The Worst Part About Being a Teacher

It's no secret that being a teacher has its drawbacks. No matter how good I get at my job, there is a ceiling on my pay. That ceiling is almost entirely based on quantity of years taught, rather than quality of teaching.

It is difficult teaching kids with rough home lives the importance of history. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is real. It's legitimately difficult to care about learning when you aren't sure where dinner is coming from that evening.

The planning and grading is not always fun. And even when it is fun, it takes up a lot of time. That's a reality.

This is true in any profession. My brother, the one who travels every week and gets to see the world, is not home as much as he would like to be. When he starts a family, that will make for a very difficult change. 

But losing a student* - that is absolutely the worst part about being a teacher. Losing a student to suicide is the worst of the worst.

Teaching is all about energy. And today, I have no energy. I have no spirit. I have no desire to learn. I want to sulk into my couch and yell. At anyone or anything. I want to whine and complain and bitch uncontrollably about how death is unfair. I want to rage on every human being who diminishes someone else because they are too fat, or too small, or too gay, or the wrong skin color, or wear torn up clothes, or whatever makes kids be so damn mean sometimes.

The unfortunate reality of getting to know hundreds of new teens every year is that this will inevitably happen again. That fact is what causes me to have to fight off utter despair. No matter what I and the other incredible teachers at this school do, we will probably lose another wonderful soul to suicide at some point in the future.

I don't know how to reconcile that knowledge. It's like a pendulum of shitty-ness that swings back and forth with frustrating amounts of reliability, no matter how much I don't want to experience the next swing.


Today in class, I asked students to tell me stories. I didn't know what else to do. I had plans made about the French Revolution that I had no desire to touch, nor were many of my kids in any kind of emotional state to learn about history.

So I asked for the kids to pick me up. I asked them who they loved in their lives. I asked them to explain these important people in such colorful detail that I could feel their warmth. I asked them who they loved, but needed to reconnect with soon. And I listened. Which was good, because when I tried to talk it just came out as sputtering nonsense.

Today, I hate being a teacher. Tomorrow, we'll start to pick up the pieces. RIP L.

*I have intentionally left the students' name off of this post in respect to the family. Please refrain from using the students' name in the comments section as well, as this is a public blog read by many outside of our Center community. Thank you. 

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you'll consider taking a moment to comment below and turn this into a conversation. Whether you are an educator or not, we have all had common experiences with education both good and bad. I want to hear what you think! 

About Me:
My name is Alec Chambers. I am a high school history and government teacher at a small, urban public school in Kansas City called Center High School. We regularly kick tail. Among many awards, we were named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2014. I don't just teach at Center- I also graduated from Center in 2006 after attending Center Schools K-12. I have a degree in Political Science, a second degree in International Relations, a third degree in Education and a Master's of Arts in Teaching. I have an unofficial degree is soccer. All of those degrees have led me to the high-paying teaching profession! I have a newborn daughter and am married to the most awesome woman on the planet. Seriously. It's a proven fact.

Follow me on Twitter
Follow me on Google