One of the big reasons I took up school teaching was because it would give me more time than, say, a corporate job. I thought teaching was an excellent option for young people because it allowed them to have a life beyond work.
That was before I actually started teaching.
Teaching is far harder than I ever thought it would be. The days might be shorter than in a corporate job, but that doesn’t mean very much when you have to bring your work home with you every day. I am quite literally weighed down by the piles of notebooks I have to correct. As a first time teacher, I also have to prepare for my classes. Trying to find good comprehension passages online, making worksheets and revising grammar takes a lot longer than I would ever have expected. When this is combined with all the corrections, I am usually up till 1:00 or later on most week nights. I know that some of this will get easier with time, but sometimes it can be quite overwhelming.
There have been days when I have gone to school on as little as three hours of sleep. Thankfully, since I am young and have only just left behind the student’s world of exams and late-night cramming, this is not something I am unable to deal with. I don’t blank out in the middle of class or nod off in the middle of assessing poetry recitations. But being sleep deprived for the entire week does affect my weekends – the only thing I want to do on Friday and Saturday nights is sleep early. When I’m out with my friends, I invariably start nodding off by 9:00 pm. This happened once at a rock concert, of all places! I have earned myself quite a few “such a schoolteacher” comments. Ironically, it’s only on the weekends that I actually get to sleep early!
In spite of all this, there are parts of the job that make up for all the hard work. Interacting with the kids is easily the best part. Even though I have had chalk, cherries and wads of paper thrown at me, bright green glitter spilt on the back of my white salwaar kameez, and over half my class refusing to submit homework, I still love their chatter and their questions. Maybe the novelty will wear off over time, but for now I find them very cute and perennially amusing, especially the naughtiest and most mischievous ones.
This poses something of a problem, as it makes it hard to impose strict discipline on them. I don’t have the heart to scold them too much, or give them zeroes for not submitting homework. As a result, they tend to take me for a bit of a ride. I am slowly but surely learning how to be firmer with them, but I know it is going to be a long, hard road.
For now, I have decided to pick my battles. As long as the kids are in their seats and reasonably quiet while I am actually teaching them, I let the other things slide. I don’t waste my time scolding them for not tucking in their shirts or not standing up and greeting me when I walk into the room – these things just don’t seem all that significant in comparison.
Hopefully it will all become easier with a few years of experience under my belt. Until then, I can only tough it out as best I can.
The author has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of becoming a laughing stock in the eyes of her students, who have a penchant for researching their teachers on Google.