This has been a great week of celebrations – and reflection for me. Teacher Appreciation Week. Nurses’ Week. Mother’s Day. Three jobs I have held. Three jobs I have loved.
I have to admit I wasn’t always on the Teacher Appreciation bandwagon. I thought having summers off should make up for any minor annoyances a teacher might have to endure during the course of the school year. Then I became a teacher – first at the college level, then at the public school level. My eyes were opened.
If I calculated all the unpaid hours I put in grading papers, designing websites, trying to create interesting lesson plans, looking for free resources…I would probably be making minimum wage. There is not enough funds to buy all the things my classroom needs – I buy things out of my pocket. I have students who are fixated by social media, drama and the myriad of daily minor/major catastrophes that make up high school. My analogies are that it is like herding cats or nailing jello to a tree.
I have students who don’t have food in their homes, but their parents have nice cars, fancy phones, tattoos, and fake nails. I have a student who has taken her mother to the emergency room 6 times this year because she (the mother) got drunk, fell and hurt herself. I have students who are somehow honor students who can’t do simple math. I have students who don’t want to be in the nursing program who were pushed into it by their parents and I have to get them through the year without having them puke during patient care or pass out during a blood draw…
But I have students who have a tremendous desire to not only succeed, but to excel. My heart is alternately filled with joy, and burdened with sadness for these beautiful young people. Sometimes when I am trying to corral them all at the hospital or keep them awake during a lecture by a guest speaker, I think – yes, this is hard work. Yes, this can be thankless work. But yes, this is MY work.
I haven’t always been a nurse, either. The profession has changed profoundly over the last few decades. Unsafe staffing ratios, long shifts and endless paperwork take time away from deserving patients. Your patients are not always at their best – scared, hurting, alone – and there is a fair amount of abuse toward caregivers. I personally have been called fat, old and stupid by a patient because I did not put enough ice in his soft drink. I have been choked, swung at, and even had an elderly gentlemen get me in a headlock with his legs when I tried to put a catheter in. But I have also had patients who came back to see me after their discharge and thank me personally for caring for them, and caring about them. As a nurse you can make a real difference, if only for one shift. You can calm, reassure, comfort and educate. You can encourage, support, and relieve pain. At the end of the day, I still think nursing is a good way to spend a work day.
And Mother’s Day. Being a mom – The. Best. Job. Ever. The pay may not be great – but the benefits (including grandkids) make up for that. I was lucky. My kids were good kids for the most part, and there weren’t health issues of any consequence. I made a fair number of mistakes, and had some near misses, as well. But we all got through it. My kids are grown, but my work continues to pay off. I continue to drink wine…
So to my fellow teachers, nurses, and Moms – I hope you enjoy the celebrations. If you aren’t a teacher, nurse or mother…at least this past week you could have celebrated Cinco de Mayo (Monday) National Shrimp Day (Friday) and Liver and Onions Day (Saturday). Somehow, I think my celebrations were better.