The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do

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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.


Addendum, 11/18/2013

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?


Addendum, 6/30/2015

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. 🙂

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1,161 comments

  • Love this! My mum was a teacher and I saw how hard she worked at it. Kudos to those out there who find it their calling to mentor, teach, maneuver and inspire youth at all levels. I know the name of my first grade teacher, but I can’t remember who won the World Series last year….so there! Thank you Mrs. Johnston, Miss Bancroft, Mr. Tieg, Mr. Garry, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Nattress and especially Mr. Golightly who made physics so much fun I took the accelerated class because they got to do the neat experiments.

  • Teacher and Parent

    Well said!!!

  • Don’t people realize that these teachers are teaching our children, the future generation? Without these wonderful caring people to teach them, who would? Not everyone has the courage, desire, drive or patients to be a teacher.

    Everyone works hard at their job and deserves the respect that come with the knowledge of knowing their chosen career.

    Teachers need more respect. I’d love to have the summers off. I could have become a teacher, but I didn’t. I chose healthcare, instead.

  • My FORMER. husband used to tell me ” Those who can do; those who can’t, like me, teach.” He too felt I had it easy! Thanks for the article! It lifts my spirit!

    • Those who can “do”. Those who can do exceedingly more than anyone can merely ask for or think TEACH! Teaching is our superpower!

  • and still teaching is lowest paid job. :(. Its should be the highest paid and most respectful job to attract best talent.

    • Teaching is the lowest paid job? How about social work or working in retail. Although I agree teachers should be paid more, it is definitely not the lowest paid job.

    • Here in Connecticut it’s a highly paid job. At 40 years old, you’ll get paid $80,000 per year, be well on your way to a nice retirement, have 13 weeks vacation and 15 sick days. Your health benefits will be among the most generous. Yet, you can leave for the day at 2:30 and spend the rest of the afternoon complaining about how hard you work and how you should get more pay.

      I’m amazed how much so many teachers complain.

    • Josh, it’s clear that you have no idea how much a teacher works.

      I’ve been teaching 7 years and here’s a glimpse into my year. Everyday, I get up at 5:30 to get to start work at 7:30. I work with one 30 minute break for lunch which is often spent working with a student. Yes, the children leave at 3:30 (which is 8 full hours of work) but my work doesn’t end there. I attend parent meetings/staff meetings, grade papers/projects/exams for at least an hour each day and then I prepare my lessons from anywhere 1-3 hours a day. There are many days when I work until 7:00PM. I also work 4 hours every Sunday evening to do my lesson plans for the week. All in all, I spend about 50-60 hours doing work each week. During the summers, I take recertification college classes and it takes me 2-3 weeks to pre plan and set up my classroom. This give me one week off for myself! I know most teachers at my school rarely take a sick day. In fact, last year I took one.

      Josh, maybe you should get to know some good, hard-working teachers before making generalized assumptions about them.

    • WSJ 2011 “Today in New York City, for example, the average annual per-teacher compensation is more than $110,000. The salary portion is $71,000, and the pension portion is $23,000. (The rest is for health insurance, FICA and other benefits.)” Teachers get paid very well in many states and have too much time off. The schools are all a mess. They need to get rid of the unions and start paying them based on performance. The teachers unions are a joke and protect crappy teachers. I am all for paying the best teachers more money but lets also drop all the terrible ones who complain about their “tough” jobs from the beach all summer… The schools, pensions, and city jobs in general all need an overhaul.

  • Subsitute Teacher

    I was a full time teacher that drove over an hour each way each day, I had seven preps and no a single duplicate class. I loved every day with my “kids” and I keep in touch with some on social networks still. I have been looking for a job since my school consolidated almost three years ago! Teachers are being asked to do so much more than just teach a single subject they want us to be coaches and sponsors and teach endless different subjects, and if I could find a job I would do all of that, I miss it so. Teachers teach because they love the kids and the job and the extras and all the headaches that go with it. I know you can tell by my rant that I did not teach English but even so, I want to teach!

  • Well stated!

  • You are right on track. I have had great teachers over the years (72) and some that I swore were just to demanding turned out to have been some of the better ones. But, for me the tone was set by my 1st grade teacher (no kindergarten then) who was in a country school with 13 children in grades 1-8. So often it would seem to me that the early education years are determinative for success later on.

  • I have a Master’s in teaching and have spent a great deal of time in the classroom in rural South Carolina, though I am now a law student. I think one of the reasons so many people think teaching is easy is because they know teachers who have an easy job, teachers who simply give worksheets, teach straight out of the book, and give form tests. These teachers spend their planning periods grading (and by grading I mean putting a check mark in the grade book for the students who actually turned something in) and do nothing when they go home. Teaching well and connecting with students is extremely difficult, but unfortunately so many teachers have given up and are only in it for the retirement benefits. These teachers give real educators a bad name.

