I have been teaching for the past 20 years. First adults, then primary students, then adults again. now I am a secondary teacher, to everyone’s surprise. Would I have been asked even 10 years ago, my answer would have been a loud laugh and a quiet never.
I ended up being a secondary teacher after moving to this small Danish village because I had no other option. I wasn’t getting another job in teaching if not in secondary. Or even any other job, but this is another story.
The first months I was struggling, of course: not all teaching is similar or requires the same skills. Everything was new to me and I was not used to have again a big group of people scrutinizing me and sighing with contempt after 5 minutes to turn next to their laptop screens. It was discouraging, and I wanted to find something else; the sooner, the better. Until I fell in love. And now I cannot imagine myself teaching anything or anywhere else.
Now that I am coming out, here why I lost my heart to my secondary students:
- It is a love — hate relation with your students. This is not particular to secondary and I am sure it could happen to any teacher: one day you love them. The next, you hate them to death and want them to suffer true death at a tesla-tree (end of nerdish reference).
- You start auguring the future. Who will struggle with rules? You know. Who will deal with anxiety their whole life? You know. Who is ending up stringing one job after another? You know. Who will have a high position at a multinational company because of perseverance and constancy, even with a low IQ? You know. And time confirms you are right.
- The students are maturing in front of your eyes and they start understanding how life works. You can grasp this every time one of them asks questions after reflecting about what you just said. And maybe some of them even thought carefully about it because they trust you and your views about life. It is a wonderful feeling. It means that they respect you and your opinion.
- You can locate a part of you in them. Maybe primary teachers feel the same about their students. Being a teacher means that you can make a big impact in the routines they will establish for the future. If I look back, the most important habits I have right now when working, reading and studying are those I got from my secondary teachers.
- As with any other teaching job (and any other job without teaching) it is about feeling the rewards and this job is satisfying other people would not understand, even if teaching in secondary is like a multitask profession: you are a psychologist, a counselor, a doctor (don’t smoke, use condoms, don’t drink too much, and if you do, don’t bike, call a taxi! etc.) and even a friend. You think sometimes the less part of it is the actual teaching understood as the transmission of objective information and the biggest, the relationship you build with them.
And you, Secondary Teachers of the World? Do you feel the same? Didn’t you realize that your whole experience in teaching in secondary is a I-didn’t-want-but-then-I-fell-in-love-story?