Currently, our political climate is, shall we say… heated. We have a great deal of challenges to our progress in the world and where I live there is an antagonism from our government towards teachers that is brewing up and promises to be a difficult struggle over the next few months.
I am a teacher. That is my profession, but even if it wasn’t, I would still consider myself to be an educator. I spend my time finding ways to help other people learn and master what they hope to do. I give advice, I hold hands, I listen. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but it can be very rewarding. When you are teacher, really – in your bones a teacher, you will always be a teacher.
People all around the world think they know what goes into teaching. They think they really know the struggle, the time commitment, and all the basic ins and outs of the job. But they don’t. Why is that? Why do they think they know? Well, because people all around the world have been students, so they’ve watched teachers, they’ve worked with teachers and they’ve judged teachers. Some people have had great experiences with their teachers, and others, sadly, have not. But just because you have a long experience – say about 12 years or so with some teacher, does not mean you understand the profession in any way, shape or form.
I’m going to discuss some points of the profession and later, write about some inspirational teachers. Some I’ve had as teachers, others I just know. I’ll probably change their names and significant details, just to keep some semblance of privacy, but I promise you, I won’t be fabricating anything, these stories will be based on truth. Not what people think they know.
I’d like to start with the idea that “Teachers have it easy”. This is a phrase that gets overused by critics of the profession. I’m not sure what evidence they use to back up this claim, but I’m going to attempt to address some of those ideas.
First of all: the length of the school day. As far as the everyday public is concerned, the school day starts somewhere around 8:30/9 and ends somewhere around 2:30/3. Right? Sure, it does. For the students. But not for anyone else in the building. Not by a long shot.
The office staff of any school must be there long before the students arrive. Someone has to get the office up and running, answer the phones, find out if buses are running on time, etc. The custodial staff have to open the building, disarm any alarms, ensure all the facilities are in working order (as best they can in schools that are falling apart) and generally make certain that the building can safely house its occupants for the day.
Then there’s the teachers. Maybe there’s band rehearsal in the morning… someone runs that. I’ll bet there’s at least one sport that is having a morning practice in the gymnasium or on the field…. someone runs that. Perhaps there’s a field trip to a big city or event and the bus has to load up at 7:30 am, there’s definitely a teacher (or two) there for that. All of these sorts of activities (and countless more) are running in a school each and every day of the year, with the exception of examination days and PD days, but sometimes even then.
What does it take to run the band rehearsal? Well, you just open the doors and let the kids pick up their instruments, right? Wrong. Someone has to order the reeds, the swabs, the repaired tuba, heck the music that these kids are going to play and they have to ensure that there’s one of everything (with backups) for each of these kids. Not to mention the chairs, the music stands and a room with running water to ensure hygienic cleaning of their instruments before they play.
What does it take to run morning volleyball practice? Not much, right? Just open the doors and let them go for it! WRONG. You’ve got to set up the nets, make sure the balls are in good shape and inflated. If this is a team, they’ve all got to have their registration and participation fees covered – or they can’t play. The students will need to be coached, given tips, uniforms, a schedule of when, where and who they play against… (are you tired yet?) And all of this is before the school day has begun.
Teachers don’t count the hours they put into these events and programs. They could, but it would probably make them cry. They just do it, because they KNOW how valuable these experiences are to building the community of a school. They KNOW that the extra time is worth if for the relationships they can build with those kids to help their programs flourish. But perhaps equally as important, teachers put in this time because they care. They are passionate about what they are doing. If they run band rehearsals it is because they are an expert musician and this is part of what gets them out of bed each morning. If they coach volleyball, you can bet they were on a team when they were younger. Make no mistake, teachers get satisfaction from this part of their work – or they wouldn’t do it. But please, whatever you do, don’t think it is simple or easy or underestimate the time it takes to put together a simple rehearsal. It isn’t ever ONLY an HOUR. It is exponentially more.