  • Husband of a Master Teacher

    My high-school-teacher wife once told me, “You know, this is the only job where you are REQUIRED to get a Masters Degree, you don’t get an office, and you can’t pee or use the phone when you need to!” Needless to say, those were the days before cell phones, so we can all see how much the education system has advanced; teachers can now make calls whenever they need to!
    Public school bashers constantly want to know what’s wrong with our school system. I can sum it up in one word; PARENTS! (apologies to any well meaning, involved, supportive parents that may read this) Teachers are not only expected to be experts in their field, they seem to be responsible for trying to teach common courtesy (parents job), respect of elders (parents job), instill a sense of value of learning (parents job), and ABOVE ALL, to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s choices (parents job).
    I saw how much the teaching profession took from her, as she regularly put in 60-hour weeks, dealt with enabling parents, and administrators that were incompetent or just so self absorbed in climbing the career ladder, that they wouldn’t rock the boat by going to the mat to support their teachers.
    This I believe: if every legislator and policy maker at every government level were required to spend 30 days in the classroom, our education system and our educators would get the respect the profession deserves.

    • Josh you my friend are an idiot! Social workers at schools alone make more money than teachers do…just look up the pay schedule online. Most teachers start out making in the 30000 range, at least that is the case here in New Mexico. To get a raise not only do we have to perform our jobs well but submit a professional dossier, in which case we receive a 10000 dollar raise. I made more money working in a warehouse then I do as a teacher. I could make 30000 as an employee at McDonald’s; I know because I have a friend who is a high school drop out who does it. Please look up your information before you drop bogus claims.

  • Well said! You all have my utmost respect and gratitude: thank you for your expertise and dedication. The world is a better place because of teachers!

  • Growing up as a teacher’s kid I know how hard of a job it is! I remember waking up to go to school just as my mom was leaving! And I remember coming home off the bus and hours later my mom would get home. Then make our family diner then mark homework all night! I remember having report card weeks where we we’re hardly even allowed to talk to her because she was soon busy trying to get them all done!During the summer she would spend weeks getting her classroom ready, usually having to move classrooms!! I always knew that teaching was one of the hardest, satisfying, funnest, yet least appreciated jobs I’d ever have the chance to witness! I can remember all the names of all the,teachers I’ve ever had from kindergarten on! I love teachers and they work so hard! I hate hearing people degrade them! Sure there are technical things such as pay and sick days for people to fight over but they deserve to be highly respected!

  • because it’s not about teaching the subject; you first teach the children..of all ages! A teacher is new for numerous years..a neophyte..and then it begins to come together, and the rewards appear…..children who hug and repeat what you’ve showed them, who come back to you on the playground for several years as you’ve become a safe place for them, who find you out in public 20 years later and still come for a hug. It is/was a gift to be allowed to teach 2 generations of families.

  • Thank you for this post. As a new teacher who is struggling to grasp everything and support new students everyday as a TRT, you post has given me a lift that I really needed at the end of a long day. Thank you again.

    • Ah, Rose, thank you. There are few ‘new’ teachers with the gumption to pursue the enormous task set before us as educators. Good news is I firmly believe that we are in a period of change and that the time-honored profession of teaching will arise as a ‘Phoenix’ of renewed learning and respect from the ashes of endless tests burned at the altar of “Rigor”! Hang in there!

  • Just thought I’d point out in response to an earlier post criticizing someone’s spelling that both flack and flak are acceptable spellings of the phrase taking flak, “flak” is only the sole spelling if you are literally referring to aircraft flak….and honestly, it’s a post, give people a break–what exactly is gained by denegrating a stranger?

    • Can’t resist, it’s “denigrate”. Sorry. It just shows how our thoughts move so much faster than our fingers — and with greater alacrity too. If more people took the time to measure their response, check it, read it out-loud; we might all sound much more like we knew what we were talking about. Great discussion.

  • A 5-month-old beginning teacher at a primary school & I have much respect for this post & its writer. Teaching is one profession that you can only truly understand once you’re in it. Lots of love from sunny island Singapore! (:

  • I have 5 kids and I never knew what teachers went through all year long until I became a volunteer and then employee of my kids elementary school. I bow to all teachers. I am in awe of all teachers….but I would not want their job. Teachers do not have it easy and their day doesn’t end when the bell rings at the end of the school day. Many work way past that and even into the night correcting papers and preparing for the next day. Their year doesn’t end in June when school lets out for summer. Many have jobs lined up at summer schools or there’s workshops, classes and meetings…don’t forget about the meetings…lots of them. You also have to realize that teachers have to have every school day planned out for the whole school year, in advance. Teachers are also doctors sometimes…there’s behavioral problems to identify, as well as picking up on eyesight problems…etc…etc…and the list goes on. Then there’s the parents…with most being ok, but still not realizing that their kid isn’t the only kid in her class and therefore can’t pay that extra attention to just your kid…and then there’s the crazy parents and by crazy I mean all kinds of crazy! And after their day working with a classroom filled with kids…they go home to their own families and anything that arises there. It is with great respect that I look at teachers these days and I will always be amazed by them. They are truly the most underpaid, most underappreciated employees of all. Remember they have a lot to do with shaping the young minds of our future leaders, employees, parents and of all future adults. Ask what you can do to help because with budget cuts wreaking havoc in our school systems today, many items are now bought for your student out of their own pockets. And at the very least, tell them how much you appreciate them…they will appreciate a little pat on the back because they really do work hard for practically peanuts…

