The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do
This piece was inspired by a heated discussion I had with a man who believes that teachers have an easy job. Please feel free to share it with others if you agree with the message.
I used to be a molecular biologist. I spent my days culturing viruses. Sometimes, my experiments would fail miserably, and I’d swear to myself in frustration. Acquaintances would ask how my work was going. I’d explain how I was having a difficult time cloning this one gene. I couldn’t seem to figure out the exact recipe to use for my cloning cocktail.
Acquaintances would sigh sympathetically. And they’d say, “I know you’ll figure it out. I have faith in you.”
And then, they’d tilt their heads in a show of respect for my skills….
Today, I’m a high school teacher. I spend my days culturing teenagers. Sometimes, my students get disruptive, and I swear to myself in frustration. Acquaintances ask me how my work is going. I explain how I’m having a difficult time with a certain kid. I can’t seem to get him to pay attention in class.
Acquaintances smirk knowingly. And they say, “well, have you tried making it fun for the kids? That’s how you get through to them, you know?”
And then, they explain to me how I should do my job….
I realize now how little respect teachers get. Teaching is the toughest job everyone who’s never done it thinks they can do. I admit, I was guilty of these delusions myself. When I decided to make the switch from “doing” science to “teaching” science, I found out that I had to go back to school to get a teaching credential.
“What the f—?!?,” I screamed to any friends willing to put up with my griping. “I have a Ph.D.! Why do I need to go back to get a lousy teaching credential?!?”
I was baffled. How could I, with my advanced degree in biology, not be qualified to teach biology?!
Well, those school administrators were a stubborn bunch. I simply couldn’t get a job without a credential. And so, I begrudgingly enrolled in a secondary teaching credential program.
And boy, were my eyes opened. I understand now.
Teaching isn’t just “making it fun” for the kids. Teaching isn’t just academic content.
Teaching is understanding how the human brain processes information and preparing lessons with this understanding in mind.
Teaching is simultaneously instilling in a child the belief that she can accomplish anything she wants while admonishing her for producing shoddy work.
Teaching is understanding both the psychology and the physiology behind the changes the adolescent mind goes through.
Teaching is convincing a defiant teenager that the work he sees no value in does serve a greater purpose in preparing him for the rest of his life.
Teaching is offering a sympathetic ear while maintaining a stern voice.
Teaching is being both a role model and a mentor to someone who may have neither at home, and may not be looking for either.
Teaching is not easy. Teaching is not intuitive. Teaching is not something that anyone can figure out on their own. Education researchers spend lifetimes developing effective new teaching methods. Teaching takes hard work and constant training. I understand now.
Have you ever watched professional athletes and gawked at how easy they make it look? Kobe Bryant weaves through five opposing players, sinking the ball into the basket without even glancing in its direction. Brett Favre spirals a football 100 feet through the air, landing it in the arms of a teammate running at full speed. Does anyone have any delusions that they can do what Kobe and Brett do?
Yet, people have delusions that anyone can do what the typical teacher does on a typical day.
Maybe the problem is tangibility. Shooting a basketball isn’t easy, but it’s easy to measure how good someone is at shooting a basketball. Throwing a football isn’t easy, but it’s easy to measure how good someone is at throwing a football. Similarly, diagnosing illnesses isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure. Winning court cases isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure. Creating and designing technology isn’t easy to do, but it’s easy to measure.
Inspiring kids? Inspiring kids can be downright damned near close to impossible sometimes. And… it’s downright damned near close to impossible to measure. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s test scores. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s grades. You measure inspiration 25 years later when that hot-shot doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur thanks her fourth-grade teacher for having faith in her and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.
Maybe that’s why teachers get so little respect. It’s hard to respect a skill that is so hard to quantify.
So, maybe you just have to take our word for it. The next time you walk into a classroom, and you see the teacher calmly presiding over a room full of kids, all actively engaged in the lesson, realize that it’s not because the job is easy. It’s because we make it look easy. And because we work our asses off to make it look easy.
And, yes, we make it fun, too.
Based on some of the commentary I’ve seen, I would like to clarify one point: For the record, I never said that teaching is the hardest job. I said that teaching is the hardest job everyone thinks they can do. The title is intentionally vague (and yes, somewhat hyperbolic), but I spend the entire post clarifying what I mean by it. At no point do I complain or claim that teaching is harder than any other job out there. If your comment is something to the effect of how hard your job is, and how teachers therefore need to stop whining, then you probably didn’t actually read the post.
If you’re going to respond, I think you at least owe me the courtesy of reading first, yeah?
Since this post still gets so many likes and shares (thanks, everyone!), I decided it would be fun to create a custom domain for it. So, if you’re ever talking to someone in real life and want to refer to this post, just tell them to go to howhardisteaching.com. And then they can find out just how hard teaching really is. 🙂
If you give 110 percent in any job all day everyday that is the most difficult regardless what you do
So difficult, in fact, that it is impossible. You simply cannot give more than you have.
No anonymous, I’m sorry but you are wrong. How on earth can you claim that every job is the most difficult if you give 110%? Do you even know how many different types of jobs there are out there? Oh yeah I’m sure that model on the beach in the bikini pouting for the camera is having as difficult a time as the guy digging a ditch. Give me a break, that makes no sense.
I just want to say from one teacher to another – AMEN! Couldn’t have said it better myself!
