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Hunt column: So, you’re ready to teach?

By Cathy Hunt
Troup County Board of Education Chairwoman

So, you’re a fresh-faced college graduate with a freshly printed degree and a deep appreciation for everyone who got you where you are.  Now you’re ready to be the one who inspires appreciation. 

Except that first year of teaching is going to be hard, no way around it. I am so saddened when a novice decides teaching is not for them after one year.  For 95% of us, the second year is going to be so much better.

I learned really quickly that not all teenagers love English classes as much as I always had. But I had worked so hard on those lesson plans! How could they not see the hilarity  in a dangling participle? How could they be less than outraged at the “ending” of the story “The Lady, or the Tiger”? How could they maintain that Shakespeare makes no sense? In other words, what is wrong with me?

At this point, you learn about Teacher Appreciation Act 2.  You have to cultivate relationships with your colleagues. They will lift you up again and again and again over the decades to come.

During my first year of teaching, I had planning period with the inimitable Ms “J.” She regaled me daily with hysterical stories from her life and teaching career and made sure I was caught up on all the school scoop. I couldn’t stay uptight around her. “You just can’t take it personally if they don’t love English. Most of them won’t love the subject like you do. But you can still get them to love and respect you,” she said.

What do teachers do besides work hard on lesson plans and grade papers (which I might add, they frequently do at night and all weekend)?  Well, they have to crank up the enthusiasm all day every day. To me, teaching felt like performing in a six hour play every day. You always have to be “on;” those children are always watching. Teachers are in tune with their students’ home lives and interests so they can form relationships. They know when it’s time for tough love. They keep up with standards, procedures, laws, and required reports.  They go to department or team meetings, faculty meetings, and system meetings.  And most teachers go much further. They quietly pay for food, uniforms, dues, lost books, and supplies when they see a need. They provide transportation. They work long, extra hours as coaches and directors and club sponsors and are the last to go home at night when the last student gets picked up late. They organize and chaperone trips. 

They attend their students’ sporting events and concerts, their graduations and proms.  They teach from home during a pandemic.

They miss and worry about their charges, even the ones who can try their nerves, when not with them. And they do all of this gladly. It’s just part of who they are.