  • Very clearly and well-stated! I like how the subject of the the illustration is a scientist and the article comes back around to point out that though there is an art to teaching, there is science behind it, as well. I also appreciate the clarification. It always discourages me to see kids that don’t pay attention to detail, take their time to read thoroughly, or do a job completely. However, I see that I’m surrounded by contemporaries that are guilty of the same and realize that it is a reflection of our culture. As I read the article I thought, “This is great! It clearly paints a picture that will illustrate some of the struggles that teachers go through.” But in glancing through a few of the responses it became obvious, as Mr. Hong points out, many people do not take the time to actually READ the article. Kudos to you, though, for doing your part to get the message out. Again, it’s NOT how much money is earned or the challenge behind the job that is the greatest frustration (ok…that’s not say these AREN’T challenges). It’s the perception that they job is so easy that teachers have no right in voicing these frustrations. I think for those that read the article, it provides a poignant illustration! Thank you for the enlightenment!

  • Thank you for the suggestion of why we teachers don’t get the respect we deserve from some people. I had never thought of it in this way before. With a brother who is an engineer and one who is a carpenter, I feel I get the least respect for my job out of all 3 of us. I think it’s hard to both define and measure successful teaching and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Good lesson 🙂

  • I was a part time teacher and have worked in almost every field there is to work in. Teaching was by far the most overpaid and ridiculously easy job I could ever ask for. Stop saying how hard it is, if you can’t handle being a teacher you don’t deserve to make over minimum wage. What a joke people are these days, no one understands what true hard work really is!

    • Matt….if it was that easy and overpaid, why aren’t you still doing it? You say you have had jobs in “almost every field there is to work in.” That sounds like you can’t hold a job. A part-time job never exposes you to the reality of what it is to have a full-time job in teaching. Your negative attitude suggests that you didn’t do a good job and that you thought you could just baby sit the students. You don’t say what educational degree you have, what level you taught at, or what you had to teach. I truly hope you can find a job that you are passionate about because you need some happiness in your life. Your bitterness and negativity do not belong in a classroom, and it will drive people away.

    • Well said Marsha…and Matt, if you were a part time teacher, were you a sub? If so, that means the REAL teacher left you their already planned lesson including materials for your entire day…of course it was easy for you, the TEACHER already did all of the WORK!

      • We have a lot of part time teachers and they are not subs. They have tons of flexibility. I have seen job sharing, one does morning, the other does afternoon as well as another situation with one teacher doing 2 days a week and the other doing 3 days. When that was taken away from one teacher, they let her come in part time to take kids out of class and help them with reading individually. The next year the board let her take at minimum a 1 year leave of absence because she felt bad leaving her son at home (part time, only from Sep thru mid June mind you). She was able to hold her tenure. Haven’t talked to her so not sure what happened after that year.

  • As a veteran teacher of 25+ years, having taught grades K-12 in my storied career. I have taught in urban schools, regional/vocational high schools and in Juvenile Justice settings, and I can honestly say I have never worked in any other job, and I have had many, that demands so much from me. I love what I do and when a kid has an “aha moment,” when he finally gets a concept I have been trying to teach to him, it makes my job so very worth while. I have been told many times that my job is easy, that all I have to do is stand in front of kids and tell them stuff, but to be clear, that is nothing like reality. Early in my career, our sitting governor was visiting schools and spouting off about why schools needed to have funding cut, because the budget was just too large. Generally, when politicians visit a school it is for a very short amount of time and the school preps for the visit and puts on a show of sorts. I sent an open invitation to the Governor to invite to come and spend not an hour, not even a day, but 1 to 2 weeks in my classroom and see what a teacher truly does each and every day. Come and get a real feel for dealing with the kids, the parents, the administration, the Superintendent and State wide curriculum mandates. Only then would I feel he could begin to appreciate what I do every day. To say the least, he didn’t respond to my letter to the editor, nor did he take me up on my offer. My sister-in-law kept making the same claims that “teaching was easy and anyone could do it.” I got so angry one day that I told her, unless she was willing to get credentialed and actually teach in a classroom, that I never wanted to hear again about how easy my job was and I never did hear it again from her. In later years, she started teaching art in her daughters’ school, no credentials needed in a private school, but did her opinion change!

