By Tara O’Neal,
19-year veteran teacher
The public is tough on teachers. We get beat up because of test scores, anecdotal accounts of students and of teachers behaving badly. We are blamed for the ills of youth and society.
I’ve only taught two or three students who said they wanted to be a teacher when they get older. This is our fault. We have a teacher shortage and ask ourselves why? We need good teachers, right? Why would we want our children to have a bad one?
To change this, we need to change the narrative. How many times have you heard the saying “Those who can, do; Those who can’t, teach’? It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, so I want to emphasize why I teach.
I was one of those kids who said I would never be a teacher. I wanted to be a lawyer. I majored in history because I heard that was a good stepping stone to law school. I quickly figured out that law wasn’t a passion when I blew off the LSAT to go to Oktoberfest. I didn’t decide to teach until I was 25, and I now know that the reason why I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do for so long.
It’s because God wanted me to teach. Teaching is tough, sometimes I question what God was thinking when he placed me on this path. I think sometimes I’m going to lose my sanity when a student asks me to repeat directions for the second or third time; when they ask, “Did we do anything yesterday when I was absent?” or when the copier is jammed and I’m having to make copies during the five-minute class change.
I have been cussed at, called to the carpet by parents, blamed for a student who has failed, or questioned about test scores. I ask myself, why do I still do this? Then I think about my own educational experience and I realize that I remember every single teacher that I have ever had. I may not remember their names but I remember something that impacted me and buried itself in my soul.
- I remember my Algebra teacher who came to school every day she could because she was fighting a brain tumor. That taught me perseverance.
- I remember the government teacher who encouraged my love of reading because he saw me reading John Grisham’s The Firm and spent time discussing it with me.
- I remember my seventh grade teacher because she was so energetic and loved her job that it has inspired me to show my students those same things.
- I remember when my fourth grade teacher, who I was scared to death of, chose me to be Mary in the school Christmas play. That taught me how important it is to make a student feel special.
I could go on and on. The bottom line is that teachers teach so much more than content. I know everyone reading this remembers a teacher who made a difference. This week, give a shout out to a teacher you had that you might find on Facebook, or send your kid’s teacher a kind email (I mean, who writes cards anymore) and encourage them to keep on keeping on.
The teaching profession is unique in that it directly shapes our future. Let teachers know that the public doesn’t, in fact, hate them. Take the time to let them know they are appreciated.
Tara O’Neal has been teaching for 19 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in History, Masters in Secondary Education from Berry College and an Ed Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University. She taught for 18 years at Rome High School and this is her first year at Coosa High School.