Teaching is a pretty cushy job. You work 8-3, you get summers and holidays off, and all you have to do is boss kids around all day. Right?
Wrong. Teaching is a misunderstood and underappreciated career. The amount of time, effort, and hard work that goes into teaching is sometimes unknown to those outside of the profession. Many people do believe that it is an 8-3 day with a half hour lunch break. Between the grading, and the prep work, and the clubs you sponsor or the sports you coach, plus the out-of-school activities you attend to connect with your students, teaching can be upwards of a 65-hour week. And that’s just the time spent.
The word “teacher” only describes one aspect of what a teacher actually is. Teachers are motivators, encouragers, therapists, drill sergeants, baby sitters, parents, role models, coaches, cheerleaders, team players, and the list goes on. They don’t only teach, but also sponsor clubs and activities, coach sports, serve on committees, participate in PLCs, cooperate with other teachers, and attend activities such as plays or wrestling meets to show students that they are interested in their lives. And they aren’t just trying to show they’re interesting in students’ lives – they actually ARE interested in students’ lives. They care for their students and many times they are emotionally invested in the success or failure of their students. It can be exhausting.
The mental effort teaching requires is enormous. Teaching is not just planning and delivering lessons. It’s not just enforcing classroom and school rules. It’s not just grading assignments and putting grades in the gradebook. And it’s definitely not the easy job that many people think it is.
Teachers don’t just choose what they want to teach and plan a lesson or unit around that. Lessons have to align with standards. They have to keep students engaged for roughly 45 minutes or 90 minutes if you teach in a school that uses a block schedule. Your lessons have to be planned in consideration of the diverse students in your classroom. There are students with IEPs or 504 plans that need accommodations. Sometimes you teach the same class multiple times, but each group of students is different so you might have to do a discussion in one class but a writing assignment in the other. You have to choose what specific content to teach and what to exclude. Planning requires an enormous amount of brainpower.
I could go on and continue to regale you with stories of how my eyes have been opened to the hard work of teaching, but I won’t. I’ll leave it at this: teaching is not as easy as it seems. It isn’t one of those jobs you can work 8-5 and then leave it at the office. It is hard – physically (sometimes), but especially mentally and emotionally.
Teachers are so important though. On weekdays during the school year, students often spend more time with their teachers than they spend with their parents. Teachers have so many opportunities to leave positive, lasting impressions on their students. They also have opportunities to leave negative impressions as well. Good teachers make students believe that they can do anything and be anything they want to. Good teachers inspire students and help them see their potential. To this day, I remember all my teachers, the good and the bad, but especially the good.
There was Mrs. McDannald, who let me sit next to her while I read the scary parts of Harry Potter in 2nd grade, and showed me that teachers can be compassionate and caring. There was Mrs. Workman, who let me grade papers for her in 4th grade when I finished all my work early, giving me an early glimpse into one aspect of teaching. There was Mrs. Appl, who not only fostered my love of reading but also stuck up for me in 6th grade when I was being harassed by another student, and showed me again that teachers can care about more than just a student’s grades. There was Mrs. Blair, in whose classroom I realized my love for social studies. And in high school there was Mr. Glazier, who never answered my physics questions without making sure that I understood why that was the answer. And Mr. Behrens, who let me sit with him every day in study hall so that he could reteach the calculus concepts I didn’t understand. And Señora Krisman, who showed me that even a subject that wasn’t my favorite could be fun with the right teacher. And my senior year Civics and Economics teacher, Mr. Schacht, who was such an energetic, intelligent, thought-provoking teacher that it made me also want to be a Social Studies teacher.
Some of these teachers had me in class over 10 years ago, but I still remember and feel their impacts to this day. And when you think about it, I’m sure you can remember some of the impacts that your teachers had on you as well. I believe that teachers are some of the most important people we have in this country. Teachers have a huge impact on the future of our nation. And, regardless of the hard work, regardless of the long hours, the difference that teachers can make in the lives of students make it all worth it. So if you’re a teacher – thank you for taking on the difficult, but important, job of shaping young minds. And if you aren’t a teacher, find a teacher and thank them for what they do because if you’re like me, you wouldn’t be where you are today with the help, encouragement, and love from a teacher.