    I do not think my job is any more stressful than lots of other jobs. Heck, I couldn’t ever be a doctor, and would need lots more schooling to be a lawyer, or a hundred other jobs, but to continually bash teachers and make uninformed claims about the profession has to stop. Honestly, without teachers there would be no lawyers, doctors, or a hundred myriad other jobs. Kids need teachers and schools to grow into well rounded adults, to develop social skills in cooperation and understanding of others, and finally to begin to stretch their wings in a setting other than home. I love what I do and I have many colleagues who love what they do as well. I have friends who home school and admit it can be a challenge at times, and I have friends who simply recognize the job done by teachers.

    Please, before you bash what I do, walk in my shoes, and as I offered to the Governor of MA, come spend a couple of weeks with me and maybe then you will get a better appreciation about what teachers do each day. Are we better than anyone else, heck no. Do we work harder than everyone else, heck no. But, we do work hard and do face daily challenges, but I wouldn’t change careers for anything in the world.

    Susan M. Abbott, M.Ed., M.A.
    Massachusetts Teacher

  • Teaching may have been easy for you but where were you teaching? I worked I’m a school with 90% of students living in poverty. In 30 years my department head had many grandparents, parents, and their children in their classroom. I had 9th graders with two children and students whose parents were MIA or in jail thus they worked 40 hours a week to make rent. I also has some parents who worked two jobs and still found time to check in on their kids progress. I was paid very well, more than many others my age. I also taught summer school, Saturday school, taught an extra class because we were under-staffed, coached. There were more than a handful of days that I worked till 11pm to get assignments graded and to email parents. While doing this I was also working on my masters. When I look at my friends working in the business field making 80,000 a year working 9-5 with 3 weeks paid vacation who have a bachelors degree then I realize while I was paid well it wasn’t nearly as much as if I put in the same hours in a different field. All if the extra PAID hours (coaching, Saturday school and summer school) worked out to about $6.00/hours. Teachers who stay more than a few years are there because they love it-not for a pay check or time off. It’s a great job and totally worth it. Did you make it look easy even on the toughest days and see your students succeed?

  • I am a biologist turned teacher. I find teaching much harder than research. It is about the fact that you are not dealing with just one teenager… you are dealing with 25-30 at a time times five different groups over the day… every group of which has to be taught a different lesson. I am expected to understand and cater for the learning needs of all of the approximately 100 students that i deal with every day as well as the discipline issues and the welfare issues. It really keeps you on your toes.

    You know what i love most about it? It is never boring! Every day, every class, every minute is unique because every student is different, the material is different, the way we interact is different… I have done a number of different kinds of jobs over my life and there is nothing i have done that comes close to the complexity of the classroom.

  • Being a physician is much more difficult than being a teacher.

    • No. It is merely DIFFERENTLY difficult.

    • Were you ever a teacher?

    • John No one said that being a physician was not difficult…it is just that teaching is difficult as well just in a much different way.

    • What a myopic and ignorant comment from such an educated person. You missed the point of the article entirely.

    • John, if you are not a physician, how do you know that being a physician is more difficult than being a teacher?

    • I have to say John, assuming that you are a physician, that job would be equally as hard if you saw 25 patients at once, who all want your attention. Then, deal with their family members because they are not happy with your service and you absolutely cannot tell them to elsewhere. Oh, then make a salary that is barely enough to pay your mortgage….I have the utmost respect for people in the medical field….how about a little in return?

    • John, read the title again. Then actually read the article, including the addendum that was added before you posted your comment. Then feel free to revise your comment. You’re welcome.

    • You missed the point! For a physician, you certainly seem to have limited reading comprehension.

  • A veteran teacher of 25 years says Thank You!!!!

  • John,
    Since you clearly did not read all of the article, here is the author’s addendum that directly addresses your comment.

    “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?”

    • I’m not a physician.

      • I didn’t say you were, simply that the author never claimed teaching was the hardest job. His addendum addresses your statement that being a physician is more difficult. Whether or not you are one is irrelevant. If you cannot extrapolate that message because the author writes his message addressing those claiming their profession is more difficult, well, that’s really sad.

    • Thank you for saying so many things that needed to be said! Retired for 5 years now after 30 years and working part time in a law firm. My body just couldn’t slow down long enough after retiring-it had a schedule! To all teachers- thank you for what you do for our children, grandchildren & all those who seek knowledge.

  • Teaching is a unique experience that cannot be compared with any other profession. Teachers know how it feels to have 30 sets of eyes looking at them in expectation, every hour, every day for 180 days. Not many other people get that. It’s not an experience that can be duplicated or quantified. It’s just different. As a teacher, the job rarely stops. Some people ‘get it’ and find it worthwhile. Others think those people should find a better way to make money. Oh well, I’d rather not be an accountant so we’re even.

