Death by Duck

 In Seriously?

Teaching, my friend and mentor once told me, is like being pecked to death by a duck.

As colorful and troubling a metaphor as this is, it took a while for me to understand its deep and tragic implications. But I’ve been at it for over 26 years now and its truthfulness resonates with me every spring.

In Autumn, English teachers arrive with open hearts and the touching innocent belief that we can teach this group of kids that the period goes  (for the love of God and all that’s holy) INSIDE the quotation marks. We sharpen our pencils and our minds, dusting off those summer cobwebs and go, once more, into the fray.

But it is in the Spring that the ducks come a pecking. This is the time of year when teachers need some encouragement and possibly some chocolate. And so, I offer this “Open Letter to English Teachers Trying to Survive the Spring.”


Dear English Teachers Who have been Beaten Down by Metaphorical Ducks by March With Three Months of School Left:


Greetings, Colleagues! The season of stress is now upon us. Many of you are now buckling under the weight of State Assessments, research papers, SLOs and students whose will to learn has been nipped by the promise of Spring. You have faced student apathy, angry parents, and mounds of paperwork. The future looks bleak to you now, but let me take this opportunity to say thank you for the work that you do. Such work includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Thank you for teaching writing, assigning essays and correcting them with thought and care. Let the records note that every hour a student spends writing an essay will mean six hours for you in terms of grading. (If your child has an English teacher who assigns writing, be grateful. Not all do. It means more work for them, but it means growth for your child. )You didn’t need to assign and correct written work, but you did it anyway.
  • Thank you for continuing to care when your students don’t. It can be discouraging to collect homework from a class of 25 and receive only 6 papers. Although it doesn’t take long to grade 6 papers, you called the parents of the 19 who didn’t hand in their work. Once more, something you didn’t have to do, but did it anyway.
  • Thank you for staying after school to help the kids who has the ability to do the work but not the motivation. His failure to do his work should not mean your workday is extended, but you extended it anyway.
  • Thank you for buying Yankee Candles from the Junior Class, World’s Finest Chocolate Bars from the Spanish Club, and oranges from the FFA. Last year, you spend 430.00 on things you bought from your students, things you neither needed nor wanted. You didn’t have to support these fundraisers, but you did it anyway.
  • Thank you for calling that parent to tell her that her son did a great job on his work today. She has never received a call like this. You didn’t need to call, but you did it anyway.
  • Thank you for not decking that kid in 2nd block when you asked him to put away his phone and he said no and then called you a name I can’t print here and said nothing you do matters to him. You were shaking with rage and struggled to remember that for reasons you don’t know, he was too. Maybe his girlfriend just broke up with him, maybe his parents are getting a divorce, maybe he got cut from a team. So you didn’t let your rage consume you and remembered that what you do DOES matter to him. You didn’t have to behave with grace and professionalism, but you did anyway.
  • Thank you for being a good teacher. Not everyone is. The ones who simply put in their time make as much money as the ones who go the extra mile. You didn’t have to be a good teacher …

But you did it anyway.


Your Fellow Teacher and Duck Enthusiast, Jennifer Hanno


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  • Chad Broughman

    Thanks Jennifer! What an inspiring post!

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