I am a teacher. Most of my friends are also teachers. And yes, we complain about our jobs. This doesn’t mean we don’t like our jobs. Personally, I love my job. I get to work with amazing people and teacher amazing kiddos everyday. Just like any other profession, though, teaching has its ups and downs. Plus, it has unique ups and downs from other professions. Most people don’t understand those downs. In my opinion, after listening to others talk about the teaching profession, they view teachers as spoiled adults who still get a summer vacation. What do I have to complain about when I only work 10 months out of the year (I only get paid for those 10 months too)?
Let me paint a picture for you.
Imagine a 7:00 to 3:00 work day. Sounds pretty good, right? You get in at 7:00am. You have 20 minutes to prepare for the day – and your day consists of 4 meetings, each a different topic and each 90 minutes long. They can’t just be 90 minutes of you talking, though. There has to be activities and group work and practice work. You knew you wouldn’t have time to set that up this morning, so you worked for hours over the weekend preparing your meetings.
But now you’re at work and ready to go. You need to finish making copies and set up for the day. Except one of your clients has a question for you and it needs to be answered now. Which only leaves you with a precious few minutes to get settled in.
The day starts and the first of your meetings begin. There are 40 people in the room when the room was really build for 30, but you make due. One top of it, a quarter of your clients completely forgot what you told them yesterday and another quarter aren’t prepared for what you planned on doing today. But you improvise and make due.
Plus, not all of your clients are going to sit quietly and behave. Some of them are going to interrupt you while you’re talking. Some are going to sleep through your lecture and then ask you what they are supposed to be doing. Some of them are just going to sit there, arms folded across their chest because they really don’t want to be there. And part of your job is to make sure each and every one of them buy the very important product you are selling. So not only do you have to sell your product, you have to monitor their behavior and correct it as your go.
You’re only half a day behind your plan by the end of the meeting and you’re pretty sure most of them are going to buy. Five minutes until your next group arrives which gives you just enough time to switch everything out. Except, you’re expected to greet each client at the door. Never mind, you’ll figure it out.
Two meetings down and it’s lunch time. You look forward to a nice long, relaxing lunch. In reality, you have 20 minutes to shovel some food down your throat before your next meeting.
Finally you’ve reached the end of your day. Your four meetings are over with. But you really need to make sure your clients buy your product, so you had them fill out some information and answer some questions. Now you have to go through them. All 150 of them. And to top it all off, a few of your clients have no idea what you were talking about today and want your help after the meetings are over. Maybe you’ll make it out of the office by 3:30pm.
Teachers don’t have a normal 7-3 work day. Many of my colleagues show up between 6 and 6:30 every morning and leave between 3:30 and 4:30 in the evening (I’ve personally been at school for over 12 hours trying to set up labs). Most grade papers at home and work during the weekends planning or modifying lessons and activities and grading more papers.
I’ve mentioned that your clients have to buy what you are selling. It’s important. And it’s also how you get evaluated. You are considered good at your job if 80% of your clients buy your product. Here’s the catch – you can’t pick your clients. And you can’t get rid of those clients you KNOW are never going to buy the product. You are stuck with them. Just be better and make them buy.
Sound like something you can do? I urge you to go watch a teacher in action. It’s not easy. I have 35-40 students per class. Some come from great backgrounds where education is important. Some come from not so great backgrounds and don’t want to live like that, so education is important. More come from backgrounds where the value of education is not seen, so they really don’t care. They are at school because they have to be at school. They have no aspirations of going to college. Which is perfectly fine. Not everyone should go to college. But those kids aren’t there to learn. They are never going to buy my product. If those kids don’t buy what I’m selling, I’m seen as an ineffective teacher.
I think that’s what makes teaching hard. Behavior problems can be dealt with. Subjects can be learned. Strategies can be modified and taught and experimented with. In the end though, I’m basically being graded on how well the people I manage do their job. And if they don’t want to do their job, I can’t fire them and I get punished (some times financially) for their lackluster and unwillingness to do their job.
We’ve seen too often recently that teachers are cheating – answering questions for kids on tests, changing answers, falsifying scores. That’s what happens when you tie someone’s lively hood to student test scores. Teacher paychecks can be dependent on student test scores – students that they can’t choose and can’t get rid of if the student just don’t see the value in taking the test (We currently see this with AIMS science in AZ. Students know they don’t have to pass the test to graduate, so they don’t try. Luckily, AIMS doesn’t yet count toward teacher evaluations. I somethings see this in my own class as well when students “don’t need this class to graduate.” They see no value so they just don’t try, often resulting in low Ds and Fs for the course. Those do count towards my evaluation).
If you know of another industry that evaluates their employees like that, please let me know.
Let it be known that I do not condone teachers cheating. Nor am I defending it. I just think non-teachers need to understand why it is happening and need to see that teaching isn’t an easy job. And any one who thinks it is, I dare you to step into any primary or secondary classroom across the nation and give it a try. Half of teachers quit during their first five years. Could you do it?