  • I agree with your post. Teaching is a job I do not want to do, even with all the people who tell me after I have taught them something they wanted to learn how well I do it. One on one with a willing student isn’t what teachers do. And it is hard to quantify results. The current teach for the test mentality that current laws encourage in the public and the administration (which I think is much too large and takes too much of the education dollar) isn’t what teachers do either.

  • Great article! As an art teacher with 15 years’ experience, I would like to add 2 points.
    1. Everybody thinks they can do our job because everybody has had a teacher at some point in their life. It’s one if the few professions that EVERYBODY can relate to. And EVERYBODY’S opinion is based on how it was done “when I was a kid”.
    2. People secretly (or not) dislike teachers because we JUDGE their kids (grades). Nobody likes someone telling them their kid needs improvement in any area.
    Keep up the good work sir!

  • I agree with this article in totality. As a teacher, I have however, wondered if teaching isn’t in fact the hardest job. Not saying it is but there are days and years I wonder.
    For 9+ months out of the year we raise other people’s children. We spend more time with them than the parents, which often makes me sad. In today’s educational system, teachers are expected to act as parents, counselors, psychotherapists, behavioral and cognitive interventionists, doctors, mind readers, palm readers, and sometimes even providers. We teach them social skills, behavioral rights and wrongs, teeth brushing, hygiene, life skills, interactive skills, to read, write, think, reason, processing, focus, self-sooth, access and apply technology, drive, the ins and outs of money (saving, spending, budgeting, etc). We open the worlds of future and possibility. Yes, I am being somewhat facetious in that there is no way we could earn degrees/experience in all of these areas. We are expected to believe that every child is a genius or that every child learns the same way. We are expected to believe that every child is perfect and that whatever goes wrong is our fault. However, it is most often the parents that expect us to do these things. Let me give you my children for a month and see if you can do all of this; especially if you, as a teacher, have just earned your teaching degree. Now, come home and raise your own children every day after raising those 30.
    NOTE: not all parents expect so much of us. There are so very many who are supportive of their child(ren) and of the teachers.
    NOTE 2: Children come from every imaginable background and family life/situation. As teachers we do not (should not) fault them. We are position to meet what needs we can for them.
    At the risk of “putting myself out there” to be trampled and criticized, I present to you my purpose in life and the hearts of many teachers:
    Whether I am teaching adults or children or in any job that has contact with humans, it is my heart and desire that they come to know their immeasurable value, that they come to find their purpose, that their worlds are expanded beyond what they knew today, and that they dare to reach out to another human being.

    • I must make clear that the comment about teachers who have just earned their degree is somewhat out-of-place with everything else. When I graduated I was suddenly given the responsibility of doing everything I mentioned above. This is a weight that, over time, becomes easier to bear. I understand the pain and frustration new teachers encounter and try to help them as much as possible.
      I did not mean that they should be the ones to take my children home. I was referring to those who believe teaching is easy.

  • Education has changed in the 20 years that I have been working as a teacher. It has become politicized which adds an entirely new dimension to how difficult the job is. As teachers, we are expected to put aside every ounce of our professional training, morals and ethics and just pass the children from our classes. That’s right, it is all about PASS RATES. One of these years I am going to make my job much easier and just pass all of the children, regardless of what they know or don’t know. Admin will be off my back, so will parents, so will students. I get yelled at almost every day because I actually expect students to learn something. Crazy, huh? How is that for a difficult job?

  • I can honestly say I’m a mother. I work as a chef my career has lead me to loads of stress, but I can say truthfully Teacher out beats me, it does look simple and easy but there is a lot behind closed doors and what parents fail to see. As a parent to teacher there have been days where i have picked up my child, and watched another hurt the teacher. That and the emotional attachments teachers have with students is rough, being a teacher is rough I don’t take any of the teachers i come in contact with “as you have it easy” its far from that.

  • Teacher’s are just liberal cry babies.

    • I am a teacher and I don’t cry. Why must people like you paint all teachers with the same brush. Get to know a teacher before you feel like you have the right to label us all.

    • Wow, Robin, you are so perspicacious in your observations. I guess you know a lot of teachers. I do too and I am always surprised how many of them are so conservative. In point of fact I am willing to bet that more of the teachers I know are a lot more conservative than I am. So I guess that makes them ‘conservative cry babies’. Of course they also spend their working lives caring for other’s children, so I guess that means they are more like ‘conservative cry adults or parent surrogates’. But that still works for you doesn’t it? You weren’t that far off. But wait, they have to maintain very strict control on their emotions while they are teaching. They might spend some time after school crying their conservative adult eyes out but for most of the day they would actually be more honestly identified as “conservative reserved adults”. That’s almost the same as you said they were, isn’t it? Oh and there is no need for an apostrophe in your use of the word “teachers”. Just saying.