An honest reflective opinion about teaching! And yes it is a job that everyone believes they can do, well I always say: Sure I don’t mind, you can teach my class for a day or two and we will talk again. No takers on the offer….as yet!
Amen to Bronwen, I always say the ones who chirp the most are the ones that have never spent an hour, or day in a classroom. Remember the saying, walk a day in someone’s shoes before you make quick knock downs of how easy teachers have it.
Thank you for a well written, honest opinion about the teaching profession. Finally!
Hello, I am not a teacher. But I’ve been a substitute teacher, a teachers aide & a volunteer in my kids grammar school. Their all grown but wow they’ve all done amazing. The two oldest have masters degrees & the youngest who’s 27 didn’t do the college thing but is happy and successful. My daughter who is 31, married and a new mom is a 9th grade teacher for English.
She was hired & had a job waiting for her after she graduated. I want to say I think that teachers are exceptional people. Everyday they go in to work & try to motivated children that have an attitude they can fly by the seat of their pants and when they realize that’s not happening they act shocked like they did the work but they didn’t. And it doesn’t end there they also have to deal with the parents which is not pleasant. They would not assume it was their precious baby that never did homework, never studied for a test or didn’t turn in a project. That is so frustrating for teachers no matter what subject they teach. I think they deserve the medal of bravery. How they never know if they are the next columbine. That has not turned my daughter sour to being a teacher. She loves it and she’s great at it. When she decided on teaching all I could say was “Do you remember what you were like in high school?” All you teachers out there god bless you. And I don’t think people are aware their days don’t end at 3pm. They take home grading they have too. If they didn’t have holiday breaks to regroup we wouldn’t have any teachers at all. They have summers off because if they didn’t they’d probably lose their sanity.
Another amen. I subbed 4 years, got my credential, taught 3 and got laid off, subbed 2 more, got hired back and am in year 3. As a sub, I taught everything from K-8 including SDC. As for my own classrooms, I’ve taught a 1-2 combo, 2nd, 5th and 4th. Every year things change. This year, our district is adopting common core, but with no new texts. We are using what we have and googling the rest. I’m working 10-12 hour days all the time. Add to that kids who don’t do their homework, parents who never check backpacks, and Fourth Grade Girl Wars. I do enjoy it, but we all think it’s getting harder all the time.
I did 32 years in the military, 2 tours ‘nam, Desert Storm, Iranian Hostage Crisis, SpecOps, SpecIntel, etc. I lasted nine months as a 6th grade school teacher – it is a very difficult job and (as in my case) some people are just not “molded” to function well within a classroom setting. I do however have EXTREME problems with a union that is more concerned with protecting teacher’s employment safety net than in giving quality education to the students (at least here in California and most notably in LA and the SF regions).
How can a union give quality education to students WITHOUT protecting teachers’ employment safety net? It seems pretty clear from the original post that you need a feeling of job security to do well at this difficult job.
Simon Burns get a grip on reality please. What the original post said was that some people are not suited to teaching, that has absolutely nothing to do with job security. I agree with him I think the union is the worst thing to happen to education. I can’t tell you how many teachers I know who are HORRIBLE at their job and awful people who ridicule students and cause suffering and will never be fired because they have tenure. Why should you be rewarded for poor performance? The best performers in any job are those with competition, because competition breeds perfection. If you can’t do your job well you should be forced to improve or lose your job. Human nature is such that extreme job security causes laziness and apathy.
OK……I must comment here…..Please don’t jump on the bandwagon of blaming unions for problem teachers! When administrators have the courage to do their job and document issues, it isn’t a problem. Poor teachers give the rest of us a bad name! Sadly, most building administrators are so busy running to mandated meetings, it is difficult to spend a lot of time in classrooms. Then, of course, there are others who just don’t have the backbone to require quality. The administration must show just cause, but a bad teacher will provide plenty of evidence for that, right? If your district isn’t dealing with these teachers, take a look at what administrators are not doing………their job.
Back in the 80’s I taught US and Virginia Government in the northern Virginia area. For several years the Board of Supervisors (the local governing body) had not given us a raise. The local professional organization of teachers invited the Board members to spend a day as a teacher. Each member was told to prepare a lesson and they would spend the day as a teacher.
My Board member thought he would spend the hour answering questions from the students, even the Redskins if they wanted to talk sports. Those students had been taught exactly what his job was and they peppered him for the entire hour on local issues, the school budget, the traffic and road conditions, development issues, etc. At one point he said he had to leave to make a phone call, I reminded him that he could do that during his lunch period, he said he had to do it “now”. He had quite a time regaining classroom control when he returned. He didn’t say much at the end of the day, just rushed out of the building.
We got our raise that year.
Well said. While it is the most exhausting, soul-destroying job I’ve ever done, there’s no other that can beat it for job satisfaction in the long haul. Having taught, I would never do anything else.
Teaching my students feeds my soul every day. What destroys my soul is the school’s demands for meetings, documentation of every behavior, inflexible pacing, elementary class sizes of 35, no pay adjustment for years and the expectation that I’ll work 12 hours a day with no aknowledgment or appreciation.
I firmly believe that you cannot criticize a person’s job until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Respect is something that is missing these days. Especially respect for people and their jobs. I am a retired secondary school teacher in Ontario, Canada and know what it is like to constantly hear how easy my job was. Kudos to the author on an excellent article.
