What I Miss Most About Being a Teacher

I often describe teaching as the hardest and most rewarding job I ever had. While I’ve been happily retired for three years, there are certain parts of the job that I miss. It is hard to let go of something that was such a large part of my life for thirty-one years.

The Students

The thing that I miss the most about teaching is an absolute no-brainer. It is and always will be the students. It’s hard to put into words how special my students were to me. Teachers often refer to their students as “their kids”, and most of us mean that literally. Even though many of my former students are now adults, I still picture them as “my kids”.

I still get the occasional unexpected letter from a former student thanking me for being a good teacher or because they want to tell you about some exciting moment in their life. The fact that they want to share significant life events reinforces how important the teacher/student relationship is.

I’ve been to birthdays, graduations, weddings, and housewarming parties of prior students. I’ll never forget the second-grade boy who brought in an invitation for me to attend his sleepover. Of course, I didn’t attend, but what a precious memory.

I’ve always maintained that the student/teacher is mutually beneficial. While I was trying to be a good teacher and role model to my students, I wasn’t aware (when I first started) how much I would get back from them. When you demonstrate through your actions that you care about your students, they pay you back many times over.

Children can also be the best teachers. One of the most beautiful qualities of elementary students is their ability to forgive each other when they have a conflict. You seldom see children hold a grudge because most want to be friends with everyone. Nearly all of the children I taught were respectful and tolerant of individual differences. My experience was that kids were far less prejudicial or judgmental than many adults I know.

My Colleagues

A wonderful part of being a teacher was the opportunity to work with other dedicated professionals. I had so many different jobs in my life, but educators develop a special kinship in a way I never felt in any other position. It is the type of camaraderie one shares with any close team. I imagine it is the same feeling that people in a military platoon or college sports team form. Not only were so many of my colleagues outstanding educators, but they were also good people.

I once made a list of the twenty most influential people in my life, and over half of them were former teachers or people I worked with in education. A good teacher can influence a person for the rest of his/her life.

I was blessed to work with so many outstanding people during my educational career, and some are still role models to me in retirement. One of the people in my writing critique group, Nancy, was one of my master teachers during my student teacher year, and she later became my colleague and principal. She has been a lifetime mentor to me, and her passion for education and children is infectious. It’s been wonderful to spend time with her each week. Many of her writing pieces are about former students that she taught.

My educational family is so important to me that each month we gather for a retirement lunch. While much of the talk centers around travel and grandchildren, I can always count on the conversation turning back to former students at some point. We laugh and share memories and take pride when we learn about accomplishments that our former students have made in their lives.

The Families

When you teach long enough, especially at the same school, you form lasting relationships with many of your students’ families. Part of a teacher’s responsibility is to keep your students’ families informed. You should be working in conjunction as a team. Sometimes it wasn’t easy—not all parents are going to be active and supportive. On the other hand, when parents see how much you care, the chances of garnering their support becomes far more likely.

Since I live in the same community that I taught in, I have the frequent pleasure of running into old students and their families. It is always great to hear what my former students are doing now. One of the things I take special pride in is that some of my prior students have become teachers—one in the elementary school where I taught.

I taught long enough that by the end of my career, I was teaching many second-generation students. What a pleasure it was to have a parent tell me that he/she wanted to have their child in my class because of the positive experience they had when they were my student.

The Privilege of Teaching

I miss the responsibility of being a teacher. It is not a job that any educator should take lightly. I had several teachers who were role models and guided me when I went through school, and I welcomed this challenge as a teacher. How many people get the opportunity to help change lives?

You see some heartbreaking things when you are in education. I taught students who lost a parent or sibling the year they were in my class. Some of my children had to endure the breakup of their parents’ marriage or watch a loved one go to prison. Not every story has a happy ending. Life is not always fair, and the innocent victims in situations such as these were often the kids.

In spite of this, every school year had moments of joy. One of the regular things that made me the happiest was watching students feeling proud of themselves from their accomplishments. Sometimes the rewards don’t come the year a child is in your class but manifest themselves years later when you see that your students have grown into responsible young adults.

29 thoughts on “What I Miss Most About Being a Teacher

  1. A lovely. heartfelt post, Pete I am sure you were an awesome teacher it shines through in your post…My granddaughter is taking her teacher training once she finishes her gap year and we are so proud of her …A long hard route but a worthy profession 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor June 22, 2019 — 6:33 pm

      My best to your granddaughter, Carol. It always gives me a good feeling when I see young people entering the profession.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Pete…her mother wasn’t happy when she completed her University degree and then took a gap year but we think it is important it helps you grow and she will return with renewed vigour 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Pete,
    Well written article that I am sure many teachers can relate to. I too miss teaching after my many years involved in teaching 8th grade. Even though they were older than your students, many things are the same; I am always pleased when I see them now, and they want me to know what they are doing, that they’re doing well.
    Teaching is a difficult job, but it was, and continues to be, very rewarding in many ways.
    Kent

