When I first told friends and family I wanted to teach young children, there was one refrain: “Good luck!” And sure enough, when I walked into that classroom for the first time, I had less than no idea what I was getting myself into. But now, with two decades of teaching experience under my belt, I can confidently say that at the end of the day, the most important aspect of my job is fighting and overpowering the largest child in my class.

Every job has its share of challenges, and teaching is no different. Just keeping your students engaged and focused would be exhausting on its own, but throw in writing lesson plans, dealing with disruptions, and managing overbearing parents, and it’s a wonder I get up every morning and do it all again. So, while beckoning the heftiest kid in class into a ring of desks at the center of the classroom and raining down blows until you get submission may seem easy on its face, consider just how much else teachers have on their plate, and think again.

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Of course, it’s not all drudgery and toil. I truly believe that teaching is just about the most rewarding career there is—not in spite of having to put a headlock on a fourth-grader with an overactive pituitary gland, but because of it.

…when you’re facing down your first pair of oversized twins, it doesn’t matter how good of a teacher’s college you graduated from.

You get to see these kids in a completely different light than their parents ever will. You see them challenging what they think they know and realizing how capable they are for the very first time. You see them fall, and you see them get right back up and start hammering away at your groin again while you desperately claw for an object large enough to smash over their head. It’s inspiring, and it’s why there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

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Throughout my career, I’ve taught grades K through five, and while each offers its own challenges, a few things are always true: Try to end it before it starts; don’t bother fighting fair, because they sure won’t; a desk is harder than a fist; you’ll tire before they do. And above all else, just don’t stop! Take up teaching and you’ll hear all this from the veterans, but you’ll also learn that there’s a big difference between knowing and understanding. And when you’re facing down your first pair of oversized twins, it doesn’t matter how good of a teacher’s college you graduated from. You’ve just got to roll up your sleeves and dive in headfirst, because their skulls are softer than yours.

Every teacher hopes they’ve left a legacy, that they’ve sent their students out into the world with a lasting impression of what they were taught. I’m too much of a realist to believe I’ve left my mark on every one of my students, but I will say this: Every now and then, once a year or so, an old student of mine steps into my classroom and sucker-punches me in the solar plexus with a decade’s worth of resentment. And when that happens, I can’t help but smile. I did my job. I touched a life. Isn’t that something?