I used to think first grade teachers..easy, cut and paste. Then I had to teach a random , in every sense of the word, group of six year olds, hardest job of my life. I walked through the halls after school, of course all the teachers are still there working, poked my head in all 1st and 2nd grade teachers doors and apologized to them for my prior perspective. Think Kindergarten Cop, Arnold S. collapsing on the bed after his first day.
I teach 8th graders inner city now;
developmentally concrete cognition, hormonally changing, add the stress of passing 4 state tests for promotion..
I believe legislators and citizens voting on our Education system should substitute for a day to get valuable perspective.
Having subbed a total of 6 years, everything from K-8, including several long-term assignments, I think first grade is the most difficult. It might just be that it’s “not my niche,” but it is seriously a difficult grade. They come from kindergarten where there is a lot more movement from table, to floor, and back again, although K has gotten more rigorous in the past couple of years. But in first, they are at a desk, have a full day (our district still has some half day K), and are asked to do much more. As a teacher, you are changing activities sometimes every five minutes, especially during some language arts blocks. In our area, class sizes are very large now (34 in some at my school) and it is exhausting to meet all the needs of these very young children.
I taught swimming lessons, which is in no way comparable to teaching children in a classroom, but it was unbelievable hard none the less. Trying to occupy 6 children aged 3-6 and teach them to not only love the water but to float, kick, blow bubbles, glide and eventually swim on their own is not an easy task. The hardest part was the parents, who would pull their chairs right up to the side of the pool and stare you down, then criticize you and explain why they could do such a better job than you. The up-side to my short lived swimming lesson career was that the children, and parents enrolling their children, were under no obligation to attend the class, it was entirely their choice. Most high school aged teens to not have a choice, they MUST attend class, and they will be miserable doing it. Respect to the teachers who have devoted their lives to inspiring future generations.
I am a fellow career switcher. I was a clinical microbiologist and Administrative Supervisor of a hospital laboratory. After my husband joined the military/had kids/moved around, I wanted to go back to work but still be there for my kids, so I did a Career Switcher program. I work way longer hours, worry more, get more frustrated, and way less respect than in my former field. However, I know that I have touched lives of children. I have students sign up for my Anatomy class so they can have me again as their teacher. I hear general biology students tell me that this is their favorite class and they like science. I know I have made a difference in their lives.
But..no raises, being judged on how well they pass a test, and trying to quantify what I am teaching frustrates me to no end (and as a scientist, I know how easily data can be manipulated to show the results you want!)
Thanks for the article. I have shared it with co-workers and family!
Thanks for this blog…it is awesome
I taught at a community college for about a year, had 2 night classes with high school graduates and one day class with high schoolers. I’m an expert in the field I was teaching, ex-military, computer geek, high IQ, have managed departments in fortune 50 businesses and built my own businesses; both successful. I cannot express how unprepared I was for the challenges I faced teaching. It was not just the endless paperwork, the required testing, the 9 year old text books, the 15 year old who was late or absent because she had to care for her baby (would’ve been nice to know going in). Communicating what I thought of as elementary concepts to kids who were taking my class voluntarily worked me as hard as any other job I’ve ever had. I should mention that I had very good help (when they could stop laughing) from several professional teachers. Didn’t have administration breathing down my neck or federal & state testing to prep for and I only taught four days a week one class each day. Many different subjects over five semesters but nobody needed me to run the drama club or go to games. I admire one high school teacher in particular, he taught six classes a day, was dept. head, ran two clubs and made time to give me some pointers. I learned much but don’t ever want to work that hard again.
I commend you on your accurate and eloquent description of your experience in teaching. And as a parent of a 2nd & 6th grader, I would like to say THANK YOU for teaching. It’s teachers like you who make the frustrations of dealing with the education system worth the fight! There are many amazing teachers out there like you who don’t get the thanks or credit they deserve. So I thank you!
I don’t wanna be be a teacher coz they are always whinnying.
Um, you’re in a stable not a school. Those aren’t teachers they’re horses.
they probably have something to whine about and to be honest with you I hear less whining from my school teacher friends than I do my other friends, in various jobs. I watch the teachers and I know most of these people work hard and enjoy teaching our children.
Wow! That’s great spelling. Perhaps you should try spending some time with teachers to improve your spelling and overall ignorance.
You should have paid more attention in your English class. I’m sure your spelling is making every teacher you ever had proud.
We don’t want you teaching, because you haven’t grasped your own language yet. Learn to spell.
You shouldn’t be a teacher because you can’t spell!
I spent over 30 years “teaching”, working mostly in the secondary schools. I enjoyed every day, and did have many that have been forgotten as being too painful to remember. As a retired teacher with a large Vineyard to run I find I also enjoy every day, and do hard physical work. My joy however comes when an adult on the street stops me and says” Jim remember me, I am now very successful. Thanks. Wine drinkers will never do that.
That’s funny. I’m glad that you don’t want to be a teacher seeing as you don’t know the difference between “whining” and “whinnying.” One is to complain and the other is an action of horses.
All I can say is Amen! I am a hard working principal and see the great things teachers do day in and day out. I would love to have some of the nay-sayers come in and teach a class or two. Kudos to our teachers – you are all golden!
I owned a real estate company and supervised agents, acquired my Series 7 (Stockbroker) and worked in investments, still hold my Psychologist license and do therapy, but NONE of these jobs compare to my 30 years as a teacher in the public school in terms of difficulty and satisfaction.