    • From http://www.dictionary.reference.com: Synonyms for liberal:
      1. progressive. 7. broad-minded, unprejudiced. 9. beneficent, charitable, openhanded, munificent, unstinting, lavish. See generous. 10. See ample.

      Antonyms for liberal: 1. reactionary. 8. intolerant. 9, 10. niggardly.

      Since teachers are liberal, then the antonyms must apply to you!

    • Marc, you made my day; thank you!! (Can you guess that I’m a conservative reserved adult?)

    • Too bad you didn’t listen a little more closely to a teacher. Your grammar is atrocious.

    • Robin–Are you are saying is that conservatives are not teachers? You are making the standard knee-jerk response of a closed-minded person. Label someone as a ‘liberal’ as a way to diminish them. Actually, your comment only diminishes you.

    • robin
      such an unintelligent comment

    • Uneducated person, perhaps?

    • All teachers are liberals ? I guess you are one who didn’t get the gist of the article and won’t ever get it! You probably did not get the grades you wanted in schoo because to make a comment as you did means you lack
      the intelligence to participate in a no name calling conversation. Do you have statistical basis for your condense ding assumption? I doubt it
      Bravo to the writer. Teaching is a labor of love with the belief by most that all can reach their own potential

    • Robin,
      Clearly you have:
      1) insufficient understanding of the definition of the word “liberal”
      2) insufficient understanding of the proper use of an apostrophe
      3) insufficient understanding of the MAJOR influences that every teacher who has ever suffered your presence in their classroom has had on what makes you who you are. Give ‘me their props, little one, not your ignorance.

    • You clearly didn’t pay attention in language arts!

    • Learn proper grammar. Teachers plural has no apostrophe.

    • No apostrophe needed- teachers is plural

    • Lol! Ignorance abounds! Do not judge until you’ve walked in or shoes.

    • Robin is just a lame troll.

  • Its like project managers who get promoted up to project manager managers. Somehow they magically aquire the knowledge of how to lead, motivate, reward, and redirect people?? Um, no, they should get some further education. But still so many people end up doing it without really knowing how to do it. I would imagine you experienced the same learning curve jumping from practical science to the classroom. Still, glad you did because those are the kinds of experiences that will make the learning that much more accessible to the students. Keep at it!

  • This being my first exposure to your writing, that I know of, I’d say well done sir. I’ve volunteered in classrooms for a while now…how do more teachers not have drinking problems? The few hours a week I spend in there is enough to cause me to tip back a few. Perhaps more people should volunteer for a grasp on the reality of it.

    • You got that right…you would be amazed if you volunteered for even just an hour or two. You would be in awe if you spent an entire day volunteering. But you would have a whole new outlook and a new found respect for teachers if you spent just one week volunteering. The only thing that is constant and unchanged, for the most part, of everyday, is the morning bell,recess and lunch, and the bell that signals the end of that day, but no 2 days in a classroom are exactly alike. You can not say that everyday in a classroom will be exactly like the day before…because it will not be. You’re not working with stuffed animals or dolls, you are dealing with, and teaching, living , breathing, and individually minded human beings. No two days will be exactly alike because no two students are exactly alike and situations arise that might be similar, but they will never be exactly alike. Everyday brings new insight and inspiration as well as frustration and disappointment. There will be a lot of laughter one day and perhaps sadness the next. The point is that things happen everyday that can quickly change the mood, and atmosphere of a classroom at any given moment. The best gift you can give a child is your attention and guidance…the tools and a foundation from which he can use to grow and learn. Volunteer…it’s almost a better eye opener than the strongest cup of coffee or stimulant you can buy…hmmm, no, it is a better eye opener than anything else out there, that is, when it comes to understanding what it takes to be a teacher.

  • I am a teacher to my three homeschooled children and I agree it’s the hardest job that so many think they can do but I truly believe that with the right attitude, everyone can be a teacher. Maybe not a high school science teacher..but the reality is that not everyone needs to know the things that are on a curriculum dictated by a stodgy group of adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child and who completely forget that not everyone needs to know a tiny bit of everything. It’s not an easy task to understand material that is difficult to “teach” and so we learn together. While I respect those who go to great lengths to study how to teach and then do it on a daily basis in the debacle filled institution that is “school” these days, I truly believe that we should ALL be teachers. With the availability of information today, it’s much easier for children to learn when given the right tools and as adults, it is our job to provide the children with the route to learning instead of forcing them to recite things back to us like monkeys learning sign language. The school model followed by so many public and private schools is antiquated. It doesn’t respect the differences in learning styles of the 25+ children per class that, because of the focus of our education system, HAVE to be molded into the one size fits all way of analyzing their learning. It doesn’t take into account the choices of the child to learn how and what they want and actually enjoy it. It doesn’t give the teachers the flexibility to adapt a lesson to the audience. It is a flawed system that only concerns itself with test scores and regurgitation of facts and formulas and that is a terrible way to have to :learn: If only there were some way to show people how to teach their children and help them learn and grow in a supportive environment instead of a forced succession of underwater basket weaving lesson sessions…

    • Kara, when is the last time you were in a school? I taught for over 30 years and rarely taught that way. Sometimes there are some things that need to be memorized, but my students were asked to apply their knowledge to a project to show they understood the concept. I rarely gave tests because they only measure how well someone memorizes, guesses, or cheats, rather than how much they understand.

