I would never argue that teaching is the easiest job in the world. In fact, I believe it is one of the most difficult jobs out there. It is also the most wonderful, rewarding, and exciting jobs possible. Which is why I can’t believe it has a terrible reputation.
But that reason is plain and simple: other teachers.
I remember the summer before I started my first year, one of my mentors told me stay away from the older teachers that have been here too long. They have a negative view of this job and will bring you down. Don’t let them dim your enthusiasm! I have stayed true to this and I believe I still sparkle in the classroom! I currently teach Algebra II at inter-ciy, urban school. I am coming up on my third year on the job and I love it. Sure, there are many tough days but what job doesn’t have tough days!
Today I read on article from Huffington Post by Melissa Bowers, a former 12-year English teacher: 7 Reasons You May Not Want to Teach Anymore and I have to say, it broke my heart. Not because someone had this opinion of teaching, but because they were actively publicizing how awful this job is. It’s articles like this that turn off younger, passionate, enthusiastic potential teachers from ever considering teaching as a profession. I have expressed my love for this job to so many people and the vast majority of them are shocked that I love it so much. Shocked! Can you believe that? A job that I pour my heart and soul into and they are shocked that I love it.
The reality is, if you poorly run your classroom, your students, lower your expectations of your students and yourself, want to take the easy way out and not put any effort into your lessons, and fail to adapt to changing times, yes, teaching is going to be awful for you. But if you are willing to adapt and grow with your kids, give them high expectations and hold them accountable, there is truly no better job.
First, let’s get the obvious reason that Bowers doesn’t discuss out of the way: below average salary. For the record, teachers do not have a below average salary. In fact, for my town my salary is above average! Of course I feel like teachers should get paid more than what we get. We are the epitome of under paid and over worked. But that does not mean we get paid poorly. It just means we probably should get paid more. Who isn’t in a job where they feel like they don’t get paid enough?
Now on to her list:
1. You are an “authority figure” with no real authority.
Bowers argues that in your classroom you are not really an authority figure. You are actually run by the parents, school board, and state or national standards and students can sense it. Sure, I can see how you really work for these people and what you do can be dictated by them, but only if you let them! Of course you have to abide by state standards. All jobs have directives from their bosses! Even CEOs have to be conscious of what their market needs which drives what they do. Parents can be a boss, or they can be an asset. If your child is struggling, it is certainly the job of the teacher to hold their students accountable by reaching out to the parent and keeping them in the loop of their child’s performance. And if you fail to do so, obviously that parent is going to try to run you. You are not doing your job! As far as the school board, other than funding the schools and responding to concerns, I have never felt personally “run” by the school board.
Here’s the truth: run your classroom properly and you are definitely the one and only authority figure that students will see. If you improperly run your classroom, students can sense it! Students know when you are only there for a paycheck or if you truly care about them. That’s the only thing that would ever drive a student to say something like “you know, my father pays your salary.” As for me, my students sense it day in and day out how much I love being their teacher. I once had the school secretary call me about something to do with compensation for tutoring after school. My class overheard me saying the word “paycheck” and they literally gasped. It was as if my students forgot that I get paid to do this job. I have to admit, that was one of the proudest moments of my career thus far.
2. Your day does not resemble that of a typical white-collar professional.
And that is so fantastic!!! I get to work super early but that means I get to go home at 3pm when no one is out yet. I go grocery shopping, go to the mall, schedule my doctor’s appointments and get first dibs on everything!
Here are some specific things she says a typical job can do but teachers can’t:
1. Pee- Sure I may not get to pee whenever I need to, but that’s so easy, I call in my neighboring teacher to watch my class for a split second and run. Honestly, I don’t want a job where I have all the free time to run to the bathroom whenever I want. I like that I keep busy and half the time I forget I need to pee anyways.
2. Get coffee- Again, all the free time in the world at work to go get coffee? I get off at 3 anyways. I go home and make coffee!
3. Spend fifteen minutes chatting leisurely with a colleague- 15 minutes? Try 90 minutes every day for planning. I plan effectively and spend most planning periods relaxing, talking to my work wife the Geometry teacher while we make our copies.
4. Go out to lunch- Yes, the 25 minutes for lunch as opposed to the 1 hour sucks, but you get used to it and most days I can’t wait to get back in the classroom to continue my lesson.
5. Complete paperwork and other job-related tasks during the actual work day- again, effective time management is essential.
6. Sit down occasionally- But I get my steps in!!! My FitBit loves this! Seriously, teaching has so many health benefits!
