When we were in kindergarten, we brought our teachers shiny apples and looked up to them adoringly. In third grade, we couldn’t wait to show them what we brought to show-and-tell. In fifth grade, we despised how they’d yell at us and force us to sign the dreaded book of behavior, but we still respected them. And now, as high schoolers, we complain about the workload they pile on us and how “unfair” they are.
Let me ask you, what changed between kindergarten and now? Did the teachers suddenly evolve into nit-picky monsters obsessed with ruining teenagers’ lives? Or did we change?
As the offspring and grandchild of teachers, I can testify to all the horrendous stories I’ve been told. My mom teaches first grade to little children who worship her, while my dad teaches high school to adolescents just like you and me. The difference between the stories I hear are night and day.
During the elementary school years, we wobbled into school in our Crocs with a Hello Kitty tin lunchbox in hand, wide-eyed and naive about the world. Our paint-covered stubby fingers would swirl across a bright white sheet of paper for our beaming proud parents to hang on our refrigerator. When it was nap time, we would refuse to sleep, still hyper from the juice pouches we chugged down during snack time. We would use our loud mouths to declare any thought we had to the classroom. Our teacher became our idol; a superhero to look up to and adore. She was the coolest lady who taught us the alphabet and multiplication charts.
In high school, our eyelids slip shut during a monotone lecture, wondering when the teachers will ever stop droning about osmosis, quadratics, or the Battle of 1812. Our hands sketch a doodle in the corner of our loose-leaf paper where we should be taking notes. We would give anything to curl up into those cots we refused to nap in as kids. Throughout the day, we calculate the amount of homework we have and groan every time a new assignment is announced. We complain how irritating a class to our friends in the school cafeteria.
But is it really the teacher’s fault?
Let me tell you, their job is no walk in the park. While we grumble about homework, they never fuss to us about all the grading they have to accomplish that evening. All I see my parents do as I unwind on the couch after school is grade papers: worksheet after test after assignment. They set their alarm for the same time as us, yet they can’t be caught sleeping during class. They have the same workload as us but never fail to hand back a test in a timely fashion. Their sleeping schedule is as hectic and sleep deprived as ours. They get as excited for snow days and summer break as we do.
So are we really that different from them?
Throughout the course of a regular school day at Mason High School, we have to communicate with and learn from only five teachers a day who are dedicated to give us the best education possible. They chose this career for a reason; they like kids and they’re passionate about what they teach. But throughout the course of their day, they have to deal with four classes jam-packed with 30 students. Some are just as excited about the subject as the teachers are, but others could care less. Imagine having to deal with a kid smeared with a bad attitude every day. It can’t be easy. I don’t think teachers get enough credit for all the things students put them through.
Throughout this article, I keep using the terms “them” and “us”. But it shouldn’t be a “them” and “us” concept. We all try our hardest in the school, so why can’t the students and teachers come together and form a tightly-woven unit of people working together?
Just be open-minded. We want to listen to a boring lesson as much as they want to teach it, so be cooperative and really listen. You may learn something new that intrigues you. Put in as much effort as they do. You might notice that a teacher is making an impact on your life like a handprint in drying cement. My third grade teacher inspired me to become a writer, and that has carried over for the rest of my life. Writing is a passion I discovered thanks to her.
So next time you open your mouth to badmouth a teacher, think. We’re not so different after all.
Because who knows? Someday you could be a teacher wanting the same respect from your students.