      I do understand what you are saying, but I wonder how you are teaching your children. Do you do it all yourself or are you part of a group of parents who home school their children? The reason I ask is because I feel children should be exposed to many different ways to learn from a variety people. I feel very qualified to teach all subjects, but I would never consider home schooling my own children because I see value in having them learn from other people and interact with others.

      I wish you well in home schooling your children, but please don’t write off schools completely. Also, I hope you are teaching them to have some common sense. Too many students can’t do simple math without a calculator. I still remember asking students what the sales tax would be on a $75 chair is the tax was 4%. Every student in the class told me the tax would be $300, and they were using calculators! It didn’t occur to them that the tax should not be higher than the cost of the chair. I’m also hoping you will not rely strictly on using computers. Too many students copy and paste without bothering to read the material to see if it applies to the topic. Not only does it fail to show comprehension of the topic, it is also plagiarism.

    • Kara, teaching three of YOUR children isn’t comparable to what is done in classrooms day in and day out by teachers. Have you had to deal with attendance issues? No, they’re your kids? How about an angry parent? Nope, still your kids. Do your students respond to your discipline? They should, they’re your kids.

      Yes, teaching your three children is exactly like having a room of 40 students from various cultural, economic, and familial situations. Exactly.

    • I am not trying to put home schooling down in any way but there’s one thing I have noticed with quite a few home schooled kids. They are quiet and a little withdrawn. Not all but quite a few. They aren’t running around like the other kids and they seem to be shy and not certain of how they should act around their peers as well as adults. One very important thing that homeschooled kids miss out on is the socialization of being around many different people, young and old, female or male, at the same time in groups of more than 5 to 10 kids. I’ve noticed that many are quiet and quite possibly unsure of how to interact with groups of children their age. Humans are social creatures that really do need the exposure of other people, not just their parents. A well rounded child has been exposed to many different types of situations with many different types of people. I just feel they miss out on that when home schooled. Yes mom and dad are important but so is learning how to carry on each day away from their parents. This is my opinion and I am not saying that home schooling is bad. I just think that kids need to learn how to socialize with people other than their parents. You only have one childhood, so I think it’s important to expose them to as many different people and situations as you possibly can in order to prepare them for a world that will be as different as there are different people. The more you expose a child to the more he will grow. Again this is just my opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

  • I am a 19 year old student in college training to become an English teacher. I was inspired to do so by my 10th grade English teacher who taught me the fun of teaching and how much hard work it requires. 🙂 I can’t wait till I have my credential and can inspire students like she inspired me

  • Thank you Dennis for a well-written article. I loved teaching but retired in June. Although I miss the kids, I don’t miss many aspects of teaching (re: ignorant people like Robin). My parent volunteers often said that they didn’t know how I managed to keep 30 children focused and interested while differentiating my lessons (well, they didn’t say “differentiating instruction”, but you get the point). My friends (non-teacher types) don’t get it either. One dear friend made a comment about “babysitting” … yes we are still friends. Anyway, I really just wanted to say thank you and thanks to all the people who do appreciate what we do. Is it a difficult job? Yes. But it is never boring and I am glad I had the opportunity to help children love learning.

  • I am on my 24th year and I agree it is the toughest that everyone thinks they can do. I hear all the time how easy we have since we get off 3 months in the summer. Have not spent a summer yet where I was not learning something new to use in my classroom. Also making manipulatives and things to try to come up with ideas on how to make lessons easier for students to understand. Best feeling in the world is when former students come back and say “Thank You!”

  • Teachers are the most undervalued people I know I am not a teacher but work in a high school in an administrative position. They are my heroes I don’t know how they do it and Robin is just a stupid person!

  • My daughter teaches 5th grade and I sometimes volunteer in her classroom. It is very eye-opening to observe a classroom and gives an appreciation for what the teachers go through on a daily basis. It’s like you are “on stage” for hours. Teachers must be on their game the entire day. I think it would be wonderful if parents had to volunteer one day a year to help in their child’s classroom. There would soon be more respect for the teaching profession.

  • I am in my thirteenth year of teaching in an urban school district. I honestly don’t know how first year teachers survive these days. I give them a lot of credit if they stick it out. Teaching has changed so much over the years. It makes me sad that so many people view us in such a negative way.

