Why Teachers are Complete Psychos

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ok, other teachers might not be completely psychotic.

But we’re all flirting with it.

I, in particular, have noticed a steady decline in my sanity since I’ve begun teaching.  I can’t make friends the way I used to in high school or college.  People I meet for the first time sometimes frown when I’m talking, or tip their heads to the side politely like my dog does when I talk to her through a cardboard tube.  I talk to myself ALL THE TIME-- not just in the car like I used to before I started teaching. I can pretty much cry on command. 

Why has this happened?  My other friends who have begun their career paths have also reported an increase in stress levels since joining the “real world,” but none of them are crazy.  My mom raised three children (one being me, who spent my childhood doing things like drawing elaborate scenes on the underside of our couch cushions with Sharpies) and she’s normal-- even nice.  Barack Obama has a terrible job and he seems to keep it under control.

It’s teaching, my friends.

Reason #1: We are tired.

Have you ever had to give a presentation for school or work?

Do you remember the preparation you had to do for the presentation?  Creating a Powerpoint, doing research, making graphs, charts, handouts.  You had to practice your presentation, think about what you would say, what order you would say it in, etcetera.  You put hours of work into something that might take 30 or 45 minutes, tops.  After you gave your presentation, how did you feel?  Proud, right?  But probably exhausted?  In need of a stiff, celebratory drink?

Teachers give presentations for 8 hours a day.  5 days a week.  And we plan these presentations or grade papers or fill out inane paperwork or answer hundreds of emails or meet with crazy parents for another 10-15 hours on top of that weekly.  Yes, it gets easier with time and practice, but it never gets less tiring.  In fact, the longer I’ve been teaching, the better and more elaborate my ideas get, and the more tired I am.

I’m not trying to get you to create a shrine to teachers in your home or feel sorry for us.  (We know we’re awesome enough on our own without other people’s help.)  I just want you to think twice before judging me for forgetting to undo my seatbelt before getting out of my car in the parking lot at the bank and almost strangling myself. 

We’re tired, and being tired can make people crazy.

Reason #2: We are in complete control for 8 hours a day.

I think this is the main reason I’m psychotic.

After growing out of a frighteningly bossy childhood, I spent the latter part of my teenage years and my time in college being very complacent, warm, and receptive to others’ ideas and concerns.  You would have described me, for the most part, as “laid back.” “Easy going.”  “Johnny-come-lately.”* I was always totally fine with whatever the group wanted to do; more than willing to accommodate those around me. 

“Heck yes I’ll lend you my favorite shoes!”

“Oh, you’re out of bagels?  It’s cool; I’ll have the breakfast tacos.  My other fave!”

“Oh, no worries about the loud music last night, neighbor--  I eventually fell asleep after awhile.”

I am not “laid back” anymore.

First, you have to understand that I have created an environment, my classroom, in which I have complete control.  Over EVERYTHING.  Not only do my students behave impeccably this year, but they know how everything works-- from turning in homework (no wide ruled paper, proper heading, no hearts or abbreviations or emoticons) to asking questions (“Fellow classmate Raul, would you mind moving your head for one moment while I copy the notes on the board?” not “UGH I CAN’T SEE”;  “I’m having trouble understanding,” not “MISS I DON’T GET IT.”)  We even have a system where they ask to use the restroom silently. Everything operates in the most efficient way possible, which allows us to learn in the best way possible.

Then I leave school and enter the world, where I have no control.

It makes me sad.

What do you mean, 5th red light in a row?

What do you mean, “Sold out?”

What do you mean, sassy drugstore employee?

I am not simply annoyed by these things; I become livid.  I find myself saying, “I just don’t understand why _________________.”  It’s usually something to this effect:  “I just don’t understand why (I can’t have my way).”

I have no idea why I’m still single!

(This reason also explains why teacher professional development days, particularly ones with old teachers present, are a joke.  These teachers have been in control for 8 hours a day for YEARS-- God help the man or woman trying to tell them what to do or how to do it. It also explains why first-year teachers cannot control a classroom.  See any post from the 2010-2011 school year for proof.)

Reason #3: Our job is violently important.

(I’m on this kick of using “violently” as an adverb ever since I saw The Pioneer Woman use it to describe the movement of her back fat.  That, my friends, is prose.)

Sometimes I think that America forgets that teachers fill young minds with knowledge.   And if America does know that, I’m pretty sure they don’t really get it. 

It would be one thing if we were cranking out burgers or graphic tees or expense reports.  We could meet up with our friends or go to concerts on weeknights.  We could email our friends from our work computers, or take a long lunch, or maybe only put in 75% one day.

