It's a cliché, but education, and teaching in particular, has to be the hardest job in the world.
I know because I was one.
For two years, while excelling in a Master's Degree in Education with perfect marks, strutting around like the big man on campus, I was drowning in the classroom. I taught - or better yet, tried my absolute best to survive - a year in 3rd grade and a year in 6th grade.
Teaching meant waking up before the sun to get to the classroom early so you could finalize your plans, then surviving the school day (as if that's the easy part), staying hours after the students to get everything back in order, papers graded, more planning, only to take another stack of papers home to continue to grade before bed.
It's one of the only jobs that I honestly believe there are not enough hours in the day for me to do a job at the quality my students deserved.
Late deadlines, strange hours, uncompromising supervisors, difficult investigations, berating clients/readers, juggling numerous projects at once - they are all simple compared to teaching. No other job I've ever had is as difficult as trying to educate a classroom of 25 students.
Managing Editor for a local newspaper. It's a breeze comparitively.
Did I reach some students? Give them some skills they took with them along their educational path, to be better students, better people? Yeah, probably a few. But reaching an entire class? All but impossible.
So we need to understand the challenge that our local school districts are facing: reaching, teaching and growing EVERY. SINGLE. CHILD.
Teaching one student at a time is easy. Teaching one group of similar learners at a time is manageable. But that is a fantasy.
The reality is today's teachers are expected to reach students with challenges, lifting them up, while challenging the gifted students, such as those enrolled in SEEK programs, while not forgetting the often overlooked middle. Doing that all in the same classroom may be impossible. At least it was for me. And I think asking a single classroom teacher to do so alone is unfair.
I left teaching because I understood enough to recognize that my students deserved a better, more capable teacher.
What can I do now? Anything I can to help those who sacrifice - and teaching is a sacrifice - make their job a little bit easier.
It means I need to spend more time reading and practicing math facts with my 1st grader.
It means I need to learn how I can challenge my 4th grader beyond the classroom.
It means I need to contact my county commissioners and tell them that we need to fully-fund our school system, enough so high learners and challenged learners can equally have the opportunity to succeed.
It means we as a county need to stand up for our educators and administrators and support them.
It means we need to stop expecting our children to get all their education from a school book.
But it also means that if a school can help grow a child, a lack of resources should not be an excuse.
We've got so many good people in our schools who can't reach their - or our children's - full potential because of the constraints placed on them.
I've heard firsthand from our educational leaders that they have to make choices, sacrifices, between which needs to address based on resources - funding - money. And frankly, they are handcuffed by anemic budgets when it comes to growing EVERY. SINGLE. CHILD. It's like trying to feed a family of five on pennies. Somebody is going to go hungry.
Until we take care of the single child, we will not grow as a community. That single child comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, reading levels, attention spans, background knowledge and more.
Fund our schools. Pay our teachers competitive salaries. Install diverse curriculum that gives struggling students the services they need and gifted students the challenges they crave. And spend time - real time - with the students in the middle.
What can you do?
Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.