While at the pool today, someone made a comment to me that I hear over and over but am already tired of. Granted, I have only been teaching for one year, but I have heard these comments since I began college six years ago. The comment from today was, “It must be really nice to be a teacher because you get summers off.” Some others include, “Teaching can’t be that hard.”; “You’re lucky you get to go home so early.”; “Your salary makes sense since you get summers off, not to mention all the breaks you get during the year.”
I would like to debunk these myths for you. I don’t want sympathy and I don’t want pity because teaching is what I love to do; instead, stand up for teachers in your area. You can do this in all kinds of ways, but we need your support now more than ever. Let me tell you why.
MYTH #1: “Teachers get summers off.”
Technically, yes, teachers are “off” in the summer in the sense that they are not sitting in their classrooms from June through August. But this is a totally FALSE assumption that many people are using against teachers. Most teachers spend their summers doing professional development which is mandatory in order to renew a teaching license at the end of five years. Every teacher has what’s called Individual Professional Development Plan (lovingly called IPDP, pronounced “ipee dipee” or “ip-dip”), and an IPDP must include short-term and long-term goals. Each goal must also include a plan of action, or classes/workshops/projects you will participate in as means to meet this goals. Because hiring and calling in substitutes cost the school money, most of this must be completed in the summer months while school is out. We also must continue our education, which costs money out of our pockets and time outside of school to complete. It also means we have our own homework on top of the “homework” that comes with teaching, like writing lesson plans and grading students’ assignments.
Additionally, teachers also spend their summers planning. This is especially true for teachers who are changing grade levels and/or subjects. The teaching profession and education world are constantly changing, and we have to change right along with it. This funnels down all the way to our planning. Even now, the Ohio Department of Education has changed content standards for English and Math to be much more rigorous in order to make our students more college-ready and career-ready. Because of this new rigor, our plans and instruction must be reevaulted and redesigned in order to provide our students with the opportunity to master these new state standards. This takes a lot of time, effort, thought, research, collaboration with other teachers, etc. It is also an ongoing process, so this will also continue throughout the school year as well as during the summer months in which school is out.
For example, this summer I have been reading the suggested texts for grades 7-12 that are on the new Ohio content standards. Most of the texts I will be teaching I have never read myself, much less studied and prepared myself to teach them. Because I need to be familiar with the material before the beginning of the school year, I spend my summer reading, annotating, researching, planning, etc. There are 38 texts on this list. For those of you still not convinced, this means I haven’t had my summer off.
MYTH #2: “Teaching can’t be that hard.”
This one always leaves me speechless. Nothing like discrediting my five years of college in which I busted my ass because it was the exact opposite of easy. Not only must we master pedagogical theory, but we must also put it into practice daily. Because education changes with the world (this is arguable, but for now I mean things like technology, educational theories, instructional strategies, etc.), teachers have to keep up with the field. I know I belong to 3 organizations (that cost money out of my pocket) that provide me with 3 different perspectives on teaching English as well as give me access to all kinds of resources to be the best teacher I can be.
I would like to challenge anyone who thinks teaching is not hard to shadow a teacher for a day. Most teachers barely have time to pee during the day because we are always on the go. From greeting students at the door to taking attendance to delivering and facilitating instruction to managing the classroom to motivating students to dealing with interruptions to internal subbing during your plan bell to department meeting after school to coaching a team or being a class sponsor to parent/teacher conferences that give you a 13-hour work day to fire drills to heading a committee to collaborating with the Social Studies teacher to attending IEP meetings to getting test scores up to tutoring a student who just isn’t getting it. Exhausted yet? This isn’t even all of what a teacher does daily. As in, every day. We are expected to juggle a lot of various tasks at once, and we are expected to do a damn good job or our jobs WILL be on the line. It is so worth it, but it is in no way a simple job.
Again, where does one find time to take a piss? Answer: We don’t.
MYTH #3: “A teacher’s day ends at 3 p.m.”
Oh, it does? That’s funny because my day usually doesn’t end until it’s almost time to go to bed. I’m also usually working before school even starts as well, so technically I’m working all day long from the time my brain wakes up in the morning to the time I finally fall asleep. Teachers must always be thinking about their students, what will engage and motivate them, what will inspire them. Usually there are students who are going through some things, so they are on your mind because you are worrying about them. Or you’re thinking about something a student said. Or you’re revising your lesson plan right before you are supposed to implement it. Regardless of the reason, teaching is a job that never stops. Even if you physically leave the building at 3 p.m., there are usually assignments, projects, essays for 7 or 8 classes tucked away in my bag, or I’m headed off to night class that I take in order to meet the goals on my IPDP that affects the renewal of my teaching license, or I’m tweaking my lesson for tomorrow’s class that requires time and research and sometimes money. So when you see teachers pulling out of the parking lot at 3 p.m., we are going home to continue working because there aren’t enough hours in the day. It never stops, not even at 3 p.m.
MYTH #4: “Your salary makes sense since you get summers off, not to mention all the breaks during the year.”
I’m not here to whine about how little teachers make. However, I think I have proved that our salaries making the exact opposite of sense with all of the responsibilities that we have as a teacher, especially compared to someone who throws a ball for a months out of the year and makes millions of dollars. It’d be nice for someone to just admit we actually deserve the little breaks that we have, which are usually spent working anyway. Just sayin’.
So, my friends, I hope you have learned a little bit about the teaching profession. Next time you have a negative comment to make about the teaching profession or teachers in general, think of this post and remind yourself that we work 24/7, regardless of the school bells and school calendar, for a very small amount of money.
But teaching is a passion. A privilege. That is why we do what we do, and it’d be nice to have people on our side for a change. That’s all.