You hit the nail on the head in trying to describe the job teachers do. I’ve worked in other fields and in teaching. It’s not so much the hard part (though it is HARD), it’s the part about everyone else thinking they are experts in your field (especially politicians and billionaires).
And that attitude is noticed by students. When I was in school, I knew that if there was a problem in the classroom, I’d get in trouble double at home. Today, the parents instantly want to know why THEIR little angel was disciplined, why THEIR perfect child has a C or why YOU are at fault for everything their son or daughter gets wrong on a test.
Teaching is an impossible job to check off on a number chart for evaluations (it’s like evaluating a doctor based on their patients’ average blood pressure) — because it’s the teacher AND the student AND the parent AND the school system AND the community AND more than all go into a child’s academic success. A score on a test just doesn’t tell you what type of a teacher you have. The politicians and outside experts need to realize that and let the teachers teach and help them teach instead of labeling them as lazy or ineffective to score a few cheap points off voters who like an easy answer (must be because of bad teachers!) over a difficult task like changing the culture of the school, home and community to value learning.
All that said, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. There are tough days but there are amazing days. I absolutely love it and don’t regret the career switch for a second. I can’t imagine a day in the future when I won’t come into the classroom each morning excited about all the joy, pain, tears, obstacles and triumphs each day brings.
Steve, for the first time in 20 years I feel it’s coming around.
I start contacting parents with “red flags” the first week of school. Although there are 1 or two parents in denial (and they come around) I have found that the level of support has really changed, that parents, once informed, are willing to go above and beyond in disciplining their children and getting them to study.
This often means late nights (in at 7, home at 9 p.m.) but it pays dividends in a more pleasant, more productive school day and year. Good luck!
p.s. Great point about the patient’s blood pressure. Perfect.
I could not agree more! While I was never a molecular biologist,I have been a day laborer. garbage man, worked in all phases of construction from pouring slabs to nailing shingles, I have made a living as a potter (barely) I have held elected office and I have worked as an art director. All of these jobs were at times challenging and rewarding in their own right, but the toughest, job I ever loved was teaching for 30 years! People who think it is easy should walk a mile in any kindergarten teachers shoes and see what they say after the experience.
Very well stated,Dennis. I have taught high school, kindergarten and many grades in between over a 37 year career. High school is hard work. Kindergarten is even harder, plus you have to put up with well meaning, but clueless acquaintances saying, “Oh what a cute job. You must have so much fun.”
Teaching can be a million different things. It’s hard to lump them all together. I’m currently teaching English in China, and it’s rewarding, fun, and also (in part due to my personality) really really easy.
I think that teaching is the hardest job! My deepest thanks for all the teachers that teach my kids and haven’t pulled their hair out! And my kids know stuff that they’re suppose to know! I would be fired inside of a week if I was a teacher. I have no patience especially for preteens and teenagers. Again thank you for all your hard work.
From a varied background,I have ended up working as an academic in psychology, which involves much teaching on a daily basis. My fantasy that this would be an easier option than a career in research or as a clinician was sooo misguided. I teach every day and always feel the burden of this responsibility. We had a graduation ceremony today and even those students who notoriously sat at the back of the lecture theatre and whinged and snored were on display, with their mummies and daddies, and all of them said that the tenacity and commitment of the lecturers was, at times, what got them through. I get them at 18+ and can only imagine what it must be like to teach the litle darlings as adolescents. Hats off to all teachers and bollocks to anyone who ever again says,”Oh, but at least you get those long holidays”. Right, those’ll be the long holidays spent planning/writing lectures, marking coursework/exam scripts and running top-up sessions for the students who would otherwise fail their modules, or entire degree because they are enjoying those long holidyas without reading a single book/journal article. To all tachers reading this: we ROCK!
Teaching is not easy, and requires dedication and the ability to modify and adjust every lesson. Anyone who has taught knows both the challenges and the rewards of the profession.
First of all, let me say that I know I could not be a teacher, and I have the utmost respect for those teachers who do their job well. I have known many dedicated, hardworking teachers who are good at their jobs and are completely deserving of my respect. I do agree that one of the reasons teachers seem to get less respect than they deserve is because their skills are hard to quantify. I am the parent of a child with a neurological issue that makes learning certain subjects a challenge. I have encountered some truly brilliant teachers who were willing to make the modifications necessary to help my son succeed and who were willing to try anything to help him learn. I have worked with teachers who welcomed my help and were glad to have me as part of the team. These teachers are worth their weight in gold, and I don’t care how much money they make, it’s not enough. However, not all teachers are good at their jobs. Not everyone who teaches should be teaching. Throughout our family’s journey, we have encountered teachers who hated kids. We have encountered teachers who used humiliation and verbal abuse as teaching tools. Not everyone who teaches enters the field for the right reasons. I have met quite a few people who chose teaching because they thought it would be easy work with short hours and summers off. Then, when reality hit them in the face, they took their resentment out on the kids. Sadly, the administration is often very aware of what is going on, but they look the other way, because they know it is darn near impossible to get rid of a bad teacher, and there is no way to force those teachers to improve. I have the utmost sympathy for teachers who are deserving of respect and don’t get it, but part of the reason you don’t get it is that some of your fellow teachers are making the whole profession look bad, and there is very little that can be done about it.
