Friday, May 4, 2007

10 tough things about being a teacher

This is a riff off of and a gentle parody of the post 10 Reasons it doesn’t pay to be the computer guy from my very old friend Shaun at Life Reboot.

10. “Your” accomplishments are always really someone else’s.
You’re only doing your job when you’re helping other people do better. If they don’t do well, you’re letting them down and not doing your job. If they doll, well gee, aren’t those kids just brilliant?

9. You always have to work more hours than they say you do.

You may be told that you need to stay at school until at least 3:30, but you will definitely be staying until 5 some days. You will then be coming back at 7 to chaperone a dance, and coming home from the dance at 11 to grade thirty papers and plan your lessons for the next week.

8. If you need technology, it will undoubtedly be broken.

I have never managed to work in a school that could keep a copy machine working, let alone computers, a network, or a projector. You will however be constantly reminded of the necessity of using a variety of technology to support student learning.
7. Guilt reigns.

The moment you decide that you will not work one more uncontracted and unpaid minute, it will immediately be proposed to you by a child, parent, or supervisor that if you were to do this one little thing it will change a child’s life forever. If you don’t, well (sniff, sniff), I guess he or she will find a way to get by.

6. You are always a teacher

You’re a teacher when you’re at the grocery store, when you’re at the movies. Children will find this an appropriate time to converse, play, or torture. Parents will think it completely acceptable to begin a dialogue about your grading system.

5. You are not a person.

You’re expected to know everything. You’re not allowed to have a bad day. You’re not allowed to be stressed or take it easy. You’re hardly allowed to call in sick, and if you do you better spend at least two days of extra work planning for and recovering from it.

4. Everyone thinks they can do your job.

Everyone you meet has had teachers and since it never looked that hard, everyone thinks they could do your job. They will never actually say that but will make it abundantly clear several times per conversation.

3. You are completely responsible for the lives of twenty human beings for about 7 hours a day.

They are not, however, your children. When they leave your sight, you have very little control over what happens to them, what they do, or who they become.

2. The money. . . well. . enough said.

1. Well, umm. . . .

… There isn’t one. The truth is, I love teaching and I wouldn’t stop. The other day I had a kid tell me that the reason he stopped plagiarizing is that I taught him how to write. The last time I got guilted into volunteering something, I cheered louder than any of my kids when we found out that they won. I can call an audible and talk my way out of a technology meltdown in about 5 seconds and you know what else?

I am always a teacher.

Is it easy? No. Do I sometimes feel overworked and underappreciated? Oh yeah. Sometimes in the morning I curl up on the couch and cry into my coffee because I just don’t want to go to school. But then sometimes at the end of the school year, I get a note from a kid that says “Words cannot describe how much you’ve done for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

And then I can’t wait to start again.

More on teaching:
Graduation Day
You can't save them all
Why I teach


Romany said...

I come from a long and distinguished line of teachers. I am not one myself because I realized a long time ago how unrewarding and tough it is. I am a sissy. I admire all you do and will do again tomorrow. Three Cheers.

mo from ne said...

Wow. That's all I can say. You have summed up teaching to a list of ten things. Thank you and keep up the good work. I found you through the Festival of Frugality.

Anonymous said...

last line made me cry

Anonymous said...

i mean, the quote.

Anonymous said...

Im a only fifteen and I want to be a teacher.
Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

agreed. I just finished my finished my first year teaching. It was the toughest thing i've ever done and I think I hated my life up until about April. Then, things got easier and more rewarding. Finally, on the last day of school, many kids came to say goodbye, give me hugs, and thank you cards. This made the year, the long hours, the never-ending lesson plans, grading worth it.

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Fiona L said...

im super contemplating on to be a teacher or not, but uve absolutely made my decision alittle bit easier! ive always leaned more towards being a teacher, but ive just been hesitant. now im super scared of the process it takes to become a teacher. any suggestions?

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Anonymous said...

I am a college student and soon to be teacher. A lot of what you said I found awful... and quite honestly it is scary that you are a teacher. I am so happy to hear students thank you for what you do and don't get me wrong what you do is amazing. However writing things like, "Your" accomplishments are always really someone else's, and that some mornings you wake up and cry because you don't want to go to school, you are giving such a false idea of what it is like to be a teacher. My family is made up of teachers who never once felt like that and reading your article is a scary thing. I hope this doesn't discourage others to do such a VERY rewarding and amazing job.

Anonymous said...

