As a student I couldn’t even guess what my teachers were doing when they weren’t teaching. Mostly because I did not care enough to pay attention. Sure, I knew the impact some of my teachers and coaches had on me, but the teenage mind didn’t allow me to comprehend what a teacher does all day.
Flash forward a few years and I had the itch. My experience in Swaziland working with youth led me down the path of education. I wanted to be a teacher…and my classes were showing me there was a lot more to the job than I originally thought. After observation days at various schools and districts across Pennsylvania, I finally made it to student teaching. Lucky for me, my cooperating teacher was the perfect fit. Paul took me around school the first day explaining what everyone did (not just himself). We talked about duties, staff meetings, department collaborations, administration’s role, and of course…the students. He didn’t get tired of my questions (at least that I know of ha) and let me go on my own a few times early to get my feet wet. But mostly, I learned by watching how he interacted with his students, his colleagues, and his administration professionally but also in a friendly manner.
Now I stand at the other end of the teaching spectrum. I’m a district-level administrator and my daughter is in third grade, my son in Kindergarten. I’m excited about my roles as administrator and dad of school-aged kids, but also don’t want to forget what teachers do on a daily basis for our students. Because teachers do a lot. In fact, I noticed that in talking with many people they didn’t understand all that goes into teaching. Here’s seven things teachers do that many people don’t ever think about…
1. We plan…a lot
Teachers plan year round (yes, especially in the summer). With an everchanging and almost always new curriculum, standards, and technology…there are always changes to be made when looking at the “big picture” of the school year. However, most of the planning comes during the school year when lessons, activities, and assessments have to be created…then modified…then tweaked…and then changed again to differentiate within the classroom. Many teachers I know really enjoyed the planning process, and took pride in their lessons, activities, and assessments. The teachers I worked with the past two years would spend almost 20 hours a week planning, and often more.
2. We care…
Teachers care like crazy. We want all of our students to be successful and will try anything to get them to feel accomplished. This can lead to many discussions on “what to do” and hours spent outside of the general “class time” working with students to help them overcome difficulties. I’ve met many teachers who bring this home with them as well. Wearing their heart on their sleeve for students and families is part of the job for many teachers.
3. We collaborate like musicians
Come to a school and you’ll see teachers working together, planning lessons, talking through curriculum points, and creating projects. We have shared documents online where notes are filled up throughout the school year and during the summer. Better yet, online social networks and tools like Twitter have increased this exponentially. We have “Twitter chats” for almost every possible “sub-topic” possible in the educational field. Gone are the days of teachers shutting the doors to their classrooms, instead it is open and shared with the world.
4. We take our profession seriously
We spend hours decorating, organizing, and making our classroom a perfect learning environment. We go to conferences to connect with other educators throughout the year (and especially in the summer). We write blogs, books, lead in services, discuss online and in person how we can improve education for children in our own school and around the world.
5. We are life-long learners
We continue to learn both formally and informally as we grow as professionals. Schools have been changing and teachers are changing along with them. It’s not easy to completely overhaul curriculum and technology and standards, but teachers are doing this time and time again. Why? Because learning is in our DNA. It’s who we are and why we teach and value a good lesson over an easy one. We know what it’s like to be a student, so we can create better experiences for our own students.
6. We do so much more than teach
Personally, I coached two teams (football and lacrosse), ran a large school club (FANS), wrote curriculum, helped plan after-school events, wrote college recommendations, helped seniors with their graduation projects (things like creating a dodgeball tournament), and so much more. This isn’t just me, this is teachers all over. Sure, we teach every day. But we are also doing so much more than teaching. Every single day.
7. We didn’t get into education for the money but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it
You won’t find many teachers who got into education to make good money. However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to fight for pay raises and get paid what we feel we deserve. This is different from district to district, state to state, and country to country. But please don’t think teachers that are fighting for their income to support their own families don’t care about your children. We sure do.
I realize that everyone has had their own good and bad experience with teachers in their own life. Some have probably been overly positive and I’m sure some have been negative. As I become a parent of a student I never want to forget what teachers do every day that goes above and beyond their job responsibilities. That’s what makes this profession so rewarding, and that’s why we love our teachers.