Thanks for your comments about those of us who do a good job. Please let the administrators of those good teachers know how you feel – that little pat on the back is so needed. As for the idea that bad teachers are hard to get rid of, I have to say that isn’t true. While it is true that bad teachers rarely can just get fired on the spot, there’s a reason for that – the kids need continuity, even if there’s a problem. I realize that’s hard to understand. But unless there is a physical threat, it’s actually better to leave the teacher in place while either working to improve the teachers’ skill set, or find a better replacement. It’s worse to have a poor teacher leave and then replace with a sub that is just as poor – it means the kids have to adjust to that change without it improving anything. So, it is frustrating when a teacher isn’t doing a good job. I’ve actually had to report colleagues when I felt that they were so out of line that they needed to be helped. The admin reacted very quickly, and came to observe what was happening. I would go home in tears sometimes after being in the classroom with her. I ended up in the same room with her again later, but she was much better. I’m glad that she was given an opportunity to improve. There are other teachers I’ve worked with that are downright crappy, but the downright crappy admin wouldn’t do anything about them. The admin HAS the ability to act on poor teachers – it’s up to them to do it. If you encounter poor teachers, and the admin doesn’t seem to be doing anything, go higher on the chain of command. Be prepared with specifics, documentation, etc. The more prepared you are, the more the powers-that-be will be able to do, and more likely to do it.
I completely agree. There are many wonderful and passionate teachers out there that are committed to their students and know how to engage them and actually teach. However,there are also some teachers that pursued the profession under the false belief that it’s an easy job with great hours, pay & benefits. Having children that have attended schools in different states, my experience has been that in the states where the teachers are highest paid (seethroughNY.com allows you to see exactly what your child’s teacher in NY is being paid)there seems to be greater incidents of teachers who shouldn’t teach but choose to remain in the profession because they could not receive the same pay, benefits & hours in the private sector, and unfortunately it’s extremely difficult for school administrators to address the issue.
Really, there are no easy jobs. The writer worked as a scientist before choosing to teach, obviously he prefers teaching to working in the lab. Doctors have the high cost of malpractice insurance and must treat X number of patients per hour to earn enough from the health insurance co’s to financially sustain their practice and pay off their 10+ yrs of college and training, nurses literally have to put up with crap; everyone who does their job well works hard at it.
I’m a teacher. Its a holiday weekend. Let me tell you about my last two days, today, and the next two. On Wednesday I was at school at 07:12. I assessed advertisements and written critiques of the ads. until 08:00 when students started coming through the door and asking for help. Classes started at 08:30, and I taught 3 of the 4 periods prior to lunch. The one planning period I had I lost 1/2 of since I had a meeting to attend. The other half of the period I prepared for what was happening after lunch. During lunch I met with 2 students who struggled with an Excel record they were keeping for a learning task. I didn’t get to eat lunch. At 12:30, I started the first of my 42 back-to-back parent conferences, which lasted from 12:30 to 9 PM. My 20 minute break was taken up by a parents who couldn’t schedule a conference, since there are only 62 slots, and I have 91 students. I get to do the other 29 conferences next week, before school and after school, on “my time.” I went home on Wednesday at 9:15 PM. On Thursday I arrived at school at 07:05, corrected papers, and then did 4 hours non-stop of back-to-back conferences. I had to do two others after 12:00 since parents were late, and missed their scheduled times. The missed times didn’t turn into a break for me since other parents were lined up at the door and ready to go as much as 30 minutes early. It would have been difficult to force them to follow the schedule and actually take a break. I had to excuse myself from starting one conference on time to go to the toilet. I had coaching to do at 12:30, so I didn’t get to eat lunch. I coached from 12:30 to 2:30, then my girls team and I helped the ES PE class who was doing a basketball unit. The first graders loved having us as guests. I finished this, then I was able to eat lunch at 3:30 PM. I went back to my room, answered about 15 emails from parents, students, and other teachers/admin. I managed to leave school yesterday at 5:10. Today is a holiday! Yea. I got to sleep in until 07:00. I’m about to leave for school, and it is 09:05. I have work to do. A game at 1 PM, and then I referee at 3 PM. I think I’ll get home about 5:30, if I’m lucky, and today is Thanksgiving! Tomorrow I’ll be up at the normal time, another game at 09:00, then refereeing at 11:00 AM. I’ll be tempted to do more corrections, since I know that students will want their papers/ads. back on Monday, and when they evaluate me at the end of the year one of the criteria is “returns student work on time.” If I don’t do it quick, I run the risk of losing my job. Don’ believe me? Guess again! Day after tomorrow is Sunday….yes, a day of rest! No, I must referee two games on Sunday. Our school is lacking facilities, so we have to schedule games any day of the week. We lack qualified referees, so I end up doing a lot of it. I do get paid for it…about $10 an hour. On a Sunday? Yes. Your day off? Yes. Your only day off? Yes. School admin. cut referee pay this year due to budget issues. They didn’t tell us about it, but we learned about it last week when we got our “Fall Season” referee pay. Thanks! Did I mention that next week I get to fit in 20+ conferences I was unable to do this past week. Did I mention that 4 of my planning periods, among 5 of them, are lost to meetings and bureaucratic nonsense, as usual. Need I continue? I admire the work of non-teachers. It takes all kinds of work to make things happen in the world. I get to take a part time job this summer to make ends meet. Maybe I’ll take up molecular biology!