To the guy who made the previous comment. You're an asshole an you don't know what it is like to be a teacher until you have done it yourself. Just because people in your family have been successful teachers doesn't mean you're entitled to be one as well. It takes hard work, sacrifice, and an inner strength to continue moving forward when all of your friends, family, students, parents, and supervisors want you to call it quits.

Have you ever spent all weekend obsessing about the reasons why a particular student is failing your class? Have you ignored your wife for weeks at a time because you are working 12 hours a day so that you can provide a decent education for your students? Have you ever gone to the doctor and told them that your job was easy and then had them refer you to a psychiatrist? Have you suffered from seizures due to work related stress? Have you spent 5 weeks of every summer wondering if you should commit suicide?

You don't know what it's like to be a teacher. You're an asshole for criticizing him. You're exactly the kind of entitled asshole that thinks he can be a teacher just because his parents were teachers. Guess what, your parents are hard workers and you are a college spoiled brat kid!

Wesley said...

I've served in the United States Marine Corps and I am currently serving in the South Carolina National Guard. I will be taking advantage of my G.I. Bill soon and need to pick a Major. I've been reading a lot of blogs written by teachers and every blog I read brings me closer and closer to making my decision. You see, I loved leading young Marines. I currently have a blast leading young Army Soldiers. You would be surprised at how similar the two (teaching and soldiering) are to each other. Thank you for posting and helping me make an educated decision. Continue taking pride in what you do. Even the hardest of the hard core combat veterans couldn't handle 30 5th graders.

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Anonymous said...

@Anonymous's post that was written in January 11th 2010:

Just keep in mind that the title of the post was called "10 tough things about being a teacher." It wasn't called "10 BEST things about being a teacher."

I'm an early childhood educator and for some reason I thought that it would be slightly easier to teach children in preschool because of my Babysitting experience, Sunday School experience, and volunteering at a Youth Group experience.

And let me tell you, it doesn't matter what age group your children are. Teaching children or teenagers daily for up to 7 hrs per day, for 9 months, can lead one to thinking that they chose the wrong career path once in awhile.

But for myself, even with the hard times, I can say that this is the right career for me : )

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am quite late to the party, but I feel obligated to toss my few cents in. To the asshole poster - the very first thing the author stated was that this was a RIFF...a PARODY. Look it up, kid, on the off chance that you don't actually know everything. I think the author was being completely and utterly kind, because for many people, no, they don't love it, because it sucks the ever-loving soul out of you, and many, not all, of your students sprang, fully-formed, from satan's armpit and are the epitome of everything that is wrong with humanity. They are vile, mean, ignorant, self-entitled assholes who make me fear greatly for future generations. One ought to have to earn their way into an education, by proving they can behave better than the bottom-dwelling, tail-grasping bastards they act like. No, I don't teach. I'm amazed that anyone does, and my unending applause goes out to anyone who works so hard for little to no money and so much abuse. Warm fuzzies be damned - kids are assholes.

Anonymous said...

I love your article! I believe that teaching is one of the most challenging jobs and I have had a few. Many people underestimate the importance of teachers. I have always heard, "as a teacher, you may have the opportunity to teach a child that will become the president." To me, teaching is so much more than that. More importantly, you are molding them into the functioning adults they will be. The teacher is the determining factor, not the stuff, the technology, the building, etc. You-the teacher. . . As a teacher, I provide opportunities for the children to discover who they are and how they will fit into the community- they belong. We are important and all the challenges are worth teaching someone how to read, helping them to find out who they are and be confident in it, stopping a terrible family cycle, helping a young child to become resilient in a bad situation at home, and so much more. Teaching is one of the most important jobs and they should be respected.

Anonymous said...

Haha, wow.. I'm not surprised people don't become teachers when people give horror stories like in the comments here. I'm considering becoming a teacher, but unlike some of you I have no intention of letting the job destroy me. If I was suicidal because of my job, I'd just leave, instead of forcing my students to deal with my emotional problems.

Sounds like a lot of you like to be martyrs and pile work on yourself. Working 12 hour days is stupid, and ultimately your students will suffer because you don't know how to draw lines between your personal and professional life.

This isn't about teaching, though sure, it's more "personal" than some jobs, it's that lots of people don't know how to say no.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that last comment. I am a teacher in my first year at the moment, struggling with it a lot. I am trying hard not to let teaching take over my whole life and not to become that selfless suicidal horror of a teacher who only lives for his students. And still be a good teacher at the same time! I tell you it's hard to draw the line and I'm not quite sure if I'll drop out of the job at some point... I haven't had many rewarding experiences in these first three months so far. But I'll try and wait and see. Good luck and good spirits to all teachers, don't let school take over your life!