It’s amazing that I did not become a teacher. My Mom is a teacher and my sister is as well. I dabbled with a degree in education while in college, but ultimately decided against it.
I feel like teachers get the short end of the stick. They are blamed for the problems in education when they rarely have a say in all the changes taking place. Common Core? I have not talked to one teacher who is on board with that. Saying that teachers are responsible for Common Core’s implementation is like saying that I am responsible for the Affordable Care Act because I work in healthcare. Trust me, if someone had come to me for advice on ACA, things would have gone down differently.
Here are some reasons why we ought to run out and thank teachers immediately:
Imagine that you have been working in a job for several years. You have built up a system and feel comfortable with your responsibilities. Your files are up-to-date and you have kept meticulous notes. Now imagine that one day you are told that the paperwork and notes you have no longer apply. You need to start over and teach according to a new script, so-to-speak. Not only that, but you have little time to prepare yourself for this new way in which you must do your job. Then, you have to find a way to learn a new curriculum then teach it to a classroom full of students. You need to develop ways to make the new curriculum fun and engaging. Your students are expected learn and apply what you have taught so that they can perform at a high level on standardized tests. Have fun, but don’t forget that you will need to toss this new stuff in the trash and learn yet another new curriculum in a few short years.
Unfortunately, everything revolves around testing. I was once an aide to a child in elementary school and his classroom had to take a practice PSSA test that lasted for a few hours on the second day of school. Students were crying because they didn’t know the material. These were very smart and capable kids, but they didn’t realize that they weren’t supposed to know the material because it hadn’t been taught to them yet. It was a must that the students be assessed immediately because it was a predictor as to how much needed to be learned before the actual test was administered several months later. The students became frustrated and anxious when it came to the actual test because they felt like they knew so little on the pre-test. Teachers are under so much pressure to get through as much material as possible before the official testing begins. They have little to no time to slow down and go over topics when their students need extra review. Do you think teachers enjoy this?
It’s no secret that children learn in different ways. One type of testing is not an appropriate indicator of what a child knows or how intelligent they are and teachers know this better than anyone. But it is dictated to our teachers that they must find a way to make every child successful in this one measurement. School districts and states are judged by these test scores and failure is not an option.
Everything must be documented. Paperwork has to be turned in to show progress and plans have to be made for future progress. If you are a special education teacher, the paperwork is endless. In addition, teachers are in front of a classroom basically all day – when are they completing this paperwork? That’s right, they take their work home and finish it off the clock. They don’t get to punch out and leave it all behind for a few hours.
4. Plan Periods
Yes, teachers are supposed to get plan periods. But, most of the time, they are not getting caught up on anything because of the aforementioned points. Then there are the papers to grade, the letters that need to be sent home, the classroom that needs to be put back into order. Plan periods are not a time of relaxation. If I want to grab a cup of coffee and a breather during my day, I get to do that. Not teachers.
5. Masters Degrees
How do you get a raise if you are a teacher? Go back to school! The teacher must become the student in order for them to receive a bump in pay. So in addition to the extra work they bring home from their job, they must also attend classes to further their own education. Not all teachers have done this, but many of the teachers my age have while raising a family and taking care of a household. Why not? They don’t have enough on their plate.
6. Snow Days
Last winter, when the 10th snow day occurred in the Northeast, it dawned on me that these days are the worst for teachers. Sure, it’s fun to be Captain Sweatpants and hang around the house for a day or two, but any more than that and it becomes a nightmare. They have the task of assembling the troops and getting them to focus and learn something after unexpectedly having days off. Seriously, last year the teachers practically lost whole weeks of school due to the weather. How do you get kids to retain anything when that is going on? Plus, all that standardized testing is always right around the corner and we all know we have to hang our hats on that.
7. Summers Off
This is why the rest of us think that teachers have it made in the shade. However, it’s not all fun and games. Once school is officially done for the students, the teachers have a few more days of in-service followed by another couple of days of cleaning out their rooms. Given the snow days, this might take you until the end of June before your summer actually begins. Then, if your curriculum has changed, you better learn it and prepare your materials and come up with fun ways to relay the lessons. Raises are hard to come by, so in order to make a little more money, many teachers head back into the classroom to teach summer school. If you are pursuing your Master’s, odds are it’s that time of year when you add a few extra graduate courses to your workload. Vacation just wouldn’t be vacation without four term papers to write.
8. Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You know those cute signs and inspirational posters in your kid’s classroom? I would be willing to bet that their teacher bought them. Not with the school’s money – with their own. Classroom supplies? Yeah, I’ve known teachers to go above-and-beyond and buy a bunch of those too. This is another fun way that teachers get to spend their summer ‘off’ – shopping for things to keep their classrooms fresh and functional. Plus, there are countless things that come up during the course of the school year that would require a teacher to reach into their pockets for their students. The teachers that I know do this willingly. My sister has told me that one time she was checking out at Walmart and had her arms full of candy and toy dinosaurs. The man in line in front of her turned around, looked at what she was carrying, and asked, “You a teacher?” That would be correct, sir.
It’s no secret that the budgets of school districts are tight. Our taxes go up every year. Because of these tight budgets, the teachers must fight for everything they get. It’s why so many receive their Masters. It’s why they deal with the out-of-pocket expenses. I know teachers who haven’t received a raise in years – not even cost-of-living increases.
They don’t just sit back and watch as the arts are cut for their students. They don’t brush it off when extracurricular activities are in jeopardy. There are some school districts that can no longer fund sports; the students must pay in order to play. Of course, many students don’t have the money, so fundraisers are organized. Schools can’t afford to pay people to coach. I have seen numerous teachers step up and coach these teams because they believe in the kids and they believe in the positive correlation extracurricular activities have to classroom learning. Teachers are affected the most when budgets are cut.
10. The Kids
I would dare to say that the vast majority of teachers are doing what they do because they care genuinely about children and their future. They put up with all of this other junk because they are passionate about education and want to make a difference in the lives of others. Teachers hearts are broken when they see that child in their classroom who they know has a difficult life at home. They know that passing a test is the least of that child’s concerns. They personally take it upon themselves to love each child and make sure they know it. Besides the paperwork and the new curriculum, teachers also take thoughts of their students home with them each night. Concern about the troubled student or whether or not they are effectively relaying the course material can weigh heavily on a teacher’s mind. Yet, teachers return to the classroom day after day, year after year, in order to help our kids become respectable, responsible, and educated members of society.
These points are just the tip of the iceberg; teachers deal with way more than the things I have listed. I want to thank my teachers throughout the years. Their endless encouragement and words of wisdom shaped who I have become, second only to my parents. They gave me the confidence to pursue my passions and believe in myself. They made me feel capable and worthwhile.
I look back now and am so thankful that I did not become a teacher. But, because I have those feelings, I am so grateful to those who did become teachers; it is truly a job that I could not do. I think of having a classroom full of the same energy level my kids have and I get an instant headache. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Please take the time to thank a teacher. But let’s take it a few steps further and make it a priority to pray for our nation’s teachers continually whether they teach in a public school, private school, or homeschool. After all, they are shaping our future.