Simply…well said. I am a retired educator. I was in the classroom for 17 years and an administrator for 13 years. A teacher and those who appreciate teachers will understand what you are saying. Those who look down on and criticize teachers don’t and never will. Again, well said.
I think what people need to remember is that all jobs are challenging and certainly teaching isn’t easy.
It’s emotionally and mentally difficult because you do invest time in the lives of hundreds of kids a year. I can’t tell you how my heart sinks when one of mine fails their test or assignment or simply refuses to work because they can’t understand why an assignment has any value. You try to take the kids who need the help and give it to them, control the troublemakers, keep the gifted kids challenged, help the ones with challenges and more. I often cringe when parents criticize – I don’t know sometimes if they realize that lots of times their child’s teachers wipe tears from that child’s face when they’re upset at school, go that extra mile just because you KNOW that child can succeed and know exactly who your child hangs around with (even though you told them not to hang around with that person, I bet if you asked the teachers they could tell you a different story). I wish more people understood that work that goes into this profession.
I think this article says so much right in its intent. I know I work hard for my kids/students, I take lunch hours, preps, time before and after school just to help those who need it. I work 12 hour days, lose preps to meetings or other duties. I don’t want a applause but some general appreciation from a public that forgets (lots of times) that teaching doesn’t end at 3pm would be nice. (And no, those PD days are not days off for teachers!)
No anonymous, I’m sorry but you are wrong. How on earth can you claim that every job is the most difficult if you give 110%? Do you even know how many jobs there are out there? Oh yeah I’m sure that model on the beach in the bikini pouting for the camera is having as difficult a time as the guy digging a ditch. Give me a break, that makes no sense.
All I can say is THANK YOU!!! I am not a teacher but daughter and a wife of teachers. I have a hard time just getting adults to listen and read (as you can see from your responses), let alone adolescence. Keep up the good work. I appreciate what you do!
I am an 8th grade teacher who switched careers 7 years ago. I absolutely love my job even with the long nights of grading (just finished a stack of papers) and difficult kids and sometimes parents. I do get frustrated when people belittle my career choice but really, that’s their problem! I love my job and the kids I work with. It doesn’t get any better than that. Lucky me.
Lord love a duck, we need to get over ourselves.
I was a teacher for 20 years.
Regardless of what the OP says, which is true, it can be a challenging job, those like the author, are a bit thin of the ground.
Most teachers I worked with were stunningly mediocre and seemed to equate their self worth with the value we place on children and adopted a sense of entitlement that exceeded the actual worth of their skills.
And to be clear, I come from a family of educators. My mother is a former teacher and administrator. My father, a professor. Of their four children, three became educators themselves.
I literally cringe when I hear some half witted plodder wax about how important their job is because it’s all about the children and the future…
Let’s face it, folks, we, as teachers, play a big part in how we’re perceived and there’s a reason for that. Most of us are simply not that great at what we do.
Perhaps Dwayne’s response indicates a lack of self worth. If Dwayne does not feel that “he is not great at what he does” he should go back and work to improve his skills and attitude. In my immediate family we have over 100 years of teaching and administrative experience. I believe that most teachers are good and care about the success of their students. It is, sadly, the minority of poor teachers and administrators who get all the attention. Take the measurement of success based on test scores. Each state has a different level of measurement. What is considered highly successful in many states, is not even at sub-par in California. Work on your skills and attitude Dwayne and you will become a better teacher.
Fortunately Dwayne’s post does not represent most teachers. He definitely was in the wrong profession! No matter how many of his family members were educators does not mean it was the right choice for him. Glad it says he WAS a teacher which indicates he no longer needs to expose others to his pessimism and lack of faith in himself, his colleagues and his students (as in his statement “..not that great at what we do”) In any occupation there will be some who do not have adequate skills for that line of work. However, after 36 years of teaching I have found that by far most school teachers/administrators/staff do an outstanding job and give above and beyond. Thank you to all of the great teachers out there today who ARE doing one of the most important jobs. Remember, EVERYONE who is doing ANY job can thank a teacher for helping him/her pursue his/her goals and dreams.
Dwayne….Nows misses you
I am an educator as well.
In Dwayne’s defense, there are many who ARE mediocre and get away with it. There are also those who spend all their free time and resources on their job. However, in the end they’re all grouped into 1 category. If you want to be mediocre, you can get away with it, and there are definitely people who do. However, that isn’t to discount the ones who spend all their waking moments in it.
In the end, there are teachers who teach because its their passion, and then there are others who are in it because their original degree didn’t get them anywhere and so they needed “something”. All types, everywhere, but since the public cant pinpoint out who is who, we’re all grouped into one. That’s where I think (so this is merely an opinion) a good portion of the begrudging attitude comes from.
There are many people out there, too, who also respect us beyond what we realize. We just only hear from the ones who want to whine, as is the same in every profession ever.
Thank God you are no longer teaching with that poor attitude. Especially admitting you weren’t that good at it.
