with Trevor. No matter what I do, I just can’t get in touch with him.”
In reality, a lot of my frustrations came from things over which I had no control. Still, I felt defeated.
I returned to school one summer to hand in my resignation. We were moving and I had to find a new job. Robert, a seasoned caretaker, overheard me speaking to the director right in the office. A few minutes later I went to my classroom to pack my things. Robert followed me quickly. He rolled a dolly and asked me to get on the elevator with him.
I had always liked Robert, but I was shocked at how kindly he helped me. When we finally got to my classroom, he said wistfully, “Yes, I hate to see you go.
I was shocked! Robert was about to retire; he had spent at least 25 years in the hallways of schools in our district, so he had seen his fair share of teachers and classrooms at work. He was always friendly but rarely said much, so I didn’t expect such a friendly compliment from him. I doubt he would have said it if he hadn’t meant it.
But how could he feel that way? After seven years I could hardly count on two hands how often I came home positive and proud of my achievements in the classroom.
Maybe my professor was right … “A good teacher is a ‘self-abuse’ teacher.”
My husband had a similar experience. For years he has compared himself to some of his close friends who were among the best teachers in his high school. He would wonder how some of them had the time to create such excellent lessons or provide feedback on individual papers and tests for 150 students at a time.
I would try to reassure him that he has his share of good things too. It didn’t matter … as long as there was something he believed he could do, he felt he wasn’t doing enough.
Last year he announced that he was taking a year off. Students, teachers, and administrators came out of the woodworks and surprised him with some very sincere and warm comments about how much he would be missed. He was stunned!
“A good teacher is a ‘self-abuse’ teacher!”
If you are a teacher you are likely a “self-abuser”. Lazy teachers who are completely burned out and don’t care about their students would not read this newsletter. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. They set very high standards. That also makes you a self-abusing teacher by default.