But we can’t.  We’re creating scientists, writers, historians, Nobel Prize winners, moms, dads, farmers, executives, counselors and teachers. We’re investing in our students, not as commodities to be shuffled through the conveyor belt, but as individuals with unique visions and gifts. Some of us are putting in 150% to make sure that these people will hopefully leave the world a little better than they found it.

That kind of effort and pressure would make anyone a raging lunatic.

But it’s something worth being crazy about.





  1. Oh, my gosh! You have nailed it on the head! This is teaching, and no one else understands or really even cares to hear it, do they? I love your writing! Thanks for such perspective and honesty. I've taught for 30 years and have never understood my psychosis until today!

  2. I think you're brilliant. Maybe crazy, but still brilliant. You're also worth it. And you my friend, even on the days when you're at your craziest weeping from the anger and frustration you are sometimes overwhelmed by, are changing the world.

  3. I just discovered your blog. I'm a SAHM at the moment, but did a ten-year stint in public high school. I think I'm just going to stay up all night and read and laugh and cry.

  4. Your blog is amazing. After my friend told me about it, I went back and read every single entry and I've kept up ever since. I'm going into my first semester of interning as an early childhood through sixth grade generalist, and I hope to be as an amazing teacher as you are!

  5. Welcome to the inside of my head. Thank you for being able to articulate why I am such a control freak.

  6. I love! The section about control! I used to be laid back to, well a little more than now ;) . My husband and I got married after my first year of teaching (which lacked control) and he can't seem to understand what happened to me in the subsequent years :-). My students have very specific ways to do things and then I come home and my husband can't seem to conform to MY ways of doing things, but I can't take away his centers time. Grrr :-) thanks for the laugh!

  7. I've been teaching for over 10 years, at various grade levels, and this literally made me laugh out loud. Especially about the 8 hour control freaks and in-service days for older teachers. BWa ha ha ha. Thanks for the laugh! :)

  8. I just spent all day at one of those professional development workshops. With 27 years of teaching behind me, all I really need is the curriculum you want me to teach. I think by now, I can figure out how to teach it!!

  9. Just wanted to let you know that I came across your blog through another teacher friend and I have spent my evening reading all of your posts! You are so honest and funny about teaching and I totally LOVED this post! I am a third year teacher myself and I feel like you have read my mind!

  10. It is as if you can read my mind! Wish more of "those parents" would read this. (And actually get it). Thank you for putting it out there!

  11. I love this post; I can't wait to read the rest. I've been in for twelve years, still love it, and still have plenty of moments where I ask "what the hell am I doing with my life??!!" :)

  12. Thank you for putting into words what most of us feel daily. I connect most with Reason 3...which my friends don't understand at all (also explains why I feel the need to go to bed probably earlier than some of my students...). Reason 2 is probably why I scream at cars (if my six year olds can stand in a line and not cut in front of each other, is there a reason grown adults can't?)...can't wait to read the rest of your blog!

  13. Cry me a river. 40 hour weeks and summers off, there are many worse jobs in the world.

    1. Seriously? Come try...most who say this wouldn't last a week. Summers off? Really? How about UNEMPLOYEED. I don't get paid during the summer. I don't REMEMBER the last time I worked only 40 hours. I'm in the school building at least 9 hours a day, I don't get to leave for lunch (and did I mention that my lunch lasts 22 mins including the time I have to heat/prepare my food---and two weeks out of the semester I have to sit outside the toilets and do lunch duty while I eat my food? Sounds like loads of fun, huh?) This song and dance is trite and done--I earn every sorry penny and then some. True, there are worse jobs, and she's not complaining. She's stating fact. We are crazy at times and rightfully so--especially when insensitive people claim "40 hours a week and summers off." The most uneducated of the lot.

    2. Anonymous --
      I invite you to come teach my sophomores for one day. Heck, I'll make it easy on you. Just teach (and I mean teach, not babysit) my sixth and seventh periods. Then tell me I haven't EARNED my summers "off."

    3. I love that the original snark was posted Anonymous-ly. I won't argue with ignorant AND cowardly. *sigh*

    4. 40 Hours a week? You're kidding! Try 100 Hours a week! That only includes the administrative duties. Top that off with the emotional strains that teachers have! I wish you could shadow a teacher for a week and see what I mean. Not to mention the political drama going on right now with administrators instilling new teacher evaluations. You're completely uneducated ab out this.

    5. My stepmom has never said anything negative about teaching and has never made me feel like she thought my job wasn't hard or important. That said, she came to visit one time and spent one day in my classroom. At the end of the day she was like, "REALLY? How do you do this every day, day in and day out?" She truly had no idea what my day consisted of before that visit. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy should spend just one day in a classroom before they judge what I do all day.

