Confessions of a Teacher

Many people don’t love their jobs (or at least, not every aspect of their jobs), so why are teachers and professors — particularly women — held to a higher standard? Why are they expected to love teaching above all else?, Clio Bluestocking wonders, taking a cue from Professor Zero. In her thought-provoking post, Clio compares the feelings of pressure, worry, and guilt she has toward her job to those often felt by (read: imposed by society upon) mothers:

In some ways, being a teacher is like being a mother, especially if you are a woman, because the cultural expectations of women and of teachers are beyond reasonable human abilities and because so many people bring so much baggage into the classroom in regard to female authority figures.

Which explains why it was so hard for her to confess that … shhhh … teaching is not the be-all and end-all of her existence. And why it took talking to a therapist for her to discover the source of her anxiety about her job:

For the past three years, my teaching has had me worried. I haven’t been worried about the quality, although there is always room for improvement. I have been worried about my fitness.

You see, I just don’t LOVE teaching. It’s great work, the hours fit my temperament, I work with really good people … , but I wonder at my constitutional ability to be a teacher, especially at a community college. Dealing with people tends to wear me out, so dealing with students leaves me exhausted. My students need lots and lots of hand holding, and it drives me nuts more often than I like to admit. By this time of year, I’m miserable, on edge, feeling like a total failure, and hating the world.

This year, however, I brought up the problem in analysis, and the first thing that the analyst made me address was that fact that I don’t LOVE teaching. That I don’t LOVE my job. That was actually a rather difficult admission because I know how many people do LOVE teaching and would be more than happy to have my job. I felt that I didn’t have a right to not LOVE my job because I am so damn lucky to have it. How dare I not LOVE it? Aren’t teachers supposed to LOVE teaching—it makes up for the pay, right?

Since then, she’s had an epiphany of sorts. Sure, she likes teaching well enough, but that’s not why she became an academic; rather she got into this line of work because she loves the subject she teaches and teaching affords her a chance to earning a living at it. And that’s OK, because she doesn’t have to love teaching to be good at it, Clio writes.

Teaching is a job, but a job worth doing well and one that I like doing well even if I don’t LOVE it. Once I admitted all of this to myself, I actually found that I could deal with a lot of problems that made me question my fitness as a teacher. By approaching those problems as puzzles, I could simply solve them and take satisfaction in that. Doing a good job is much easier when you aren’t beating yourself up because you don’t LOVE it. The problems are outside of yourself, fixable, not inherent failings.

Therefore, I am becoming a better teacher by NOT loving teaching.

Readers, how many of you really love teaching?


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