Dear Guys On The Train,
I must apologize for starters. It’s all my fault. I was eavesdropping. I tend to do that on the red line. Unlike most folks who keep their earbuds in and their music up loud, I don’t want to miss anything. I’m a chronic people watcher. And lately, I’ve found that paying attention can be a ministry in itself. So, that’s really all I was trying to do.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about you guys.
I heard you, the one with your tie loosened up wearing the Rolex, ya you, talking to your other friend in the nice suit. Talking about your other friend, Josh. Your conversation went a little something like this:
“Dude, he never goes out anymore. Ever. He’s like a hermit.”
“I know, bro. He acts like he’s so busy. He teaches f**king third grade. His day ends at like 3, haha”
“God, I wish he knew what it was like in the real world for a day. He thinks his job is so hard.”
*Insert awkwardly long laughter*
“Ya, and he’s been a cheapskate ever since we left Ann Arbor.”
“Seriously. Try living with him. But he can’t expect to make as much as we do when we work our a**es off year round. It’s only October and I mean he’s got fall break coming up and he’ll be off for Thanksgiving and he gets several weeks off at Christmas time, yet he thinks he’s got it rough.”
“If only he knew…”
“Ha.” *Checks phone* “Wanna grab a beer? Taylor just texted me and said they’re going out.”
“Hell ya, man. I’m down.”
Then you guys got off at the stop before mine and I was left thinking. The more I thought about it and replayed your conversation in my mind, I knew I had to write you.
I don’t know your other friend Josh, but he’s clearly not as cool as you guys going out on a Wednesday night at 10 ‘o clock for beers with Taylor. (Whoever he/she is.)
From what I gathered, you guys are sick of your teacher friend. You’re annoyed at how frugal he is, how early he goes to sleep, and how much time off he gets.
The thing is, I wanted to speak up so badly, but I suppressed my inner thoughts, which were bursting at the seams, and withheld from butting into your conversation.
You see, I wanted to inform you that I was a public school teacher for several years. That I taught high school, 6th, and 1st grade. That I resigned after this past school year ended because I couldn’t take it anymore. That I wasn’t cut out for it even with 2 doses of Lexapro each day.
I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever had to run on a treadmill for 8 hours straight on a speed that’s just a tad too fast because that’s the only way I could describe the physical exhaustion of being a teacher.
I wanted to correct you in your assumption that Josh’s workday ended around 3pm. [As a former teacher, I can’t help but offer you a mini-lesson: Teachers arrive before school begins and stay long after it ends. They spend countless hours in the evenings, on weekends, and especially during their “long breaks” completing lesson plans, grading assignments, filling out behavior charts, calling parents, scheduling meetings, updating IEPs, preparing for standardized tests, writing out goals, changing the theme on the bulletin board, buying supplies for a science experiment (in an effort to make learning fun and hopes that the kids will love it), coaching sports, tutoring, entering grades, cleaning their classroom, filing paperwork, communicating with necessary colleagues about specific student needs, etc. I guess it’s not a mini lesson after all. Oops.]
I wanted to challenge you to work all day without using the restroom once, to eat your brown-bagged lunch in less than 7 minutes, and to stay patient when you have twenty-something students in desperate need for your attention and you just want to reply to an email.
I wanted to break it down for you so that you could better understand why Josh is frugal. Why, aside from being utterly exhausted, he doesn’t go out as much anymore. For pennies each hour per student, he’s busting his butt to ensure they are not only educated, but taught to be kind and courageous, and are safe and loved.
I wanted to reminisce on my time in the classroom and share with you about the students whose home lives kept me up at night and the emotional toll this took on me and my marriage.
I wanted to make you ponder the differences of your job and his, but I’m afraid we would’ve run out of time. I’ll just throw this one out there: you can get away with being tired and hungover, whereas Josh has to be ON from the minute those kids arrive in the morning.
I wanted to tell you that, in case you weren’t aware, teachers don’t fill out expense reports at the end of each week. It all comes out of their pocket. And only a guy like Josh would be cool enough to sacrifice a beer in order to buy scissors for his 3rd graders.
I wanted to give you a hundred ideas for how you could be supportive of Josh and the selfless job he’s chosen.
I wanted to acknowledge that your jobs are probably hard, too, but gently remind you that at least you’re respected and compensated. Teachers can’t earn bonuses or raises. The incentive to be the best boils down to the heart and a strong dose of integrity.
I wanted to let you know that I now work in “the real world” as you put it and it’s only reaffirmed my once biased belief that teachers have one of the hardest, most important, undervalued and underpaid jobs in the world.
The Ex-Teacher On The Train (and an advocate for all Joshes in this world)