Teaching…It’s Not For Sissies.


45tXMR0As I start my 16th year teaching special education, I’ve had the pleasure of spending much of the last couple of weeks with some new teachers, who are just starting out in their careers, and it’s made me reflect on what I believe, who I am, and what the REAL lessons are in education.  

1. You know how you’ve been able to go around just calling people “motherfucker” and flipping them off, when they’ve been shitty to you?  Yeah, well, you can’t do that anymore from 7am-4pm.  The irony is that you are going to be disrespected more in the next ten months, than you have in your ENTIRE life, and you’re going to have to respond to it with a quiet dignity that you didn’t know you possessed.  And yes, as long as it doesn’t come out of your mouth…mentally calling an eight-year-old a ‘dickhead’ is perfectly acceptable.

2. I don’t care how amazing your teaching skills are, or how good the lesson is that you planned…it can all be undone with one well-timed fart.  Doubt me?  Try and pull out your A-Game lesson, two hours after they serve burritos in the cafeteria.

3. That support staff you’ve sorta met?  Yeah…start kissing ass now, because if you piss off the nurse, the custodians, the assistants, or God forbid the school secretary…you are so totally screwed.  And I mean a solid, up-the-ass, no lube or foreplay, pillow-biter, because those bitches run everything you care about.  Even the principal is scared of them, and with good reason.

4. Do not, under any circumstances, get a class pet.  It is hell on you, and worse on the animal.  No creature on this earth has EVER aspired to be the thing that 35 second-graders annoy the shit out of, on a daily basis.  I’m 90% positive that in the Hindi culture, that in order to be reincarnated into a class pet…you have to run over a busload of nuns carrying kittens.  If PETA knew half of what was going on in classrooms, they’d forget the fur industry even existed.

5. Password protect your phone NOW.  You think I’m kidding, but I have yet to see a school year where a teacher’s phone WASN’T stolen, and I’ve seen them stolen by kids as young as 6.  Having to replace your phone sucks, but you know what sucks more?  Having no passcode on that thing, and now the entire eighth grade has everyone on campus’ private phone numbers AND those five pictures of your boobs that you sent your ex-boyfriend when you were drunk.

6. Be wary of parents who want to help too much…they’re better spies than any CIA operative, and you are their only interest.  If you have a parent who insists on helping, give them off-site assignments like copying papers or planning parties.  You want any more convincing?  Look at the relief on their own child’s face, every time they leave.

7. The first two years of your career are going to read like the first ten seasons of House.  You are going to catch diseases that you didn’t even know existed, and certainly can’t spell, and no amount of hand washing is going to save you from the twenty times a day when a child literally sneezes in your face.  Which brings me to…

8.  You’re going to spend countless hours of your life on the internet researching new material to enrich your classroom, but I’m about to give you the only website that will get you through this first year, and probably every year after…

The Most Important Website You’ll Ever Need…


To end…I’ll give you my 9th and most important tip…and this one I’m dead serious about, and it’s the one that means the very most to me… The kids you get, are the kids you got.  Parents aren’t hiding the good kids at home.  You have to find a way to love them…ALL OF THEM…because the one thing I know to be true…kids will not work for people who don’t care about them, and man, do they know.  I can name a thousand kids who can’t read, but I can’t name one that doesn’t know when a teacher doesn’t like them.  So, please…don’t be that teacher…find a way…

You are going to get kids with a myriad of disabilities and home issues, some of which make them nearly impossible to handle, but try and remember…these kids didn’t ask for them.  They didn’t ask to be different or socially screwed up or have shitty parents.  And yes, they’ll be a pain in your ass or make horrible choices, and make you want to tear your hair out, but, under it all…they’re kids.  They’re scared and sad and confused, and they need you.  You might be the first person to find something wonderful about them, that they didn’t even know about themselves.  You might be the first person to make them feel safe at school, and give them hope that they CAN do this.  You might be the only person who tells them that you love them, and I hope that you do.

