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Is what we’re doing actually worth it?

September 29, 2020 - Posted in Education by Jason Sims
teacher with 4 students

From our Educator Guest Blogger Series

None of us like to admit it, but as educators, we’ve all had this thought. We plan for weeks in advance but adapt on the fly; we coach and support; facilitate and problem solve; and we are sometimes even caregivers. And our list of tasks seem to grow every year. We are held accountable for our students’ academic growth, and held responsible for the social, emotional, and mental health.

The influence of social media and shifts in parenting styles over the last decade have added another layer of challenges. And don’t get me started on 2020. We do all of this for a salary that is average at best, and a burden that is heavier than most.

So, is it actually worth it?

 

 I read a book a few months ago called How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. In this book, he mentions an experiment conducted by a Dr. Michael Meaney of McGill University. It's really fascinating, and it's very detailed, but here's the short version: 

Researchers began to notice that after they handled young lab rats, and put them back in their cage, some mother rats would immediately go over and lick and groom their young ones, while other mothers would ignore their young. Turns out, when a researcher handled a rat, it produced anxiety and stress hormones, and the licking and grooming from mom would counteract those hormones. Essentially, the young rats would calm down. They conducted this study over time and found that the rats that were licked and groomed (cared for), lived longer, were more social, healthier, and were less aggressive

The researchers took it a step farther. They essentially  "switched" offspring. They would separate a baby from their mom, and place it with another female rat. The result was the same: if the female rat licked and groomed and "cared for" the young one, the rat had positive results. The researchers concluded that it didn't matter if it was the biological mom, but if the rat who was there with them cared for them, then they were healthier. The research shows that if we care for our students, they are healthier because of it.

As an assistant principal of a primary school and former kindergarten teacher of 15 years, I can vouch that this is true. I was a 22 year kid when I walked into my first job, and I had 18 five year olds looking at me, relying on me to take care of them. I didn’t know much, but I knew that no matter how much work it took, how much money I did (or didn’t) earn, I had one job- to take care of my kiddos. And the great thing is, this happens everywhere. From the Upstate to the Lowcountry, there are men and women taking care of kids from 3-18, because they know that their students depend on them. No doubt, 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year. But as we continue that grind, know that what you do is worth it. Hold your head high, and know that your students’ lives are better off because of you. It’s science, after all.

So is it worth it? Quite simply, yes.

Bio:

Jason Sims is the assistant principal at Laurel Hill Primary School in Mt. Pleasant. Originally from Charlotte, he has been in education since 2004, all in the primary grades. He was selected by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 2019 as a Lasting Legacy Scholar, which recognizes educators across the country who are committed to early childhood education. Jason is the author of Thursday Thoughts, a weekly blog about the real life joys and struggles of working in schools. You can subscribe here, or follow Jason on Twitter at @MrSimsAP

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