It’s easy to blame a teacher. Everyone knows what a teacher does. It is one of the few professions that we all grow up watching. As a matter of fact, we spend seven hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks a year, for thirteen years watching people do this job. Obviously, we know what they do and this is why it is easy to blame them for many of the societal issues today. If teachers were effective, students wouldn’t fall behind. And if teachers were effective, schools would not be failing. If teachers were effective, students would not need remedial courses in college. And of course, if teachers were effective a high school student would be equipped to work after graduating high school.
There are reasons for these problems. Problems varying from a student not doing well, to poverty, to the changing dynamics of the American workforce. One thing that I can promise you is not the problem, teachers. I have been teaching for sixteen years. I have met many teachers over the course of my career and even after all the blame we receive, we wake up every morning and we do the best job we can.
Again, I know that you feel like you know what we do and if we, teachers, just were better and worked harder, things would be better. Well please let me take just a little time to clarify what it is that we do. Yes, we teach class, that is the part that you know, the part that everyone of you has seen and been a part of. But you were part of the class, not the one presenting the information.
People know what teaching is …
Yes, teaching is standing in front of a group of 30 students, putting on a show, trying to share new information with a group of people who may not really be interested in what you have to say, but trying to convince them that they are. At that moment we are simultaneously teaching, scaffolding the lesson to meet individual learning styles and needs. Watching to see if there is any behavior that could distract the class or be evident of a problem that a child is in crisis. We are evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching, modifying the lesson on the spot if it seems to not be working.
We are doing all of this, while completely putting aside everything going on in our own lives, our mothers being sick, our overdrawn checking accounts and our flooded basements. While we teach, we are on the stage and our students are all that is important; every other aspect of our lives is on hold. We can’t come in and wing it, we can’t just call it in and there is no working from home.
What you don’t see
But that is just the aspect of teaching in front of the students. Being a teacher is so much more. We meet with colleagues to discuss students, their struggles, their achievements and what more we can do to help them. Teachers grade, plan lessons, learn new curricula, identify ways to teach that will help our students meet new standards. We learn new technology to help keep ourselves and our students on the cutting edge of an ever changing world. All of this is done, while coaching, chaperoning events and holding after school clubs. We contact parents, write progress reports and evaluate IEP goals. If this amount of work seems like it would be impossible to complete in an 8 hour day, you’d be right, because it is. Teachers choose either to stay late, or bring work home.
This is not the work of an exceptional teacher, this is not the work of a teacher-of-the-year. This is the everyday work of everyday teachers. We put our heart and soul into this career. As a teacher, we chose to work in a job where there is no prospect of promotion and where will be never become rich. We have advanced degrees and yet part of our job is to make sure there are tissues in our classrooms.
We are not perfect
Of course, as with every profession, there are a few people who do not put the effort in. But in all reality, they quit teaching when they realize the enormity of the job. Teacher that make this a life long career work with a passion that exists in few other professions. Teachers work tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone around them. They want to instill knowledge, kindness and a desire to learn.
To blame teachers for the ills of the world is just an over simplification of our true problems and using teachers as a scapegoat. When we blame schools for the effects of poverty, all we are doing is denying the socio-economic disparity in our country. But the truth remains, no matter how much you blame us, we will continue to work, continue to teach and continue to care about the students that walk in our doors. Next time you blame a teacher, remember, we were on your side when you were a student and we will always be on your side even when you blame us, because as teachers, we only want what is best for you.