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor June 22, 2019 — 8:02 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Kent. One of the things I thought a lot about when I was reading your book is how we are often not aware of the fantastic things that our fellow teachers are doing each day. (sometimes in the classroom next door) We may have had more opportunities to work with our colleagues at the elementary level than you as a middle school teacher had.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I retired from college teaching 15 years ago and I still miss the collegiality and the students. I don’t miss grading essays, a necessary part of being an English professor. I can appreciate much of what you wrote.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor June 23, 2019 — 7:45 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Elizabeth. It’s great to get the perspective of a college professor. No way to get around reading essays when you teach English, I’m afraid. I believe the best teachers are the ones who are passionate about what they teach, but at the elementary level, kids need to first feel safe and loved.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I must say that college students are no different. Safety came first in my classrooms and I intervened when a comment was hurtful to someone. I didn’t have “trigger warnings” but always told my students they could leave class at any time, no questions asked. That started when I was teaching poetry of World War I and it rattled a Viet Nam vet. Fortunately he told me and I adjusted my classes ever after that.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. petespringerauthor June 24, 2019 — 5:46 pm

        Thank you for your wisdom, Elizabeth. School should not only be a safe physical space but a place where different perspectives can be exchanged in a healthy atmosphere.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I think it is an ideal place to model that. The public sphere is certainly not one.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I notice you didn’t mention the Admin. Because you skipped it, I can concur with your list! Now, I teach online–grad school classes to teachers. That is it’s own reward and I love hearing their stories of classroom events.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor June 24, 2019 — 12:33 pm

      I worked for some excellent administrators and others who really didn’t have what it takes to do the job well. I wrestled with the decision about going down that road. There were two reasons I decided against it: (1) I loved teaching and was afraid I wouldn’t get to do what I liked best. (2) I don’t think my skin was thick enough to be an administrator. No matter what you do, somebody is always going to be critical or second guess your decisions. I’m curious about those online-grad classes. There must be more than twenty-four hours in your day with all of the irons you have in the fire.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, they’re all online, 5 weeks each, offered 3x a year, so not that busy except during the classes. I really enjoy them.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. This is wonderful, Pete. I echo your every word. After decades of teaching, our relationships with children grow and deepen. We learn from them as much as they learn from us. I feel like Charlotte, in the middle of a beautiful web of children and their families, woven over many, many years. I know that makes sense to you. And the dew on that web appears when spontaneous moments of learning and joy occur. We are the lucky ones, Pete. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. petespringerauthor June 25, 2019 — 9:08 am

      The “it takes a village” has always rung true with me, Jennie. We may only have a year with our students, but we can accomplish a lot in a year. Thanks for everything you do for kids, Jennie. By the way, do you have any other teacher/educational bloggers who you recommend following because of all of the cool stuff they write about?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hear hear! I have not found a teacher blog that I love, Pete. I follow a few teachers who blog, but not about teaching. Most teacher blogs seem to be ideas about what to do in the classroom, more Pinterest driven. Not what I’m interested in reading. Do you have any fellow teacher blogs? We’re like minded, you know. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. petespringerauthor June 25, 2019 — 12:55 pm

        I’m pretty new to this blogging world, but I haven’t yet. We’ll keep each other posted.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. A wonderful post about your chosen career, Pete. I wish I felt like this about mine. The corporate world is harsh and cut throat and doesn’t have much to recommend it other than the money. My boys have been lucky and have had the most lovely and helpful teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor June 26, 2019 — 10:11 am

      Thank you, Robbie. At least now, you are getting the opportunity to do something you enjoy that gives a sense of pride and accomplishment. Congratulations and happy writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed your article, Pete, and agree with so much of what you have written. Although I am no longer in the classroom, my heart is still in teaching and education. So many of my colleagues lost interest when they left the classroom, but I can’t seem to shake it, nor do I want to. Education has been my life-long passion and, like you, I always put the children first. Relationships with the students were the real joy. I think what I miss next is the affirmation of making a difference to someone’s life. Every day I taught, I would be affirmed by the children’s joy in learning. Sharing the learning journey with children is both a privilege and a pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor July 2, 2019 — 9:04 am

      I started a Facebook group (Supporters of Teachers) a couple of years ago on a whim. Like most social media, I don’t know what I’m doing half of the time. I set this up, inadvertently, as a closed group, but I think I can add you. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/281121539162065/ I’m like you—my heart and soul are forever linked to kids and education. I’d like your comments a hundred times over because they are so much like mine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Pete. I have asked to join. I wanted to write a dissertation on your third question but wasn’t able to. 🙂
        I will say that I’m not great at Fb but will try to check out your posts somewhat regularly.
        I felt the similarity in our thoughts as I read your post and am looking forward to exploring more of your blog. I noticed quite a few headlines I’d like to read more about.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. petespringerauthor July 3, 2019 — 8:00 am

    Facebook tells me that you made a request to join, but when I go to find the request, it’s not there. Anyway, I sent you a regular friend request, and then I can add you that way. Not sure why it works like that, but I’m too old to try and figure things like that out. Ha-ha!

    Like

  9. A wonderfully heartfelt post, Pete! I can relate. Teaching was my dream career for eight years before retiring. I still keep in touch with several of my students, now grown with children of their own. Teaching is one of the best careers in the world and I feel so blessed to have been touched by the lives of each one of my amazing students.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor July 31, 2019 — 9:53 pm

      I taught long enough to teach many 2nd generation students. There is something a little wild about having a parent/teacher conference with one of your former students who is now a parent. If you’re like me, Bette, then I know you get the whole feeling of pride.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure do… Counting my blessings!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Little children show us in no uncertain terms, there is reason to keep on living, and that reason is them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 25, 2020 — 10:11 pm

      Thanks for dropping in, Cindy. I taught long enough so that some of those little children were bringing in the next generation back into my classroom. That was pretty wild to have a parent/teacher conference with someone who used to be one of my students.

      Like

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