By Brenda Ortega
Last Friday was not an unusual day at school for MEA member Amber Guerreiro. Nothing in particular happened to make the middle school Spanish teacher feel frustrated or discouraged. But she came home “overcome with exhaustion,” she said, “and I just broke.”
“It was a regular day, like any day, but I got home and I couldn’t stop crying,” the Greenville Public Schools teacher said. “I was just sobbing, and my kids were like, ‘What’s wrong, Mom?’ And I said to them, ‘I don’t feel like I’m enough.’”
That evening Guerreiro sat down to write, hoping to release her emotions. By Sunday night, feeling a familiar sense of pre-Monday anxiety, she posted an edited “Cliff’s Notes” version of her journal entry on Facebook, titled “A day in the life of a teacher.”
Guerreiro thought a few teacher friends on the social media site might relate to her poetic listing of all of the tasks, information, state and federal mandates, student needs, and other priorities competing for an educator’s attention on a daily basis.
Less than one week later, her post had been liked by more than 50,000 people with more than 17,000 comments and in excess of 91,000 shares. “It’s gone worldwide to Australia, Spain, the UK, Asia,” she said. “It’s crazy, but it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
She didn’t realize the post was taking off until a family member texted on Tuesday to say that 1,000 people had liked it. She looked but hasn’t had time to pay close attention to the tens of thousands of likes, shares, and comments that have continued rolling in this week.
The reactions she saw from commenters who connected with her ideas or thanked her for writing have reaffirmed her lifelong belief in the goodness of people and given her new hope.
Guerreiro saved a screenshot of one of her favorite comments, from a mom she didn’t know, which read: “I needed to see this!!! I was going to be a major jerk to my son’s teacher tomorrow, but this post reminds me to give her grace and respect. Her job is Hard… And my kid is hard. Thanks for posting! #behumble”
If Guerreiro could make the post required reading for anyone, she would choose Michigan’s lawmakers, who pass mandates without adequate funding, and Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Education Secretary who disparages public education in favor of charter and private schools.
“Those people in a position of running our schools and telling schools what they have to do need to understand the pressure they’re putting on us, from superintendents right down to teachers,” she said. “They’re discouraging people from going into education.
“I would also tell them we are short-staffed with parapros and other support staff, and I literally could not do my job without them,” she added. “Our support staff are amazing, and they don’t get the recognition or the pay they deserve.”
Guerreiro began her career teaching for five years in a one-room schoolhouse in the Upper Peninsula, and she has now spent a decade teaching Spanish to middle schoolers in Greenville where she says her strength is in building relationships with students.
In addition to teaching, she has worked in a variety of social work roles, helping parents in need of services for their young children or at risk of abuse or neglect, in addition to working with migrant parents and children.
In jobs outside of teaching, Guerreiro says she had time to use the restroom when needed. She could focus on one task at a time. And most importantly, she didn’t feel like a failure every day because she couldn’t do everything that was expected.
Her two sons, 12 and 14, had mixed reactions to her viral post. Her older son, an eighth grader who is in her Spanish class this year, was excited to have a famous mom. The younger boy, a sixth grader, worried she might leave the classroom before he could take her class.
“I don’t want to leave teaching because I know I’m making a difference here, but I wish I could be allowed to just teach. I have so many ideas for what I want to do with my students, but I can’t put the time into what I want to do because of all the other stuff I have to do.”
Guerreiro holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, plus 30 additional graduate-level credits. She has completed an 18-month course on teacher leadership and a two-year administrative mentoring program.
She knows teachers of tested subject areas endure even higher stress levels than she does, and administrators work long hours “pulled in 20 different directions.” She appreciates the support she has received from colleagues, administrators, and parents in Greenville, she said.
“I truly know in my heart of hearts I work in one of the most amazing districts. Every single person who works here is making personal sacrifices to do what is best for kids. It’s just hard when we don’t have control over our own classrooms to just teach.”
Her post provides the best explanation:
A day in the life of a teacher…
Me: Ok class, today…
Student: This is stupid. I’d rather be playing video games.
Office: *ring* Send (student) to the office.
Voicemail: My kid told me that YOU…
Email: We need you to sub on your prep.
Teacher coaches: Students are experiencing an all-time level of trauma. Form relationships with all students and make connections every day.
SRSS: Make sure to incorporate ELA and math into your lesson plan daily, so we can boost our scores for data.
IEP: Implement these modifications and accommodations for these students every hour. Document it.
504: You are legally bound to adhering to these accommodations for these students. Document it.
