Why I Teach

By Melissa Face

“A 65!” I think to myself. “How could he have gotten a 65 on this assignment?” Perplexed, I flip through the stack of eleventh grade vocabulary quizzes. Then I realize that I graded my answer key. Again.

This happens to me at least once a year. What concerns me is that it is starting to happen a little earlier each year. I am feeling the way I usually do right before spring break, and it is only December.

Today is Wednesday, December 14th to be exact. We have two more days of school until we dismiss for winter break. So, I arrive at school at

7:10 am, fifteen minutes before administration requires us to be here. It is my plan to catch up on some e-mails before 2nd block begins.

“Mrs. Face, you have a call on line one,” the receptionist announces across the intercom. “Mrs. Face, line one.” I pick up the phone and listen as a parent explains why her child did not have his research paper yesterday. The excuse is legitimate, so I tell her to have him hand it in first thing tomorrow. She is happy with my response, and we say our goodbyes.

As I am walking back to my work area, the bell rings. I rush to my classroom so that it will at least appear that I am prepared for my students. As they file into the room, my co-teacher and I get them settled and explain the day’s assignments.

While the students are working, my co-teacher and I discuss plans for the rest of the day. We briefly chat about student progress, a meeting that we both must attend, and our student who is currently suspended. Then, we divide the graded work so we both know what we will need to accomplish during break.

Throughout the day, I keep trying to get back to my desk. And when I finally do, instead of actually crossing items off my to-do list, I keep adding new ones. Johnny’s mom needs to talk to me about the zero he received for a class work grade. Ariel needs a letter of recommendation for her college application. Mark wants me to sign his field trip form. Everyone needs something. I need the 2:30 pm bell to ring.

I love teaching. If I were not teaching, I’m not sure what else I would be doing. But despite my love of my subject area, my students and my co-workers, I feel totally depleted. So, at the end of the day, I drag my laptop, my bag of student work and my exhausted body out to the parking lot. I head home in hopes of getting a few hours of sleep before I have to do it all over again.

There are days when many teachers question their value. Some argue that we are the most underappreciated profession in America. It is a valid argument. And in recent years, our class sizes continue to increase, our resources decrease, and our paychecks remain stagnant. We have not received a raise since 2008. But, we keep doing what we do best: teaching.

It is Thursday, December 15th, and once again, I arrive at school early. I want to distribute some sugar cookies to my co-workers and bag up a few for my seventh block students. It will be a nice surprise for them.

When I walk into my work area, there is a card on my desk. My name is written on the front, but the handwriting is unfamiliar. I open it and read the writing. “Mrs. Face, Thank you for always being there. Thank you for keeping me in check and for getting me out of high school. Love, Rachel.”

Rachel is one of my former students. She graduated last year and is now taking classes at a community college and working as a nursing assistant at an elder care facility. She is doing very well for herself, and she made an effort to thank me for the role I played in her success.

Tonight I will write her back. After I grade a stack of research papers, e-mail a few parents and finish my January lesson plans, I will write a quick note to Rachel. I want to thank her for helping me remember why I teach.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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One Response to “Why I Teach”

  1. Kim says:

    So true, and, as usual, so well written. Kudos, Melissa!

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