With more than 4 million teachers in the US, there’s a good chance you know at least one personally.
Even so, plenty of people have the wrong idea about teachers and what they do for a living.
To set the record straight, we asked teachers everywhere to weigh in on some of the most common misconceptions about teachers out there, and more than 50 teachers responded. We’ve (anonymously) included some of their answers here:
Teachers work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In my building, and many others, the teachers arrive around 7 a.m. and do not leave the building until after 5 p.m. Also, when I finally do leave, I almost always have something work-related to do at home.”
Teachers have summers off
“It’s true, there are days over the summer that I free myself of school-related responsibilities. However, the majority of my summer days are spent planning, shopping for the upcoming school year, and attending professional development meetings. Also, even though I work in a school that starts after labour day, I always head back to my classroom to start to set up by the middle of August.”
Teachers get paid for the time they’re ‘not working’
“Correction, teachers are paid for about 180 to 185 days of work.”
A teacher’s only job is to teach
“In fact, 40% of what we do in the the classroom. Lesson planning and preparation, grading papers, school paperwork, student reports, parent phone calls and emails, extra help for students, and participating in community events are all things that teachers are required to and expected to do.”
Teachers get into the profession just for the ‘easy schedule’
“I spend my summers working more than 50 hours a week in a restaurant so I can make up for the low salary I earn as a teacher. I wouldn’t be able to teach if I didn’t have a supplemental income.”
Teachers don’t care
“We go to sleep thinking about our kids and how we can be the best for them.”
Teachers hardly do anything all day
“We are taking care of 24 children who all have academic, emotional, and social needs. We have to be teacher, parent, and friend to each of them. Put on top of that all the paperwork we have to do and constantly getting observed, not to mention the politics of a school environment, or when we have to call DYFS to protect a child — plus we do most of this with a full bladder because we only get a 40-minute break to grade papers and get ready for lessons and a 40-minute lunch to finally use the bathroom.”
If you can’t do, teach
“A common misconception is that we somehow failed to be successful in the discipline we now teach.”
Everything they teach is prepared for them
“I don’t think people realise how much we have to do from scratch. There is often no existing curriculum full of lesson plans. Teachers have to design their own every single day. And each lesson plan involves hours of planning, as you dutifully explain how it connects to the Common Core, how you are differentiating for specific learners, how you are assessing students both informally and formally. And of course, ensuring this is all in the context of a well-thought-out unit that builds up certain skills and content knowledge.
“I don’t mean to complain about doing my job, because it is my job, but I don’t think people realise how little we have to work with and how much we have to create on our own. And then how much we get held accountable if it isn’t perfect.
Teachers always get tons of support
“In my last school, there was no disciplinary plan … no suspensions, detentions, referrals, being sent to the principal’s office. So how am I supposed to deal with it, exactly, when an enormous 16-year-old is backing me into the wall, screaming curses in my face?”
It’s easy because all they do is talk at kids
“We are some of these kids counselors, parent-figures, older sibling-figures — the list goes on and on. You really feel like you are wearing multiple hats all the time and multiple hats for different kids. Some days it feels as if you didn’t get to teach anything because you were dealing with other issues in the class.”
“It’s not easy. It’s very demanding of your time and energy.”
It’s intuitive to be a teacher
“Because we observed our own teachers on the job when we were students, it’s natural to make assumptions about the job, but our perceptions were made from the biased lenses of our adolescent minds, and the profession has changed a lot in the last decade. Teaching is increasingly demanding and incredibly complex.
“Unfortunately, the image that the word ‘teacher’ conjures in most peoples’ minds is sorely antiquated and somewhat laughable (perhaps because we are picturing the same teachers we mocked as students), and not at all of a person who is equipped to handle the high pressure, complex situations that arise daily in the life of a teacher.
“At the same time, when asked what I do for a living, I often get the response, ‘Well then you must be a nice person,’ and while that’s nice to hear, it doesn’t help to make the teaching profession any more respected, or education anymore valued.
“This indifference towards the profession is pervasive; in turn, school is something our students ‘just have to do,’ rather than the gift of empowerment that it truly is, and is even perceived to be in some other countries.”
Responses have been edited for clarity.
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