The glass is (evidently) always half full for teachers

I saw this CDC report about the correlation between your employment and the rate of suicide.

CDC report: Suicide Rates by Major Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012 and 2015

Weekly / November 16, 2018 / 67(45);1253–1260

First, I don’t really put any credence into the idea that your job puts you at risk. I strongly believe there are more likely confounding variables like baseline level of risk for depression, career choices and opportunities, socioeconomics, attitudes towards mental illness and access to mental health care.

However, if you do think somehow that your job is somehow connected to your chances of hanging yourself, I’d like to point out that that job at the bottom of the lists for both men and women is “Training, Education and Library”.

As is the case in the last few weeks of every semester, all the instructors I know are pulling out their (remaining) hairs in frustration, complaining: “Why don’t the students still not know that the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone!?” or “I can’t stand to hear another student begging for extra credit because they failed all their exams” or “I hate their stupid, ingrate faces!” So I can only assume that we teachers are:

  1. Particularly sane individuals (doubtful and definitely not true in my case)

  2. Willing to work through the pain due to our fabulous salaries (categorically untrue)

  3. Able to work through the frustration because we know the semester break is coming.

In all seriousness, teaching is an incredibly fulfilling job, although I admit there are usually only one or two students a semester who give me that real feeling of worth and life affirmation. And it usually isn’t that A+ student you’d think it would be. It is usually a C or B student who either works their butts off and/or has an “aha” moment and I see everything turn around for them. (Sometimes it is also a student that comes to me with a personal problem I can help with; I’ve had a few suicidal students I’ve helped through a dangerous day or two.)

For example, this year I had a woman who had terrible trouble feeling overwhelmed and afraid of talking in class and tended to just give up if she made a mistake. I worked with her a lot, and she came back for a second try and could talk in class and easily passed her quizzes and tests. Just two weeks ago I had a breakthrough with another young woman. She’d been distracted all semester, clearly studying at the last minute and not putting in any work into really understanding the material. She’d half-heartedly ask the same question in class every few weeks, write down the answer and then stare back out the window or at her phone. I was so frustrated as she wouldn’t come in for extra help or even to talk (you never know if something external is going on). Then she approached me two weeks ago about a critical thinking case-study assignment I gave in the form of a Sherlock Holmes murder mystery that she said was the most fun assignment she’d done all year; I could tell from her work that she’d spent a lot of time thinking about and researching it as well. I saw the first glint of pride in her work and interest in the subject that I’d seen all semester. That’s the sort of thing I live for. I’ve got a few other kids (some are older than me) this semester who are also keeping me going by showing up, trying hard and listening. They balance out the students who either gave up and dropped or just stopped showing up without coming to see me first. I mean, I’m right here; why don’t the students ask me for help? That’s all I really want!

Anyway, it’s not a high paying job, kids, but the CDC numbers show that at least you don’t blow out your brains when you get home at night. And as I’m reminded by my fellow instructors, there’s always booze.


Norwegian Word of the Day: å lære

å lære, verb, translates to both to teach and to learn

For Eskempel: Å lære bringer lykke.

bringer lykke = brings happiness

From: The Death of Socrates (a famous teacher who bugged everyone a lot and told the authorities to go to Hades) by Jacques-Louis David (1787)

From: The Death of Socrates (a famous teacher who bugged everyone a lot and told the authorities to go to Hades) by Jacques-Louis David (1787)