I promise that they’ll move mountains for you…if you believe that they can.

89 thoughts on “Teaching…It’s Not For Sissies.

  1. This was really funny and touching. This was a lovely bit of writing. No kidding teaching is not for sissies. It sounds tough. I don’t know if you get the show Mr. D. It’s a Canadian show BUT it is very funny and it is about a school teacher in Toronto. Maybe on Netflix? I think you would enjoy it.
    I know one thing for sure: I had serious crushes on a few of my teachers and would consider a picture of their boobs to be the holy grail.

  2. What a fabulous post. And while I’ve never been a real teacher (my grad student teaching days don’t count), I can attest that the part about the support staff is so true. My path through graduate school was so much easier because I knew how to make friends with the support staff. An admin even forged my adviser’s signature for me once (I only found out later) when my professor screwed up and failed to get paperwork done on time. That shit’s gold.

  3. Oh, lovely!!! Just right, from the sneezes in the face to the kids who know you don’t like them.
    I remember the year when my Dad was dying, slowly and painfully. I began the year thinking that I was doing fine, but after he finally passed (the second week of September) one of my students came up to hug me. He said, “I’m sorry that your Dad died, but I’m happy to know that’s why you were grumpy. I thought you didn’t like us!”
    I regularly say, “I love you like my next breath, but…….” when I need to discipline the kids.
    Have a good year! Stock up on your vitamins!

    • I’m so glad that you tell them…it’s so important. 🙂 And those hugs are lifesavers, aren’t they, because God knows the shit hits the fan in our lives, too.

      I’m using Sambuccol now…stuff kicks SO much ass.

  4. Totally hilarious and true! I spent 35 years teaching all kinds of Special Ed (with a bit of General Ed) and those little devils spawn incarnate will get you every time. Gads, I loved ’em, was pissed at, rejoiced in, loathed it all, and laughed my ass off, usually all in the same day, every day. Teaching is not for the faint of heart!

  5. Good teachers are like angels here on earth, yet often find themselves working in the pits of hell!

    Seriously, teaching is a true calling. Those that do it because they love it make an immeasurable impact on their kids that lasts a lifetime. Teaching special ed is hard I’m sure, but I’m so very grateful for the teachers who have touched my youngest in particular.

    Thanks for a great read! I hope you have a wonderful school year, Be sure to take your vitamins and buy lots of Lysol!

  6. jonontopic

    This was a great read. It’s funny and very spot on. I’m glad you liked my post or I would have missed checking this out.

    • Thanks Philo! Oh, they probably did it under their breath, and if it makes you feel better, I just ran into my HS math teacher, and the first words out of my mouth were, “I’m SOOOO sorry for what a bitch I was at fifteen!”

  7. elitosphere

    Wow, that was both funny and heartfelt. Congratulations… you’ve successfully managed to make me feel actual sincerity. And you know what? It’s not half as bad as I thought it would be. Kudos on all the amazing things you do!

  8. Wishing you a happy new (school) year! Great advice, and yep that website should help 😉

    We had parent / teacher interviews the other night where I spoke to over 30 high school parents in 2.5 hours…… One parent wanted to tell me I was her daughter’s favourite teacher which was lovely, but I can’t clearly recall who it was…..But I’ll never forget the name of the girl whose mum told me her daughter thought I didn’t like her….

  9. I know SOOOooo many teachers who should read this. This post should go with the orientation materials…

    The place where I work is ALL special ed/at-risk youth. A coworker had issues with a teacher from OUR facility and her son, who was a day student at our other location. And, get this – her issue was with the kid’s lack of attendance and part of his diagnosis is agoraphobia! Is that idiot not schooled in psychology??? Anyway, I digress. Point is, she’s an ignorant bitch and technically should know better. 😉

  10. you nailed it. in the best of ways. I laughed and cried and I even had all my clothes on. your kids are blessed to have you in their court. *almost* made me want to go back to teaching. instead I am going to the couch in the hopes that this will pass. my sincerest of wishes for an amazeballs school year.

