An earlier post asked which was harder: Teaching or Rocket Science. It received some great responses. Here is one of them:
I’ll add my vote here. Former engineer, now a teacher for 17 years. Teaching is much harder work. It takes a really long time to get very good at it (which TFA and other organizations like it don’t seem to grasp). It also takes a unique blend of patience, thick-skinned tolerance of minor (and sometimes major) injustices, humility and hopefulness that might be thought of as love.
I work with teenagers and I think the hardest thing I do is walk that constant, minute-by-minute tightrope walk of trusting in the goodness of kids while maintaining the integrity of everything you and every other adult in the school has worked so long and hard to build. You have to believe in the kids, or you might as well not even be there. But then again, they will often let you down.
I think the only people who think teaching is easier than working a “real” job are those who have never taught. I have watched a half-dozen smart, confident people come from highly successful careers outside teaching and get chewed up and spit out in less than a semester. I wonder, if the deformers get their way and we end up with a teaching profession that makes 40-50% less than it does now, where they are ever going to find people to do this very difficult job.
Just today, I got an email from a former student who I convinced to try my AP Chemistry class when he thought he wasn’t “smart enough”. I worked my tail off helping him convince himself he could succeed at that level and he gained enough confidence that he changed his future plans and enrolled in college. He earned his engineering degree and was proudly informing me that he had just taken his first job. He is just one in a thousand kids that have passed through my classroom, and I hadn’t thought about him since he graduated and the next batch of diamonds in the rough came through my door and began consuming my time and energy. But he said in his email, “There have been four distinct times when I have consciously made a decision that has forever changed the course of my life and you were involved in one of them . . . Your class changed my life . . . I can definitely say I would not be where I am today if you had not been my teacher.” That’s what keeps us going, right? But in this brave new world of VAM we’re entering, what teacher will ever have time to waste on changing someone’s life?