3. Everyone thinks they know how to do your job. EVERYONE.
Yep- this one is true. Everyone at some point has taught something, learned something, and/or gone to school so everyone thinks they know how to teach. But here’s my question- WHO CARES?!?! It doesn’t mean you have to listen to them! At the end of the day it is your classroom, your lesson, your kids. No one else has the authority to teach them but you. It’s like being a first time mom. Everyone wants to give you advice. Whether or not you take it is up to you. Sure it can get extremely annoying especially when you feel like they’ve never been a mother before and have no right to give you advice. But that’s just the nature of the beast.
4. You wanted to foster imagination, not slaughter it.
It’s true, there is a huge pressure for teachers to teach to the test. I remember my first year, I had so many ideas on how students can learn different topics and I had so much pressure to focus on the test. I remember playing math games with my kids and actually being told we don’t have time for fun and games, focus on the material, give them worksheets, quizzes, and notes. Nothing else.
Well, this year I totally changed things up. I focus on the material I am required to, but we play lots of games every day, we have mini-projects, class experiments, and group competitions. My kids love coming into my classroom because they know their limits will be tested and they will have fun. Yes there are ways to “slaughter” imagination: take the easy way out and only give your kids notes, worksheets, and tests. I spend hours upon hours to create lessons that will challenge the way my students look at math, but at the end of the day, I know that what I am doing is best for my kids.
And in case you’re curious, my test scores ROCK!
5. The technology obsession is making you CRAZY.
CRAZY IN LOVE!!! Honestly, Bowers make me really mad in this portion of her article. Especially when she argues this generation doesn’t need any more technology, especially when they are using their cell phones in your class already and the technology is more a distraction than a learning tool.
Here is the reality: you need to meet your students where they are at. The fact that they have “enough technology” is the reason why you need to integrate it in the classroom. This is how they are used to functioning in their every day lives, so of course they would learn better if it was involved in their learning as well.
This generation does not learn the way you and I learned. Notes on the chalkboard, worksheets afterwards, tests and quizzes don’t cut it anymore. All of my kids have some form of ADD… heck! I have ADHD!
Technology can be the best thing to keep your students engaged in your lessons Bowers makes it sound like the only technology out there is a cell phone. WRONG! There are SMART board, SMART Response clickers, and oh so much more! I even have a class Instagram, Twitter, and LiveBinder so my kids can keep track of the class at home!
The beauty of math is that it’s not stationary; it is all around us which means it should be interactive! No matter how hard I try, I can’t put that on the whiteboard. This is why technology is so crucial for this day and age.
I completely agree that cell phones are a huge distraction in the classroom. That’s why I collect every single cell phone when they walk into the classroom so they’re not tempted to use them. And most importantly, if your students are using their phones in the classroom while you’re teaching, you did not plan an engaging lesson. Yes, I’m blaming you! Even on the rare occasion that I forget to collect cell phones, my kids are not on them.
Bowers admits that technology is wonderful but not necessary. I have never felt like it was mandatory for me to use technology in my classroom, but I definitely see it as a necessity!
6. All the entitlement and the trophies and the apathy and whatever.
I know, this generation is full of kids that feel incredibly entitled. But how can you base your love for the job on the students that you teach? Not all students are entitled, and not all students are wonderful. But I promise, there are some incredible and talented students that deserve a quality education. Just because they are surrounded by entitled, disruptive, disrespectful peers doesn’t take away from the education they deserve.
7. There is no reliable way to assess who is ACTUALLY good at this.
I’m not sure why this is a reason to not want to be a teacher. If you know you’re great, your students know you’re awesome, student assessments are wonderful, that shows how effective your teaching is. I know that I am one of the best teachers, I feel that in my heart! I don’t need any administrators telling me that I’m good at it.
I will agree though, that one of the toughest parts about this job is how much it relies on student test scores and assessments.I agree that we can’t control our student’s unexpected circumstances such as how much sleep they got or their breakup the other day, however, in my experience, my students’ test scores have been pretty accurate to their academic performance and potential + 5%. I very rarely have a student not pass the standardize test that doesn’t deserve it.
This job is really about the kids, the immeasurable impact you have on their lives. This job can be hell sometimes. The insane about of work administration wants you to do at the last minute, paperwork the state brings down on you for almost no reason, lesson plan after lesson plan after lesson plan. It can be draining, but I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
If you are an older, tired teacher, I urge you, please stop talking about how much you hate this job! If you hate it that much, QUIT! Move over so the next new teacher with the energy and enthusiasm to shape our future can come in. I truly believe no other profession shapes the future of this county and this world the way teachers do. That is both a privilege and an honor, but definitely not a burden.