  14. OMGoodness! Did someone REALLY just put up "Cry me a river. 40 hour weeks and summers off, there are many worse jobs in the world." REALLY? Get off the teachers page and join the rest of the world who downgrades teachers for asking for a living wage, parents who care and make their kids responsible, and kids who actually try to succeed. Only in the USA are teachers thought of with such little regard. Other countries seem to have understood that teachers 'control' kids and what they learn. Teachers deserve more than the sneers of American society for being devoted to our jobs. This blog gets it! This teacher understands! If the anonynous persobn who posted on Feb. 23, 2013 at 11 am isn't a teacher, get off our page. We do not need to see this kind of s--t, especially on our hour off on a Saturday before we start grading papers!

  15. Psychotic teachers are the best! I am a STUDENT, a junior in high school actually (taking a break from my mountain of AP homework on a Saturday night - go junior year!) and my teacher just posted this on her school website. As the daughter of a teacher, I totally understand the stress and the long nights. I've pulled many all nighters this year being a junior, but school is a little bit more bearable when there are passionate teachers (like yourself) teaching the class. Not the ones who openly complain about their jobs to their students and recycle generic worksheets from other teachers, but the original ones who share their passion for their subject with their students. My favorite class this year (also my hardest one) has the most psychotic, passionate, and interesting teacher I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. When a teacher is truly concerned with changing their student's lives, the student is a that much more motivated in class.You are the kind of teachers who we will remember for a lifetime. I want to thank you, and all of you teachers, who give 150%.- you really do change our lives.

    PS- It's so unfortunate that in a country as great as ours, teachers are seldom praised. As the people who build the foundation of the lives and education for all of those doctors, lawyers, and Nobel Prize winners, they really should be appreciated (and paid) more!

    1. My heart nearly burst open when I saw this was written by a STUDENT! (Are you sure a teacher didn't pay you to say this? ;) So glad that you are able to recognize now what most of our kids don't realize until a) much later, or b) sometimes not at all! But even without the recognition, you guys are what it's all about :)

      Just out of sheer curiosity, do you mind sharing the school website where your teacher posted the link? I'm so flattered that a year-old post is still making it around!

  16. "Cry me a river" must not have gotten the part about preparing presentations all day every day. I am a first-grade teacher, which means I don't get to prepare one or two topics all day, as many middle and high-school teachers do, but prepare at least five different topics a day, every day. They also must not have gotten the part where you spend your nights and weekends preparing for the presentations, then grading the papers that show whether or not they "got it." Do what we do, then you'll really have reason to cry a river.

    1. Please don't discount what middle school teachers do... I teach 7th grade. While I only teach two subjects, I teach different courses within the subjects, making for 4 preps. I only get to use one prep twice, all the while helping students navigate through puberty.

    2. First let me say that I love when teachers blog about things with which we educators can connect. It makes us feel close, and it validates what we do and why we do it. As for the age-old debate about which teachers work harder...? You're both right! I've taught gifted language arts in the middle school and the elementary school. I can tell you from personal experience that both teachers work equally long hours with just as many assessments and many of the same professional concerns. The difference is the kids and their stages of development. That is all.

    3. Teacher friends, we can't start picking at each other about who works harder. Anonymous Feb. 25th is right; we ALL work hard. Any teacher worth anything (and most of us are) puts everything they have into their lessons to give the best they can to their kiddos. I teach MS, have taught HS, and have done a bit of K12 as well. We ALL work so hard, and we can't start weakening the nobility of our profession by discounting each other. People who don't understand what it is to be a teacher will do that for us enough. I could go on and on about what I do with teens and tweens that is utterly exhausting, but I also know that I am NOT a good elementary teacher. It's not my forte. We all have our strengths. Celebrate that! Don't tear each other down.

    4. Elementary, Middle, and Highschool are TOTALLY different worlds with teachers who all work equally as hard! I could never, ever teach middle or high school: The puberty, the bullying, the content...! Props to all the teachers who do! :) I'll stick with my elementary school kiddos!

  17. My sentiments exactly!!!! I try to explain this to my boyfriend almost daily, but maybe hearing it from someone else (and him realizing it's not just me) will help! :) Thank you for putting into words what I feel everyday from September to June! (Surprisingly, this does not describe me at all during the months of July and August...strange...)

  18. hahaha everything in this post can't be truer than true. The "We are tired" even rings truer at the end of the year. Apparently after I swept yesterday, I put the broom in the coat closet....Thanks for that laugh! Teachers rock!


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