This Is What I Do

The misconceptions about teaching held by the general public are, at times, dumbfounding. When I meet people who are unfamiliar with the profession, I’ll often hear, “So you’re a teacher, huh? That must be a pretty cushy job.” Yeah, what gave it away, the big bags under my eyes?

Don’t get me wrong. I love this profession. I didn’t get into it for the benefits; I got into teaching because I think that the creative arts are hugely important and I want to share my passion for them with students. But I’ve been on the defensive lately thanks to accusations of greed and sloth coming from all sides.

  • Myth: Those who can’t do, teach. False. To teach effectively, you have to be more than merely competent in your field. You must have content mastery to effectively and efficiently pass on information to students.
  • Myth: Teachers love to give failing grades. Passing back a test or an assignment with a bad grade on it is THE worst part of my job. I hate seeing disappointment on the faces of my students, and an “F” makes me work harder to help that student in the future.
  • Myth: Teachers start at 8AM, and are done by 3PM. Crappy teachers, those who have lost their passion, are in at 8 and out at 3. The vast majority of teachers arrive well before school starts, and leave long after the last student has left their classroom. I also frequently work through lunch tutoring students, and set aside blocks of time after school for more tutoring. Still think it’s not a full-time job?
  • Myth: Teachers get summers off. If by “off”, you mean that we get summers to take graduate courses and attend conferences on our own dime. Teachers lose their effectiveness if they stop learning. We’re naturally hungry for knowledge, and summer is a great time to learn something for ourselves.
  • Myth: Teachers are overpaid. For helping shape the young minds of the future, I will take home about $25,000 this year. That’s less than half of what Alex Rodriguez makes per at-bat.
  • Myth: Teachers get unlimited sick days. Yes, I’ve actually heard this one. I get 10 sick days and four personal days per year. If I take three days in a row, or attach it to a break, then I need to have a doctor’s note.

Teaching is a very demanding job. At the same time, it can be very rewarding. But do not let yourself get sucked into believing these myths. Teachers work very hard, and the public needs to be educated about what we do.

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