50 “Little” Things Teachers Do Every Day You Probably Didn’t Know About

50 "Little" Things Teachers Do Every Day You Probably Didn't Know About

Most people have been through the public school system and so have a general idea of what teachers do – they plan lessons, teach content, grade assignments. What makes teaching such a challenging – and rewarding – job, though, is that the basic job description doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the hats a teacher wears on a given day. Teachers teach, of course, but we also act as counselors, social workers, nurses, event planners, and mediators. Lots of our extra duties are tons of fun (staff volleyball tournament, I’m talking to you), but some are serious and sobering, such as when we comfort a crying child or report signs of abuse to the authorities. Most of all, teachers do what we can to make sure every child in our care feels important. This list of 50 extra things teachers do is a look behind the scenes of teacher life.

  1. We buy snacks for hungry kids. Every teacher I know has a desk drawer filled with snacks for hungry kids. From apples to granola bars to PB&J fixins’, hungry kids have to eat, and teachers are here with the emergency snacks.
  1. We apply for grants for eyeglasses and shoes. We see students who need things like shoes or eyeglasses, and while we spend an awful lot of our own money on our jobs, luckily, community programs exist to help kids get what they need. If a student needs a pair of glasses, we might not be able to foot the bill, but we’ll search high and low until we find grant funds to cover the cost.
  1. We act as a travel agent for field trips. A class trip to the pumpkin patch involves a lot more than meets the eye, and a teacher has to do it all, including coordinating with the pumpkin patch, booking buses, collecting money, and finding chaperones.
  2. We worry. We’re up late worrying. We wake up early worrying. We’re worrying on our commute and during lunch. We worry about the student who isn’t understanding our content and about the kids who won’t have gifts under the Christmas tree.
  1. We fix the jammed copier. Okay, anyone with an office job does this one, too, but can you unjam the copier within the span of a four-minute passing period? Teachers can. Some of the extra things teachers do prepare us for random reality game show challenges.
  1. We laminate everything. And hole-punch it, staple it, make packets, etc. These routine tasks add up when you have 100+ students.
  1. We clean up the classroom every day. Yes, we teach kids to clean up after themselves, but at the end of any given day, a classroom needs tidying. The desks need to be straightened, books picked up, the rogue water bottle recycled.
  1. We buy consumable supplies for lessons. Science teachers, this one’s for you. We regularly need supplies for a lesson or science lab or special project, and often those supplies have to be purchased the night before the lesson. Eggs for egg drops, baking soda and vinegar, glitter, paper mache paste, you name it, we have the local craft store aisles memorized.
  1. We zip coats and tie shoes. Elementary school teachers are adept at buttoning, zipping, tying, and generally making sure students are all squared away for recess or the ride home.
  1. We conference with families outside of school. Inevitably, we run into students and their families while pumping gas, getting groceries, or cheering for the football team. And those quick run-ins result in a check on Jonny’s progress in social studies.
  1. We provide a shoulder to cry on. Students of all ages turn to their teachers to vent or weep when something goes wrong.  We’re really good listeners.
  1. We troubleshoot technology. Especially in the era of distance learning. Thanks to COVID, we are veritable experts at troubleshooting technology. We know how to help students log into their various platforms, change their passwords on the regular, restart Chromebooks, and navigate any technology blip with aplomb.
  1. We unstick lockers. Oh yeah, we’re really good at this.
  1. We provide mentorship to students who have graduated. Students often check back in with their teachers after graduating requesting another set of eyes for that first college essay or a reference for a job application.
  1. We provide referrals to community agencies. Sometimes, students come to us for help for things beyond our control. Their families need food or shelter or help filing their first tax forms. We know the resources that exist in our communities and we know who to refer students to when these things arise.
  1. We sharpen pencils. You wouldn’t think sharpening 100 pencils a day would be so time-consuming, but here we are.
  1. We show up to extracurricular events just to support our kids. Students pop by my classroom every day asking if I’m coming to tonight’s softball game or the school play. Teachers can’t go to everything, but we spend a lot of our time cheering for our students in their extracurricular pursuits.
  1. We grade off the clock. Some of the extra things teachers do are part of the job but extend into their personal time. The big ones are grading and lesson planning. Both are incredibly time-consuming if they are to be done well. It is impossible to find time in a 45-minute prep period to plan for the day and catch up on grading. So, we bring bookbags stuffed full of papers home to grade every night.
  1. We work a second job. Teaching isn’t lucrative, especially compared to the wages earned by other people with advanced degrees. Sometimes, we need to make ends meet, so we moonlight as florists, writers, waiters, and sales clerks.
  1. We do data analysis and input. Most schools require teachers to collect and analyze data to track of our effectiveness. We are pretty good at crunching numbers to keep track of academic growth, attendance, standardized test scores, and whole lots more.
  1. We do so much paperwork. Detention forms. Referral forms. Behavior plan tracking forms. Positive behavior check-ins. Documenting the good and bad from each day. Completely aside from the mountain of grading, teachers have a gigantic amount of recordkeeping that must be done each day.
