In most jobs, people work hard, struggle, and even want to give up sometimes. But in most jobs, people tend to see the product of their struggle, the effects of their hard work. Being a teacher doesn't always pay out that way.
I look at my junior high kids -- especially my boys -- and many times I catch myself wondering, "What on Earth is going to happen to these kids? How will they ever learn? How can I expect them to keep a job, raise a family, or pay the light bill when they can't even remember their locker combination for more than 3 hours in a row?"
And, in just 2 years, they're gone.
Sure, they're just down the road at high school, but in the midst of training a whole new crop of 7th graders, I sometimes get too busy to get on down the road. I find myself in a seemingly never-ending cycle of immaturity and irresponsibility. The kids outgrow us or think we won't remember. They are looking to the future (as we hoped they would) and sometimes forget their past.
So unlike most other jobs, teachers don't always get to see the pay-off. Sometimes, you just have to go seek it out.
Tonight, at the high school homecoming game with two other Mustang teachers, there was lots of pay-off. So many former students, excelling in classes, marching in the band, scoring touchdowns, and even taking the homecoming crown. I saw college students and college graduates and incredible moms and dads who never stopped believing in us or them. I saw students who had done a complete 180 in life, creating opportunity from nothing. It was a night full of smiles and hugs and "Oh my Gosh, I can't believe it's you!" When they're with us, growing up seems impossible, but once they're gone, it happens in the blink of an eye.
And after a long, long week of struggle at school, it was well worth a trip down that road.