I happen to agree with the author. Our job is the HARDEST JOB EVERYONE THINKS THEY CAN DO. In my district, we have not received a pay raise in 11 years while we are still expected to motivate student, raise test scores, and enhance self-esteem. I have been cursed at, spit on, hit in the face, and have had to break up fights in my classroom. I have spent thousands of dollars of my own money to build a library in my classroom so my students can have books to read and at times the books never come back because the students has taken the book home for a younger sibling to read. I have purchased paper, pencils, and I keep bread, peanut butter, jelly, lunch meat, and cup-o-soup in my room for students who are hungry because there just isn’t enough food at home to go around. And remember I am doing all of this while still raising my family and NO pay raise in 11 years. I love my job and I couldn’t think about doing anything else. It is that feeling when you see the light bulb go off because they got it or the first time they read a book from cover to cover. I am a realest and I understand there are bad teachers out there and there are teachers who work at rich schools who think they deserve everything. I am here to tell you that not all of us are this way and the next time someone tries to tell you how to do your job invite them to come teach your class for a couple of days. Best Wishes.
After 30 years working in business I stepped into teaching. I find that it is incredibly intense – physically, emotionally, intellectually – it just overtakes your mind and life. We can not underestimate the chance word that we say or the action we do has an impact on the student – positively or negatively. It is a responsibility. Unfortunately, unlike other jobs we don’t get to see tangible results in the near future – it may be 20 years later that it may impact the student and we are not around. Teachers have to self-sufficient and independant in their self-worth amongst the negativity, complaints and expectations from students and parents to be strong to be able to do their job. I had a CEO once tell me that Teachers just walk into class and talk and keep students quiet – how hard is that? and they get so many vacations. Wow! How far from the truth can that be?
@LynneH — I’m sorry, but if you are a teacher you are part of the problem. It’s spelled “realist”, not “realest”. Also, this sentence is not even grammatically correct:
“And remember I am doing all of this while still raising my family and NO pay raise in 11 years.” If you put that on the essay for the state teaching exam you would not have passed.
What a relief that I am not the only teacher feeding their hungry tummies as well as their minds!
I wish all teachers had the passion you do. Unfortunately there are some teachers out there who are either burnt out or weren’t cut out to be teachers. I have a lot of respect for teachers, and feel they are far underpaid. It is the future of our children that is in their hands and we should be grateful for that.
I used to be a biochemist in a hematology lab, and now I am an elementary school special education teacher–small world! With all due respect, elementary school, where you are responsible for the planning of six academic subjects each day and behavior management is handled almost entirely in the room–no “leave my room”, no detentions–is a bear. I wonder sometimes why it is that a high school teacher, who usually teaches multiple sections of the same lesson, gets paid nearly what teachers of lower grades do.
Hear, hear, JR, this is a little known or rarely publicized fact that you are bringing to light: the incredible responsibility encompassed by the job of an elementary teacher. I laud your effort and simultaneously celebrate my retirement from 25 years of a truly grueling job at the same time. I too came to teaching later from a science professional background and I think it helped my organizational skills as well as strengthening my common sense. Good luck and try to hang in there.
JR, with all due respect, this comparison seems somewhat ill-informed. Elementary and secondary teachers have different jobs with different challenges. While elementary teachers have an incredible amount of planning to do, secondary teachers in the average district see anywhere from 150-220 students every single day. I’m sure you can calculate the hours of grading, paperwork, phone calls, emails, meetings, etc. this requires. Additionally, it is extremely rare that a high school teacher is responsible for only one course. In some cases, teachers have four or five different courses for which they must plan. Rather than attempting to one-up colleagues, it may be beneficial to step back and respect the difficult work most educators do, regardless of whether they are elementary or secondary. Teach on…
Anonymous… Please tell me you are just joking. I am STILL working and it’s WAY past 3 p.m. Yes, it’s the end of the 9 weeks. I am continuing to grade/enter grades, make phone calls, have parent/teacher conferences, prepare presentations (for the faculty too), try to monitor and record each and every detail of our day, differentiate my lessons for my students on a 5th grade level to those on the K level, run errands to buy food for those who show up to school starving, etc. But I put my ALL in every, single day. Let me tell you, I do love every single minute of it.
As teachers, there is no break in each day, whether for the bathroom, lunch, phone call, or a “brain break”. There is no summer, spring, winter break “off”. There is NO tenure for those “beginning” teachers – nor do I think there should be.
However, I DO have to say to you, anonymous, I hope that your children never have a teacher that thinks that way …and of the PROFESSION that you call a “sweet gig”.
P.S. paid health insurance….really?? First, PLEASE try to be offered a teaching job ….and then be successful.
Great read. I’ve always known teaching is challenging because I watched my mom teach for 20 some odd years. I have a much better sense of it since I started subbing though. Of course, substitute teaching presents different challenges than being a full time teacher. For example: walking a class full of exited first graders you’ve never met down the hall to an art classroom you have no idea where to find, opposed to spending hours after class is out preparing lessons. Despite the huge differences it has given me even better respect for how much teachers pour into just trying to keep their class under control much less educated.
I am an elementary school counselor; in a low socio-economic area; with at-risk children. And the risk is even higher because they are only ages 4 yrs. to 8 yrs. old. I am very forunately to have a principal who is supportive of my skills. We tackle mild, moderate to severe problems every day. We work with parents, teachers, social services, mental/physical health providers, and law enforcement. It is an extremely stressful job…and no matter what anybody says…it can’t be left at the door when we go home. Our teachers are wonderful and wear so many hats. Teachers don’t just teach academics…they teach about life…build on social, emotional, and coping skills. A teacher (unforunately) not only has the role of a teacher, but social worker, nurse, counselor, and parent. I can not say enough about the teachers in our school. The job is hard; it is emotional; it is stressful; and it is rewarding at the same time. They touch and change lives every day, and their only reward is the hope that they see in a young child’s eyes. God bless teachers for the hard work that they do.