  11. changeling

    As the parent of a special needs child, Thank you all who teach, especially those that teach special end.

    I am in awe of those that willingly walk into a room full of demons masquerading as students.

    If you feel the need to get a class pet, choose something sturdy and give it a safe place that the kids can’t access.

  12. I read this.
    And then I read it to my husband.
    And then I read it to a friend who is a teacher.
    And then I sent it to some other teacher friends.
    And now I want to record a dramatic reading of it — like the poetry that it is — and send it to you.
    Thank you. I needed this.

  13. Doug in Oakland

    I, too, read this aloud to my friend, and had to stop three times during the last section for some damn reason.
    I don’t have the words to express how much I admire you for this, or for how frustrated I get that we don’t treat our teachers better in this country, so will “Thank you” be OK?

  14. Wow! Love it! I am both a teacher and a teacher trainer. The teacher trainer part pays most of my bills…sooooo… I will not tell my students about your blog until they graduate and get their first job 😉

    Keep up the great posts. I look forward to reading them all!

  15. Bravo, this was incredible! Obviously I love the bit about the boobs on your phone, but it’s so true about the support staff– I work at a hospital and it goes the same way! This was all really quite touching and hilarious, you can totally educate my future a-hole children.

    • My mom says the same thing…if the nursing assistants hate you…you’re dead. It would be my sincerest and most profound pleasure to teach any of your children, but especially the asshole ones. Assholes keep life interesting.

    • Can you imagine? “Staff…I need you to study this blog post fraught with the word ‘fuck’ and ‘asshole’…I expect you discuss it, in length, in your PLC groups.” 🙂 God, I’d totally love that…for a variety of reasons.

  16. 18mitzvot

    My first thought was, “I wish all teachers had your loving attitude.”, but you know what? Almost all of my teachers did! Mrs. Sakala (4th grade), Mr. Phillips (7th grade), Ms. Schmidt (9th grade). Teachers rock! Very nice post.

  17. stormydreams

    Of the five children I am raising (3 of my own by birth, my niece, and my nephew) 3 are special needs. One for health reasons, one is autistic, and one has minor brain injury due to oxygen deprivation from birth complications. I can only say that without the teachers that have been put in their lives, I don’t know if any of those three would be doing as well as they are now. They have made such a HUGE impact, and helped me find the help I needed to find in order to help my children continue to thrive. ALL I can say is may God bless and keep you so that you can remain in the classroom a LONG LONG time. These children need you, and from your blog, I think you need them as well. Thank you for ALL you, and other teachers, do for our children.

    • Thank YOU for being the first and most important influence on amazing kids. 🙂 I cannot imagine ever leaving my classroom. I have the greatest job, and I am the luckiest, luckiest girl.

      • stormydreams

        Teamwork, fine lady. Parents and teachers must be a team in helping these children find their potential, then live up to that potential. I should post about my nephew’s (the autistic one) melt down after my brother told him what zombies were ::groans:: and the following Sunday, he learned the Resurrection story in Sunday School. You can IMAGINE the connections a very literal autistic child made.

  18. muriellerites

    Loved this, and totally related. This should be the opening page in every teacher’s handbook. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Have a great year!

  19. This is the greatest, most honest intro to teaching that I’ve ever seen. Truth be told, I have no experience with kids this young. All my students were striving to be productive adults, many striving to be teachers, but I certainly have witnessed enough to know this is a delightful, clever, well-written, and serious exposition.

  20. AND :::exhale::::

    i so needed this. I am a one-to-one aide for a student at an ABA school. I have been working with the special needs kiddos for six years. I’ve loved my kids, including my current one, but…it has NOT been for sissies! I’m a newbie to your blog and have been greatly enjoying your wit, but THIS RIGHT HERE was a timely godsend. Thank you thank you thank you

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