  • First, to Jenna. I remember my sophomore high school English teacher (’64-’65), he inspired me to become an high school English teacher. He was funny, inspirational, innovative, and I could not imagine any career that seemed to match my interests better than that of being a teacher. Those of us who are old enough remember vividly where we where when JFK was assassinated. I was in my sophomore English class. My teacher, who always knew what to say, could say nothing. We spent the hour with our heads on our desks.
    I became a teacher and was in a classroom for 18 years. I was a school-level administrator for 12 years and finished my career with eight years as a district level administrator. Nothing was harder than being a classroom teacher. I liked to compare it to being a stand-up comedian. But you had repeat your routine five times a day, not two, and you had to have a new routine every day. As an administrator, I worked with a lot of professionals who would come in to do presentations to the students. And, they were usually well perceived (in that position, I had great students), but they never understood that the 50 minute presentation they had worked three weeks on was a one time presentation. Teachers have to do it every day!
    After 40 years I retired, I am comfortable, but not affluent. I had wanted my daughter to become a teacher (she has all the attributes), but she told me early on that she had seen how hard I had worked (I usually worked on school work after she went to sleep to about midnight or 1:00 AM) and did not want a job that hard. I occasionally, not often, worked all night, never sleeping, and went to work the next morning. I have never regretted becoming a teacher, all it takes to tell me that it was a wise decision is for the occasional former student to tell me how important I was to him or her. How I inspired them or made them to see possibilities where they had not seen them before.
    I now have four grandchildren, with two more on the way, and one of my most fervent wishes is that they will have teachers who care, inspire, and encourage them to find their paths in this increasing confusing world.

  • Sorry, there was no way to correct my spelling and grammar mistakes in my post!

  • I say Amen to teachers!!
    And many many thanks

  • This is great! I just finished entering grades and have to plan for tomorrow or I would leave a more eloquent response. Let’s just say as a high school history teacher in his 7th year, this post already conveys how I feel perfectly. I will share it with my friends to save me the time and effort in explaining how I sometimes feel. Thank you!

  • You made me tear up and it was very easy to do. We did not have a caring, engaging teacher last year. In the last eight years, that is the only teacher that has not mystified me, gave me joy and know they are there 110% for my children and would keep my child safe 110% of the time. We have an awesome teacher this year specifically for my son. The principal/district are not doing their job, but the teachers…they are going above and beyond what any parent could expect. Until we got really financially strapped and felt welcomed there by the principal, I made sure during teacher appreciation week that each teacher in the school was given a small something every day (had to be creative too)..even if we never had that teacher before. I sometimes ask, “do you have magic?”, or they just leave me speechless. I put teachers in very high regard and think they (the good ones anyway) should be given more power in making decisions regarding their classroom and school. They are with the children seven or more hours a day. They know the children the best. The principal and higher ups do not. They know what is missing and what is needed. If financially able or even find a creative way to do it, we should make it happen. I put them in the same category of respect as my doctor whom saved my life twice….that is how much respect I give to teachers.

  • I have never looked down on teachers. I believe even with there extra vacation they are underpaid. They are blamed when the parents really are the ones to blame. Yet why are teachers always focused on the words of a few when most people are on the teachers side? What do you care what others (a select few) think. Those who make others money will be paid well. Teachers do not make others money directly and therefore will never be paid well. You teach because you love to teach and therefore who cares what others say when you posses internal satisfaction?

    • I wish it were only a few that believe that teachers are undervalued. The majority elects politicians that put bad policies in place like No Child Left Behind. The majority elects school boards that believe that schools are broken and need to be fixed.

      Teachers don’t get extra vacation, they are actually unemployed for the summer months, yet often we are still expected to attend meetings, take classes and develop lessons during this time. Most teachers that I work with have to have summer jobs in order to make ends meet.

  • I could have written this. I too was a scientist with a PhD and did the extra study to do teaching after my husband died and I needed a job with less travel.
    I love my job. I love kids. I love watching the A-HA moment. I love that I have holidays off. But I work just as hard if not harder than I did in my old job. I work all weekends. Every weekend. I get paid less than I used to and I have simpletons explain my job to me.
    It’s frustrating as I KNOW that they don’t know.
    Thank you for writing this piece … I shall now share it far and wide!

  • I agree with the author. I will add that there are measures and effective data collection mechanisms that actually provide teachers, buildings, and communities the information needed to learn how easy or hard the profession is. And until educators embrace these measures and fill the void in the “not easy to measure” discussion with substance, instead of “you can’t do it” the better off this situation will be.

    • When something cannot be measured, it is usually something that schools/teachers do not have control over, like parent involvement, student effort, whether a student has food at home, etc. Can you be more specific about the measures that educators do not embrace?

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