Teaching and the Fear of a Mistake

About Alice Trosclair

Alice has been teaching for nine years. She currently teaches English III, English Language and Composition AP, and English Literature and Composition AP. She lives with her husband and son in south Louisiana. She also has hundreds of "adopted" children.

Teaching. No other profession is so closely watched for mistakes. Of course, I realize why- we are in charge of America’s future and it is a very important job. Public school teachers have an extra reason for being held accountable: we are paid with the public’s tax money.   Teachers take their roles very seriously and we all strive for the honor of being called an effective teacher. But lately I feel that the American public is just waiting for us to fail. Every day we hear about a teacher’s mistakes. They are paraded all around social media. Then comes the never-ending chorus of “we need to screen our teachers better,” or: “I told you they are only here for a pay check,” or: “Teachers are destroying America from the inside out.” What are we to do? Why would anyone want to come in to a classroom knowing the American public is just waiting for us to slip up?

Our biggest fear is that we are going to make a mistake. The most stressful part of our job is that we do blunder sometimes, like everyone else. When we mess up, it is not just our lives, but it is our students’ lives and our schools’ reputation. Do you not think we take that seriously? Do you not think we live in constant fear of ruining someone’s life? Then add the stress of being watched and waiting for one of us to mess up, it is a wonder more teachers do not have more nervous breakdowns. We know we are human and we all will falter. No human is perfect. Imagine if your mistakes were plastered across social media. And your friends and family were ripping you to shreds because of the things you have done.

What is most frustrating of all is that most of the people criticizing teachers have never set foot inside a classroom. But they have no problem telling us what we are doing wrong. Some pass laws about education without any experience in the classroom. Some argue around dinner tables, and cry out, “You know what I would do?” or “These teachers today…” I am at a point, if you think you can do it better, come on in. My door is always open.

But you know why so many do not become teachers? It takes courage to teach, to stand up in front of a classroom of kids and deliver material that is challenging and always in flux. And deliver it so each student can understand it, according to his or her learning style, while people will criticize you no matter what you do. An educator can only take so much. The public does not want to see all the good we do. It is no fun to praise a person when they are doing right. It is so much more fun to destroy them and tear them down.

What the public fails to understand is that every single one of us holds a specialized degree in a subject area that we love and believe in.  On top of that, we got extra education in how to most effectively teach students that subject. We go back into the classrooms for several reasons. We love kids, want to change the future, and we love school and believe in the system. Why else would we spend sixteen years in the classroom and then go back to it? We believe in our youth and want our country to be better for the next generation.

Every profession has bad employees. A bank teller steals and you don’t hear that every bank lender is a thief. You don’t see them blasted across social media and attacked constantly. “A bad apple spoils the bunch” has never been truer for education today in the eyes of the public. More distressingly, it is not necessary a bad teacher that messes up, sometimes a good teacher messes up, says something that is taken completely out of context or makes a mistake, then is utterly destroyed. Believe it or not, teachers are humans and we are not perfect, though many teachers can be perfectionists.  Chances are we are harder on ourselves than any administrator, parent, or school board could ever be.

As with everyone, if a teacher breaks the law, he or she deserves to be punished. Does the entire teaching profession deserve to be slandered? No. Does a person who makes an honest mistake deserved to be ripped to shreds? No. All I ask is that you remember teachers are people. We try to be the pillars of the community everyone wants us to be, but sometimes we crumble. Remember this before you comment or share a post.

This does not just apply to teachers, but for everyone. We are humans. We have to stop tearing each other down and destroying each other through media. What kind of example are we setting for our children? That it is okay to destroy and rip someone apart behind the safety of a screen? We are better than this. Let’s prove it.

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About the Author:

Alice has been teaching for nine years. She currently teaches English III, English Language and Composition AP, and English Literature and Composition AP. She lives with her husband and son in south Louisiana. She also has hundreds of "adopted" children.

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