  1. We learn all the acronyms. Most professions have their own jargon, but the teaching profession would win the gold medal for the number of acronyms we invent. IEPs. SEL. TAG. ELL. RTI. IDEA. NCLB. Okay, you get the idea.
  1. We buy all the prizes. We love to celebrate success, but that often comes on our own nickel. Those classroom pizza parties and award ceremonies and gift cards and candy rewards? That’s on us.
  1. We soothe broken hearts. Many students experience their first breakup sometime during their school career, and because that breakup often happens at school and involves a fellow student, these heartbroken kids turn to us to comfort them.
  1. We attend weddings, funerals, baby showers, graduation parties. Our students keep in touch after they graduate (which we love!). They invite us to their major milestones so we get to see them grow into amazing adults.
  1. We break up fights. From elementary school to high school, physical altercations are an unfortunate part of every school year. Teachers are the ones to separate the students and help calm them down.
  1. We mediate peer disputes. Students turn to us for all kinds of advice, including help solving disagreements with peers. We listen to each side and try to offer our best advice.
  1. We help students process current events. One of the worst days of my teaching career was the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. We talked and cried together for the rest of the day. During election season, students want to know about the electoral college, and after the Super Bowl, students want to talk about the commercials. After every major event in the news cycle, we debrief with our students.
  1. We pray for snow, too. So we wear those PJs backward and sleep with spoons under our pillows just like our students, because who doesn’t love a good snow day?
  1. We stay current on trends and slang. To stay relevant, we need to understand everything from TikTok to Snapchat, from fashion trends to the slang of the day. At least teaching keeps us young!
  1. We make samples of assignments. Students need to see models of the work we assign, whether that’s a college admissions essay, a free throw, or a clay bowl. So, in addition to planning the lesson, we often do our own assignments so students can see the process modeled for them.
  1. We chaperone dances. On any given Friday night after a home football game, you can find four or five dedicated teachers staying up until midnight to let the kids burn off some steam.
  1. We walk 10,000 steps a day – easily. We’re on our feet all day, walking around the classroom giving individualized help, pushing kids on swings at recess, walking kids to the school library, or waving to kids on buses.
  1. We decorate our classrooms with our own money. Those Pinterest-worthy classrooms don’t happen magically – they take a lot of elbow grease and money.
  1. We have the hygiene talk. Several times a year, we pull a student aside and help them troubleshoot hygiene issues. Sometimes, students don’t have access to a shower or money for deodorant, and we can help with that.
  1. We answer all the questions. And it’s not just content questions all day long, but every other question under the sun.
  1. We cover duties. Bus duty, lunch duty, recess duty, all of these are necessary to make a school run smoothly, but they do pull us away from our classrooms.
  1. We put on a performance. Whether we are dressing up in disco attire for “Blast from the Past” day or doing a dramatic reading (with voices!) of The Scarlett Letter, teaching is truly performance art, and each day we bring our A-game.
  1. We plan formal dances. Students and parents help with this, of course, but planning a formal dance is like planning a mini-wedding. You need DJs, decorations, flowers, a venue, a theme, crowns and sashes for royalty, and teachers help with every single decision.
  1. We participate in pep assemblies. Of course, we love this, but every teacher I know has participated in staff dodgeball, a “Thriller” flash mob, or a hula-hooping contest. Yup, sometimes the extra things teachers do involves actually being “extra.” All in a day’s work!
  1. We are lifelong learners. Whether we are attending professional development on a weekend, taking a college class over the summer, or pursuing a side gig related to their subject area, we never stop learning.
  1. We are constantly learning new technology. This year, we’re talking Zoom, Canvas, Blackboard, and Google Classroom in addition to the annual overhauls of our grading programs. We are fortunate to get new equipment like document cameras or SmartBoards, but they all come with a learning curve.
  1. We read. Reading fuels the brain, and we want to model this for our students, so we always have a good book handy.
  1. We work through lunch. If we advise clubs or our students need extra help, we often squeeze those things in during our half-hour lunches.
  1. We hand out lots of bandaids. Students get scrapes and papercuts, and teachers come to the rescue with our handy first aid kits. This is one of many extra things teachers do that come out of our own pockets.
  1. We keep kids calm during drills. Students participate in fire drills, earthquake drills, and scariest of all, active shooter drills. We help students stay calm and process these sometimes scary events.
  1. We develop a rapport with each and every student. Teaching is most effective when a student trusts us, so we work hard to get to know each of our students as individuals.
  1. We are career counselors. High school teachers especially help students apply to colleges, fill out their FAFSAs, craft resumes, and find their first jobs.
  1. We tutor students after school. Sometimes, students need extra help, and we are always there for them.
  1. We love students unconditionally. Most of all, we are your child’s biggest fans and we take our role as cheerleaders seriously.

In conclusion, is it any surprise we’re tired after reading all the extra things teachers do?!


50 "Little" Things Teachers Do Every Day You Probably Didn't Know About

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