When I became a teacher a long time ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! But I loved teaching, I really did. Of course, I escaped into teacher training, then management and administration but ran screaming back to the classroom. The management job nearly killed me, so thanks to teaching, I am alive and well to-day. Here are some of the things teachers and myself go through on a daily basis. Are you sure you want to become a teacher? Read about these 20 things that only teachers would understand. Then, decide if you still want to be a teacher.
1. Keep calm – you’re a teacher
If you are a trifle impatient or bad-tempered, then forget it. You will have to put up with noisy individuals, who have no interest in learning, and stupid bureaucracy at every turn, so you just have to keep calm. Of course, there are wonderful students who are a joy to teach, but they are few and far between.
2. It’s hard not to have a favorite
Watch the video below. The teacher thinks the guy’s joke is really funny – he goes on to get an award! But what about the poor guy who actually made the joke and got no credit? Sometimes, it is just impossible not to have favorites.
3. You have to be tough to stay the course
Did you know that in the USA and the UK, about 40% to 50% of teachers leave in the first 5 years. That figure is up by 30% compared to 20 years ago. Instead of concentrating on reducing teachers’ paperwork and giving them more support, the debate has centred on a minority who happen to be bad teachers.
4. Violent behavior is scary
Recently, a 16 year old was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment because he stabbed his teacher to death at a school in Leeds in the UK. That boy was a model student but changed once he had been diagnosed with diabetes.
A friend of mine does supply (substitute) teaching and she told me how scary it was when a fight broke out between two students. She suffered from PTSD for a time after this event. She is always wary when the agency offers her work and ask about her ‘behavior management skills.’ That is a clue that she might be facing violent and aggressive behavior if she agrees to teach at that school.
5. Giving low grades can be tough
I had a Math teacher who always gave me 2 out of 10 for my Algebra homework. “I’ll be generous, I’ll give you 2,” she would shriek. I can’t believe she was finding it tough to give me what I deserved, but I did when I became a teacher. This reminds me of the corny joke where the pupil says,
Pupil: I don’t think I deserved zero on this test!
Teacher: I agree, but that’s the lowest mark I could give you!
6. Questions and answers are your bread and butter
Questions, tests, grades, answers. It seems teachers have to be like the chief prosecutor in the courtroom. Then there are nasty consequences if somebody cannot answer all your questions.
Teacher: Why can’t you ever answer any of my questions?
Pupil: Well if I could there wouldn’t be much point in me being here!
7. Nobody is listening
That is what you think when you have explained something for the umpteenth time. You count to three, then try again. Water on stone, water on stone.
8. Of course you hate cell phones
Yes, you banned these but there is always someone sneaking one in and texting his friends. You know that all these devices just add to the chaos surrounding cheating in exams and also cyberbullying.
You wish that there were an actual law banning these infernal devices from the classroom. You think fondly of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain where the regional government has actually made it illegal to have these phones in the classroom.
9. Get ready to be stared at
You have to be on stage all the time. The worst thing is that once you spill some coffee on your clothes, you are going to suffer a 100 times more than any other person would. Everybody is staring at you. When things go well though, it is not so bad being center stage!
10. Student howlers will make you laugh
One of the great things about teaching is the laughs you get from student errors in tests and in the classroom too. Here are some of my favourite ones on the video below with the ‘The Funny Teacher’, Mark Schumacher.
11. Teaching is rewarding
“The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.”- Aristotle
Let’s face it. There is a great reward in passing on knowledge and helping children and teens develop into balanced and responsible citizens (hopefully!).
12. Paperwork will probably drive you crazy
Teachers in Scotland have complained about the ‘Amazonian forest’ worth of paperwork linked to their report writing, grading homework and recording. There seems to be an inordinate time spent on entering data and then sifting through it. Teachers complain that there is not nearly enough input on how to create engaging lessons. That would be much more beneficial for both teachers and students, according to a report in The Washington Post.
13. Teachers get stressed out
It is true that teachers are under enormous pressure from the school authorities, from parents and the students themselves. Many teachers get stressed out, but there are many ways that they can devote more time for relaxing activities outside the classroom.
14. Teachers are more likely to get ill
Working with so many people in an enclosed space is likely to lead to more viral and bacterial infections. Just a case of numbers really. Health studies show that, not surprisingly, teachers are more liable to suffer from laryngitis and bronchitis than those in other professions. Teaching students about basic health hygiene can help everybody and keeping a hand sanitizer within easy reach is always a great idea.
15. Teachers and parents have to get along
In the past it was just PTA meetings, report cards and a few conferences annually. Now both parties expect closer collaboration and that can be really helpful for the students. Parents want to know more about what is going on in the classroom and teachers are really happy that somebody is taking a real interest in their children’s progress. It’s a win- win situation and that should always be kept in mind.
16. Changes in the curriculum loom like dark clouds
Just when a teacher has got used to the new syllabus, a note from the school authorities reveals that further changes are on the way. The teacher sighs. So do the students! High school students often protest as well. Colorado high schoolers protested about the changes to the history syllabus which, they felt, would downplay the role of civil disobedience in US history.
“It’s our history; don’t make it mystery.”- Colorado students’ slogan
17. Parents who think their kids are being bullied
Of course bullying can be a serious problem. Parents and teachers can work together to solve it. But when a parent arrives and tells you that a certain pupil is picking on her daughter and must be punished, then the teacher thinks that maybe this is just one side of the story! A much better approach would be for the parent to flag up the bullying issue and ask how they can solve the problem together.
18. Parents who complain about too much homework
When this happens, the teacher wonders how their kids will react to this. Maybe they will start to take it easy, knowing that their wonderful parents are going to solve the problem. A much better approach would be for the parents to help the kids manage their homework time better, instead of complaining and whining about it.
19. Teachers are supposed to be perfect
Every teacher has to be perfect but the reality is very different from that ridiculous expectation. Teachers get a hard time from the press and yet they are the lowest paid of most of the professions. How many perfect doctors or lawyers can you name? Now you understand why so few graduates want to go in for teaching. Why not pay them more and give them better working conditions?
20. Help! I’m sinking
When a new teacher walks into the classroom, he or she faces enormous challenges. Just think of the behavior issues and how to manage a large class. Also, they are crying out for support in making really great lessons plans and how to deal with a few brats in the class who can ruin everything. Next time you meet a new teacher, smile at her!
So, you still want to be a teacher? Great! Let us know in the comments how an inspiring teacher at school helped you make that choice.
Featured photo credit: Olympic Week – Teacher for a day/ Chicago 2016 via flickr.com