Let’s Stop Sugarcoating – Teaching is Not All Rainbows & Unicorns, It’s Hard

Let's Stop Sugarcoating – Teaching is Not All Rainbows & Unicorns, It's Hard

Here’s the thing about teaching: It’s hard.

But between movie representations, cute videos on social media, and teachers proclaiming that their profession is their calling, it’s easy to assume that teaching is this magical, wonderful, perfect way of life.

As we near the end of a year that we will never forget (as hard as we may try), teachers need the world to know something. Even if we love it, teaching is our job, not our life.

And it’s not magical.

We’re expected to teach kids as if they’re not human beings.

Somehow the world forgot that kids are people, too, and that their purpose in life is not to sit silently and have information dumped into their brains. However, our schools are set up for that very purpose.

Kids are expected to listen intently, complete every single thing that is asked of them without hesitation, and, as a result, ace standardized tests. And, as a part of this system, teachers have to set kids up to achieve society’s version of success while helping them grow as people.

Educational systems also tend to ignore the fact that some kids can be disrespectful, unkind, and unmotivated because they’re…people.

Teachers are given a room full of very different students with very different needs, and we’re judged on our ability to turn them into information-gathering robots. And if we can’t get another human to bend to our will and meet the expectations of a system run by people who are not teachers, we are supposed to accept our status as failures and…try harder.

We’re tired. All the time.

Teaching is inarguably, excruciatingly exhausting. Our day is filled with a constant stream of decision-making, and that adds up. Sure, sometimes we’re deciding how to discipline one student for insulting another student’s imaginary friend, but it’s a decision nonetheless.

People often forget that we have to be on constantly because we’re working with human beings throughout the whole day, and we don’t have the freedom to take a break whenever we need one.

We come home at the end of every day feeling like our brains have been squeezed like an empty tube of toothpaste.

Guess what? We’re not customer service representatives!

People tend to treat us like volunteers and expect service with a smile. Parents, students, administrators, you name it. Our jobs are to teach, but the silent expectation is that we will, without hesitation, be martyrs–that we will prioritize our jobs over our own wellbeing in order to be the best possible teachers we can be.

So when we choose not to work on the weekend, turn down the opportunity to run an extra club, or, god forbid, ask for a raise, we get judged for not being “team players.”

Our reputation fluctuates depending on society’s mood.

Remember when the pandemic started and people decided teachers were amazing? And then we started a new school year filled with online learning and other circumstances that literally no one has ever experienced, and teachers were blamed for any and everything that didn’t run as smoothly as people might have hoped? That was fun.

Some days we are brave, intelligent, and creative professionals who are responsible for shaping the future generation. Sometimes we’re lazy babysitters who play with kids and get summers off. How will people view us tomorrow? We don’t know! We can’t wait to find out!

People believe that their advice surpasses the expertise we’ve gained from our multiple degrees in education.

This one never fails to surprise us, even though we’ve been bombarded with unsolicited advice since our first day of teaching. People who have literally never stepped foot in a classroom honestly believe that they have unique and helpful viewpoints about the way we should build our curriculum and manage our kids’ behavior.

Tom has a daughter. Jennifer was a camp counselor twenty years ago. Ellen interacts with other people sometimes. We’re all on equal playing fields with equally valid opinions about education!

We love what we do, but it’s ok if we don’t believe that teaching is magical.

No one cares if financial analysts think their jobs are magical. Nobody’s concerned if software engineers are not mesmerized by their daily tasks. Why? Because you can love your job without creating and defending an unrealistic facade.

It is undeniable that it takes an incredible amount of talent, creativity, positivity, and, of course, humor to make it as an educator. Teachers are amazing. And we’re not amazing because we just smile and cluelessly believe that what we’re doing is this magical, beautiful experience.

We’re amazing because we see the flaws, we recognize that we’re part of a broken system, and we still show up every day and try our hardest to help our kids grow into better human beings.

Come join the conversation in the #teacherlife community!

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Let's Stop Sugarcoating – Teaching is Not All Rainbows & Unicorns, It's Hard

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Emmy Weiner

Senior Member

Emmy is a 6th grade English teacher who is obsessed with stories, grammar, and middle schoolers! When she's not teaching (or thinking about teaching), you can find her reading, watching TV, eating ice cream, or shopping in the Target dollar section.

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