What Most People Don’t Know About Teachers

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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 friendly manner.

Now I stand at the other end of the teaching spectrum. I’m heading into a role as an administrator and my daughter is going into Kindergarten this fall. I’m excited for both of these changes, 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 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 into 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 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 just teach

Personally in the past year 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 make this profession so rewarding, and that’s why we love our teachers.

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Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • This should be reprinted for every parent on Back to School night. 🙂

  • Anne Murphy says:

    I have had 3 children in the public school system. Two are now adults, one is still in elementary school. My experience with teachers has been varied. But, unfortunately , more negative than positive. The system of tenure has the power to allow incompetent teachers to come back year after year, despite parents complaints, and even legal processes to remove them. Dedication to the job seems to fade quickly. You paint a very pretty picture, but I think it may be far and few between that actually put in the effort you are describing.

    • Breck Quarles says:

      Anne, I’m sorry that you have had bad experiences with teachers. There are a few out there. Even so, I have to disagree with your comments about dedication on the part of teachers. As an administrator, I see my staff working long and hard to meet the needs of students. Many are here before I arrive and leave after I go home (To put in perspective, I tend to work about 12 hours each day). They continually try new strategies, collaborate with colleagues, and seek out new ways to teach concepts so that their students will be successful. All of this while still working to meet the needs of students who often come to school unprepared to learn for a variety of reasons. Maybe because I’m in a “right to work” state, I don’t see the problems of tenure and great difficulty in removing marginally or ineffective teachers. What I do see every day is a group of professionals who are willing to give all they have to educate the next generation and prepare them to be successful in whatever endeavor they choose. I certainly hope that your elementary age child is blessed with great teachers for the rest of his time in school.

    • Lisa M says:

      Great article AJ! I’ve always said no one knows what it’s like to be a teacher , or possibly related to or married to a teacher, except a teacher. Anne, I have taught 30 years and I have worked with some horrible teachers. But the majority of the teachers I have come across are the most caring, giving, people who do nothing but think about what they can do for their students.
      By the way, tenure is due process, it doesn’t stop a teacher from losing his/her job.
      I hope this year turns out better for you and your child. if it doesn’t speak to someone until you get what you want for your child.

    • Catherine Ousselin says:

      Anne,
      Far and few between? You have experience with one school district in one area and at different times. The teachers I work with spend countless hours collaborating, creating, and working with students to insure that they are successful. How many incompetent teachers did you deal with or know about? Yes, there are a few that need guidance or profession changes, but I can say that about any profession. Please know that the majority of us are honestly working as hard as we can within boundaries that don’t always let us be the leaders we can be. My district provides an atmosphere of creation, exploration, and invention. How does your district work? Are the teachers well-supported in terms of curriculum and creation? I do hope your last child has a better experience.

  • Amy Hirzel says:

    This is a beautiful piece! You articulated our profession perfectly!

  • How so very true A.J.!

    Today was my first day of summer break, I spent 2 plus hours looking for webinars, etc. to refresh my knowledge on project based learning. Then off to visit with a former student laid and bored after ankle surgery.

    To poster Anne Murphy- I’m sorry for your experiences, but most districts or even states have a version of the Akron system in place that identifies struggling teachers, appoints a mentor. After 1 year one of three options are selected: return to normal status, further mentoring for 1 more year, or removal. After a second year only two choices: normal status, or removal. In most cases teachers who are still struggling quietly leave the profession. BTW, unions fully support this system. FYI-I’m a parochial school teacher.

    The Vergara court decision unfortunately further promoted the anti teacher union agenda. The judge made specific reference in his decision to a quote made during the trial by an education “expert” claiming that a specific percent of teachers in classrooms were horribly poor educators. The judge never asked or checked for the research. After the decision the witness did an interview and admitted that he pulled the number out of thin air and had zero research to back up his court statement.

    Take a close look at where the “reformers” funding is coming from, just a small number of billionaires starting with the Koch brothers. Follow the money.

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  • Jennifer Fry says:

    Thank you for this article. Nearly every educator I’ve known in my career is as you describe. One of the most important parts of our job is advocating for our students. This is the very reason we need due process. We can’t advocate for what’s best when we’re faced with the decision between standing up OR protecting our livelihood. Forgive the cliche, but teaching has a higher purpose. To run a school like a corporation where employees (in this case, teachers) are disposable is to do a grave disservice to society as a whole.

  • Renee says:

    Thank you! Teachers are very hard-working people. No just anyone can be a teacher. I believe that teachers are sent to this profession by God. For those who mistook their mission, thinking it was all about them, I hope you found you calling.

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