Pinterest: Every teacher in the universe has a cooler and craftier idea and classroom than you.
Facebook: Omg. Did you hear about what happened in *insert teacher here* class?! Don’t they even watch them? It’s their job! How did (s)he miss that?! Yeah, and I heard…
Class roster: 30+ kids every hour, 6 times per day.
Student Services: You have 4 homeless students. You need to provide the following daily.
Student Medical alert: These students will die if you don’t monitor these medical issues closely.
Professional Development: We’re trying something new this year even though we’re not ready to roll it out and there’s no funding for it. Be sure to document that you are doing it correctly.
Media: Your classroom is going to get shot up any minute.
Surprise observation: Be sure goals are set, reports are finished, lesson plans are perfect, and that you hit the learning target and success criteria multiple times. We need documentation and evidence that you’re doing this.
Standardized tests: You suck as a teacher. Also, your rating is based on this, but also, make sure students don’t feel defined by their performance on these.
PBIS: Teach students the expectations in the hallway, cafeteria, classroom, and outside. Take students in the bathroom and reteach how to wipe, flush, and wash hands. Be sure to only reward positive behavior. Check in and check out with these specific students daily.
MTSS: We have 3 tiers of support. What about your gifted students, pull out students, intervention students? Why aren’t you providing enough differentiation? You need to provide documentation.
Door: Keep me locked, so that students are safe. Yes you will be interrupted to open me 10x per hour.
Papers/Grading: Say good bye to your evenings and weekends.
Lesson plans: Are they aligned with school, state, U.S., and worldwide standards? Be sure to document that.
The Powers That Be: What can we do to help?
Teachers: Please take something off our plate before adding something new.
The Powers that Be: Sorry, no can do. Btw, you also need to…
Tech Dept: We are working on correcting today’s issue as quickly as we can.
English Language Learner: *crying, speaking a foreign language, feeling alone and scared*
The Powers that Be: Sorry, there’s just not enough funding for those students.
Department Heads: I’ve been told we need to align all of our curriculum, assessments, and daily lesson plans. Be sure to document that.
Staff Memo: Be sure to attend the following meetings this week: staff, grade level, core subject, tech, school climate, school improvement.
Counselors: We saw 500 of the 900 students on our caseload, this month.
Social Worker: Yes, I filed that CPS report and the other one. Now we wait on the state to act.
Student: My step dad got arrested last night for beating up my mom.
Tornado Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
Fire Drill: Surprise! Make sure all students are safe. Now go back to teaching.
Internal Threat Drill: Surprise! Barricade your door and make sure all students are silent for 45 minutes. Go back to teaching.
External Threat drill: Surprise! Make sure student are silent and out of the funnel of potential bullet spray. Now go back to teaching.
Tutoring: Provided before school, after school, and during lunch.
Technology: Must be implemented into all lessons but also make sure to monitor all 30+ students at all times and make sure they’re not doing anything inappropriate.
Data: You suck as a teacher.
Administrators: *literally being pulled in 20 directions at once, every day, while fielding discipline, making multiple teacher observations, fielding staff, breaking up fights, keeping us safe, performing investigations, cooperating with police, meeting with students and parents, and attending all after school and extracurricular activities*
Employability grade: Be sure to document when students are tardy, not following directions, unprepared, and not collaborating well. Document this for all 175 students.
Academic Grade: Document all accommodations, modifications, retakes, and rationale for grades for each of your 175 students. No we will not provide district time for you to enter these into your grade book.
Special Ed State Dept: You must mainstream all students regardless of behavior, cognitive function, and/or potential violent episodes. Sorry, there’s just not enough funding for
additional support in your classroom.
State: Make sure you are highly qualified, but you must pay for all of your professional development, student loans, grad classess, conferences, hotel stay, food, travel, and substitute teachers out of pocket. And you need to update your certification. You’ll need to pay for that too.
Bladder: You haven’t peed in 7 hours, you’re going to get another infection.
Stomach: *in knots and anxiety coursing*
Brain: You’re not enough. You’ll never be enough.
Chest/Lungs: I can’t breathe.
Eyes: *leaking tears*
Me: *smiles* (Tells self) Stop. Just suck it up. You’re fine. You have 30+ students eyes on you right now. Do NOT let them down.
Society: F*ck respect for authority, including your teachers. Must be nice to get your summers off.
Parent of a student: You make a difference.
Student: I know I’m special and have value, because of you.
My own kids: Mom, why are you crying?
Me: *sets alarm for tomorrow to do it all over again*
-Written by Amber Lynn G. (middle school teacher)