There are some careers I know I could never do—and being a police officer is one of them. Pulling over total strangers in cars with tinted windows in the middle of nowhere, in the blackness of night ... just the thought of it makes me wince in fear. The sight of blue lights twirling in my rear view mirror sends me into a silent panic and I don’t exhale until the cop car whizzes by me. Let’s not talk about the guns.
So when I thanked a random cop the other day for his service, I was a bit surprised at what he said. He asked me if I was flirting with him! I said no, and I pointed to my husband who was only a few feet from ear shot. The cop was in uniform—and yes he was quite handsome—so I didn’t know whether to laugh, be offended, or ashamed.
We were both waiting for our orders in a crowded burger joint, and I decided to strike up a conversation—something I did regularly in my old reporting days. The police officer, who looked in his late 30s, early 40s, told me that no one ever thanks him for what he does so he assumed that I had an ulterior motive. (Ladies, he apparently has serious trust issues.)
He said he felt like he had one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the city of Chicago. He said police are often blamed for the city’s crime problem, though they put their lives on the lines to stop it.
Then he asked me what I did for a living, and that’s when our 10-minute conversation got even more interesting.
This macho-man police officer immediately said that he could never be a teacher. He explained that he is often called to schools because of student fights and other altercations, and he has no tolerance for disrespectful kids. He said that as a police officer he can get in the kids’ faces and tell them the hard things they need to hear, and he can even rough them up when they need it, but as a teacher his hands would be tied.
Teachers have to speak softly to unruly children, he said. Teachers have to resist the urge to grab a kid by the collar and hem them up to the wall. Teachers have to try to teach the students who really want to learn alongside those who don’t, and that would drive him crazy. And all those papers teachers have to grade after work ...
He went on and on. Teachers have it hard, way harder than cops, he concluded.
Wow. I really couldn’t do much but listen. I suppose if I was called to a school only during times of crisis I might share his impression of what it’s like to be a teacher. Likewise, considering the extreme nature of a policeman’s job, I think I would be the most cowardly cop in the department. I’d ask to see a staff shrink every other day.
Still, Officer Friendly didn’t convince me: Working with victims, criminals, and the accused every day has to be much more stressful than teaching children—even wayward children—in a school.
Teaching is hard, but it can also be great fun. Each day, teachers dare to take our students to worlds of knowledge unknown. Teachers are innovative; we use our intellectual and emotional powers to build strong connections with students so we don’t feel the need to throw them up against a wall, even when they act out. But teachers also have to know our limits; there may be times when we need to call the police on a student and not feel bad about it.
By the end of the conversation, the cop who I had thanked was now profusely thanking me. And no, he wasn’t flirting. At that point, he had already seen my tall, dark, strong, and sexy husband.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
The opinions expressed in Charting My Own Course are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.