The joys — and oys — of being a teacher

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I really enjoy being a teacher. 

It’s a wonderful feeling when children ‘see the light’ and understand the concept you want them to understand. 

However, what I really do not like is the stigma that being a teacher carries. The thanks we get as teachers is sometimes lacking and I hope by the end of this you can really appreciate what we, as teachers go through on a day-to-day basis. 

Some of my colleagues have said that they get these questions or comments levelled at them for being a teacher. Here are some particular gems: 

“Oh, you work half days and you get all those holidays. Why complain?”

“Teachers are too opinionated. Why should they steer things in a certain direction outside of the classroom?”

“You listen to that kind of music?!”

“You have a tattoo?!”

“You are a failed actor desperate for attention standing in front of a class”.

“Do you actually have parents?”.

Some other things that teachers experience is that they are always at the beck-and-call of students and parents. People send texts or phone day and night, regardless of the day (even on Shabbat), to ask questions. And G-d forbid a teacher is sick and has to miss a day of work! It seems a teacher should be more patient, available and healthy than the average person.

It is ironic that teachers are seen as superheroes and aliens at the same time. It always makes me laugh when students ‘spot’ me whilst out at the shops with their friends or family; they have a sudden revelation that I do I have a life outside of school. 

So, what does it mean to be a teacher? And how can you help a teacher out? 

Number one: Teachers are humans. We have feelings and emotions, just like you. We have wants, needs and desires. We want to be respected and loved. Outside of school we experience things which we try not to bring to the classroom, but sometimes we have a bad day.

Number two: Teaching is a real job! The phrase ‘those who can’t do, teach’, must be one of the most disrespectful and hurtful things a person can say. We have taught those who ‘do’. From lawyers to accountants, doctors and CEOs, artists and sport stars, we have tried to channel their multiple intelligences and see how they can be the best person they can be. 

Number three: Teachers make mistakes. We cannot always be present all the time, even though we try our best. We want to be as close to perfect as possible, but sometimes even the best teacher can slip-up. 

Number four: Teachers have lives outside of school. Our world does not revolve around teaching. For instance, I sing in a choir, do Jewish tours of Cape Town and perform in amateur theatre productions (look out for the Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan from 11-26 July 2020). Our hobbies take us away from the insane lives we lead.

Number five (related slightly to number four): Teachers have families. We have (or have had) mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, spouses, children, and pets. 

Number six: We are not punching bags. If you are having a bad day (just as we have bad days), we are not the people to take your anger out on. 

However, the one thing I have to reiterate is respect, especially from parents. The Parent Charter on the Herzlia website goes into this in great depth and is worth a read.

I enjoy being a teacher. There are difficult times, especially when the end of the term comes and we have to write reports and put in marks and write comments and speak to parents, among other things. But I love the space in which I teach, the people I interact with, and the children who I teach. I love when a child sees him or herself improving because of hard work and dedication.

I hope you can see the challenges and stigmas that we have to face. Let’s try and get society to change the way we look at teachers. This way we can appreciate and acknowledge where we can change our behavior for the coming school year. 

Have a wonderful December break and Chag Chanukah Sameach!

To read the editor’s column for December/January click here

To read or download the December/January issue of the Chronicle in PDF click  here

To read the most read article of the November issue, click here

Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here

Featured organisation of the month: The Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) activities are centered on relief for the poor and distressed in the Jewish community. They provide a full range of preventative, educative and supportive counselling, statutory services as well as material relief. Visit http://www.jcs.org.za  for more.

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