When you meet new people, they always end up asking you what you do for a living. I could say I was a therapist, a story teller, a cheerleader, a prison guard or even a wild animal tamer, all of which would be 100% true, but I always end up giving them my real title, I am an 8th grade teacher. To which the natural response of any normal human being is, “Oh really? Good for you.” Please read the aforementioned statement with a strong note of sympathy, pity and a dash of appall. My response though, is always the same, clear, and straight to the point, “Yes. I love them.”
“Yes. I love them,” is exactly why I teach. I teach because if I did not love them, who would? They certainly don’t love themselves. They are awkward and moody, tiresome and troublesome, angry for no reason, sad and lonely. If I did not teach, if I did not care, they would get lost, swallowed up into the vast black hole that middle school can become.
I teach because I love them. I love their awkward phases and seeing what they become after they leave. I love telling them that this too shall pass and the future is littered with opportunities. I love how kind they can be to each other when something goes horribly wrong. I love knowing that they are sorry when I tell them how disappointed I am in them. I love it when they succeed in places they never have before. I love sharing with them my stories and listening to theirs. I love laughing at their goofy antics for in no other profession can you use phrases like, “stop rolling around on the floor,” or “why are the two of you taped together?” But it also makes me feel needed to know they can come to me when life is pulling them down.
I became a middle school teacher because I love them and remember how hard it was for me to love myself when I was in their shoes. I wanted to help make their experiences better. And I am lucky because I think, in truth; I am the one who is enriched each day by the love I get back in return. It may not be perfect or profound or screaming from the rooftops, but it’s love none the less, and I couldn’t do my job without it.
So do not pity me or condescend me, I don’t even need a thank you. I don’t do it for you. I do it because I love them.