It’s the little things that chip away at your sense of self-respect as a teacher. The parent that screams at you over the phone at the end of the day because you disciplined his child. The parent who, across the table at a parent-teacher interview, tells you how to teach writing. Another parent who has a gripe with you, and instead of talking with you, emails your principal. The child who says, “My mom said that those who can’t do, teach.” The strangers who call your job “glorified babysitting.” Or the child you tutor who tells you that in his home country, he had two teachers who he called servants.
Yes, all of this has happened to me.
I can imagine you have experienced these moments too. You have been treated by adults and children alike like a dirty rag to be pushed around. I know other teachers have been treated with disrespect because their words and actions are telling. All of it may have even made you reconsider teaching and made you say things like this:
“I’m just a teacher.”
I have to stop you there. You’re not just a teacher. You are a teacher. You direct, guide, scold, and embolden the future. You encourage the gutless in the gutters. You set high standards your students cannot even envision. You rile kids up and take bullies down. You make speeches and promises and you deliver. You analyze novels and poems so deeply that these poems and novels—and even parts of life—become understood.
You are a teacher. That is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is nothing to hide.
To develop self-respect as a teacher, teach louder.
Don’t let anyone treat you like a dirty rag. Dress like a modern-day queen or king. Every day, prepare yourself for school. Iron your button-up shirt so firmly that the iron lines show on the arms. Starch your pants and brush the kinks out of your hair. Shine your shoes and look down in them to see your precious teacher face.
You are a teacher.
Respect yourself, and the rest will follow.