GUEST COLUMN: Teaching is a class act, but I would never want the job

Marg Johnson

You need the hide of a rhino to work with children, as well as a sharp eye and the courage to face confrontation.

Many teachers urged me to finish university and become a teacher, and I always responded: “There’s not enough money in the Ministry of Education budget to pay me to be a teacher in a school.”

I didn’t need parents telling me their son was unhappy with his math mark, as if that was my fault. Or hear, “Please don’t give Joey any homework. He’s too busy with sports and I don’t have time to do it anymore.” Or, “Clearly, you hate my child because you give him bad marks in math.”

Add to that the unspoken responsibilities, such as teaching manners, enforcing structure and boundaries, sending notes home reminding parents to sign tests, teaching the Catholic faith to children who have never been in a church, and speaking respectfully to parents whose children aren’t doing well, knowing they’re not receptive to placing responsibility on the child.

No, there isn’t enough money for me to take on that kind of play-acting as a career.

I love it when people say, “Teachers get a paid two-month vacation and great benefits, not to mention great pensions.”

Teachers choose to have a ten-month salary spread over twelve months and take home less each pay to ensure income in summer months. In my opinion, some teachers need that time to regroup and get next year’s lessons organized. Burnout is endemic.

As a teacher in today’s schools, you are armed with only your education, personality and skills. Administration certainly doesn’t have your back. I urge any parent to spend half a day sitting in on any elementary class.

I told you that to tell you this. Despite my singular efforts to the contrary, my daughter chose to be a teacher. I was proud to watch Trish take charge of a Grade 5 class and discuss her experiences living and teaching in South Korea, as part of our Trading Partners Unit.

I again got a peek into her latest classroom in Kazakhstan, when she asked my husband and I, here in Canada, to be Skype “grandparents” to help her Grade 1 class practice interviewing skills.

I watched as Trish’s eyes flared in pleasure when a sweet little girl stood to ask a question. Trish’s quiet, “Way to take a risk, Ellie” gave the girl the courage to continue and shyly smile at us.

She and her husband, Rob, are both teachers there, and after this glimpse into their world, I don’t blame them for wanting to stay there and teach.

As much as I miss them and our grandbabies, I would never deny them the experiences and successes they’re achieving. And weekly Skype sessions do help.

Marg Johnson is a Sarnia resident and retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who worked as an educational assistant for 15 years at the York Catholic District School Board.