While taking a break from working on lesson plans, I took a break to read this article. It is Saturday, and I find myself doing the same weekend routine: laundry, housework, lesson plans, and mothering. I never complain because I am doing the two things I always meant to do: being a mother and being a teacher.
It is hard work. I spend a lot of my own time, and money making sure that all my students needs (not just academic needs) are being meant. Even in the summer, when people think I am off, I am attending professional development classes, and brainstorming ways to increase students’ success for the following school year. I find myself shopping, and thinking: “WOW that would be a great thing to have in my classroom.” I am teacher all year long. I have even been told I teach in my sleep.
I agree with the writer, there are people who think they can do our job better. I have had my share of parents, friends and even family member think my job must be fun, easy and doable by everyone. That is fine they can think that. I don’t need recognition from them. My recognition comes from the smile I see on my student’s face when something they struggle with finally made sense.
If we reward good teachers with pay raises instead of giving mediocre teachers tenure for no reason at all (other than showing up, of course)…
To clarify: because anyone can be rewarded in this position, it is not impressive (to an outside observer) to be a teacher. Hence the “everyone thinks they can do it” sentiment.
This is an interesting discussion with many interesting comments.
In my humble opinion it will be better to ask ‘why teaching has become the hardest job these days?’
The simple answer: the present education system!
Don’t you think so?
Off at 3pm, no nights, al weekends, holidays, spring break and summer offf ( and summer paid for) union membership, pension,paid health insurance. Full tenure. No dealing with heavy labor, outside temperatures -all while making 100 grand plus here on Long Island babysitting 8 year olds. Yeah, I’d say its a sweet gig
Anonymous; of course you would want to be. Try it, I dare you.
To the person that said sweet sweet gig: try spending every summer working at a fish plant because you’re pay for being a teacher doesn’t go far enough to feed your family. Try being the parent, psychologist, and the teacher for each and every one of your students, because their parents and everyone else expects you to. Try feeding hungry children because their parents don’t. You have no idea what you’re talking about “Anonymous”…..might be why ya hiding who you are😏
Anonymous..I teach 8th grade science and my typical hours at the school are 8am to 8pm. If we only worked during the 8-3 school day when are we supposed to plan lessons or grade assignments? It is just that foolish kind of ignorance that the author is talking about. And during my lovely summers off..I teach summer school, of course!
Anonymous. Pay us ‘babysitting’ wages then, £10 per hour per child. You are so ignorant it is laughable. Most of us are lesson planning and marking till 12am. You have no idea what goes into teaching; the planning, marking, constant study/ self development to beyond masters level. I would love to see you in front of a class of thirty kids, some disaffected and some gifted and talented; differentiating for them, keeping them motivated, dealing with behaviour, imparting sound subject knowledge and ensuring progress whilst being observed. We deserve every minute of our ‘holidays’ and then some. Why are we even trying to justify ourselves to a complete ignoramus.
We are only at the beginning of understanding learning and all that it involves and touches. That said, teachers carry the torches from which each of us acquires the means to light our way to the future. We all need to look to the light, to capture it and to use it. Thanks for a good boost forward, Carla.
We do NOT get paid vacations. We are paid for two holidays: Labor Day and Memorial Day. I have been teaching for 25+ years and love my job. I detest the paperwork and the one size -fits- all testing. You would not go to a doctor with a swollen ankle, and let him/her use a thermometer to say “YOU’RE TEMP IS NORMAL SO YOU ARE FINE……
I feel conflicted about this. Obviously, teaching and nursing/medical jobs are not easy at all and are two jobs where people are constantly treated like garbage. But a lot of jobs are hard and I bet there are a lot of jobs you think are easy but probably aren’t. I’ve also found that a lot of teachers I’ve met and nurses can be some of the biggest maryrs ever.
You cannot teach any student anything, period—-at best you observe your student carefully, and if you are lucky you figure out how to make it possible for that student to learn —– 39 years in math and science classes made it possible for me to learn that !!!!!!!!
Funny, this is an old post that I was just scanning through! FYI I always thought that my students taught me……I supplied the academics but they supplied their various lives and situations and reactions…….I guess it was a love story………44 years in the profession…..in various forms…….
Where did you get some of these analogies? I wrote some of the same words a few years ago and posted them in a speech i made !
I came up with them myself. Note that I wrote this six years ago.
Coincidences happen, I suppose. 🙂
Dennis, did you leave teaching to become an engineer? Loved your original post. I’m now a reading specialist with two master’s and two credentials. The learning never stops to become better at teaching! Just curious as to why you left teaching if in fact you did. Thank you!!
Hey, Somer! I work for WordPress.com now. My main job is user support, where I teach people how to build websites using WordPress. So, while I’m no longer a public school teacher, I do still work in a teaching capacity. 🙂
This post explains my reasons for leaving the teaching profession:
So good. Thank you from Mr. Ellison. 😎
The reason everyone thinks they know how to teach is because everybody goes to school in America. They don’t all go to med school or law school or are talented in playing sports. But because they have attended school for 12 years, they think they know how to teach. Standing in front of a classroom is easy; being a successful teacher takes a special talent.