Teaching: You Don't Have to Love Kids, But It Helps

It Wouldn't Hurt to be Crazy

If you speak to educators on a regular basis, ask one if they know a teacher who is burned out, but still in the field. Yes, I'm sure they'll agree, they do know such a teacher. Then, ask if there's a teacher who is in the classroom who doesn't like kids. 

Yes, I'm sure they'll agree, they will allow they know such a teacher.

Why?

Why in the world would you take a job in which you spend 90% of your time in direct contact with children if you don't like being around them anymore? It makes no sense. Personally, I hate scorpions, and I would not apply for a job in which you handled them on a daily basis.

Yet, people with teaching licenses do this all the time. Everyone knows a teacher who stands in front of a room of young people each day and doesn't seem to like them. This teacher is aggressive with their students. Harsh. Mean, even. They do things maliciously in order to make students feel small, to hurt feelings, to quash dreams and ideas, to smother sparks.

Why?

I love my job. Teaching is the hardest thing I've ever done. I've worked with kids in my short time already that made me question whether or not I wanted to go back to work the next day, and yet I do, because the other students more than make up for the very few who make it difficult. I love my students.

I think, and I could be wrong, but I think they love me. 

I show them as much compassion and care as I possibly can. I listen to them and talk to them. I tell jokes and play tricks. Yes, I teach, but so much of teaching is building relationships with these wonderful, weird young people, that I ca't turn that playful part of my brain off. I want to make them happy at school and to teach them at the same time.

I've held crying children on playgrounds, listened patiently to the world's worst and most boring stories, gently corrected children in lies, pressed for information, backed off when it seemed the right thing to do, and so much more. I love it. I love my kids.

I would not, as a rule, go out of my way to make them miserable. I don't go out of my way to be mean or condescending.

Why do some adults do this? I find it bizarre in and of itself that any adult would be a jerk to a child, though I certainly understand venting frustration at times, and why, of all the lines of work in the world, if you didn't like kids, WOULD YOU BE A TEACHER?

If you don't like kids, please don't teach. If you're not willing to kneel and tie a kindergartener's shoes, if you're not willing to sit and listen to a boring story, if you're not willing to pat shoulders and give hugs and laugh at jokes, if you're not willing to tell someone quietly to go to the bathroom so they can cry in privacy when they need it, and to talk to you in the hall when they need that, then hang up your pointer and get out of the classroom.

The kids we teach need us. They need our love and attention probably more than they need the content we're teaching in many cases. Our kids come from homes where "I love you," isn't said enough, where hugs are rare, and where adults are not people you look to for hope, help, or comfort.

We must be those people.

I'd be lying if I said I want to be that for every single one of my students, because I don't, but I will be. Even as I write a student a citation for a behavior, I'll answer their question, give them a high five, or sit down and work on their essay with them.

If you're not happy in your chosen profession, change jobs. I did. When I was a 9-1-1 dispatcher, I realized I suffered from burn out, and someone was going to get killed because of my indifference and job dissatisfaction. 

If you're indifferent, or worse, outright mean, then you need to make that change too. The kids need someone who loves them. Not someone who tolerates, endures, or actively dislikes them.

Set ego aside. The kids need us. We're teachers, and we're here to help.

Jeff HewittComment