I love my job. I’m glad I do it. Right now – I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. There’s a sense of fulfilment that comes from doing this work that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Growing up, I was raised to believe that with education all things are possible. I enjoy teaching because it’s a two-way street. My students have taught me more in the past two and a half years than I have in my whole life.
Nevertheless, here are some of the things I wish I knew before I became a teacher.
1. Take care of your voice. It is your asset.
In my first year as a teacher, I lost my voice once every two months. It was awful. I would wake up in the morning unable to speak. I had no choice but to call in sick. Sometimes, I even rocked up at work without my voice.
These days, I have a very strict regime of drinking mint tea every morning. I also sip on warm water throughout the day. If I have a full day of lessons, I suck on throat candy during break time. To soothe my vocal cords, I sometimes drink a concoction of honey lemon with warm water in the mornings.
2. Wear comfortable shoes
You will spend A LOT of time on your feet. Forget about sitting down. There’s no time for that. Thankfully Japan has an indoor/outdoor shoe policy that allows me to wear my super comfy memory sole Sketchers sneakers at work. If your workplace requires more formal attire, I recommend Dansko shoes. They’re the best.
If you come home with super tired feet, elevate your legs above heart level as you would if you had a sports injury. It’s a lifesaver.
3. Beware of people who dump all their emotional problems on you
I’m generally an empathetic person. I care about my kids. I want them to do well and succeed. But in this job, you will hear many sad stories. All the time. Kids will tell you all kinds of things. Parents will do the same.
People constantly ask me for advice about what to do. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to hear the truth about their parenting style or the real reason for their child’s behaviour. Love with your heart, but listen to your head when making decisions. Don’t take on other people’s issues as your own.
An unhappy teacher can’t teach anything.
4. You are a role model
You may not place a lot of importance on the way you dress, the way you carry yourself and the way you behave. But kids do. They watch you. They notice things about you that you don’t. You’re setting an example whether you like it or not. Set a good one. And don’t tell them to, “Do as I say and not as I do.”
Kids don’t understand that. And quite frankly – neither do I. We cannot expect kids to know how to do things that we don’t.
5. Understand that every generation has its own agenda
In Joe Cocker’s N’Oubliez Jamais, he sings, “Every generation has its way.”
It’s true. Don’t even bother telling them about, ‘during my time’ or ‘my parents were…’ or ‘I’ve been through worse’ or ‘one day you’ll understand’.
They won’t get it. We didn’t either. So might as well swim with the tide as opposed to go against it.
Being a teacher is a lot like being a parent. Past the age of seven, most kids see their teachers way more than they do their parents. I’m not perfect. I do my best for my kids each day. I mess up, sometimes. It’s a tough job – raising kids.
But I love my job. I really do. I wouldn’t do anything else.