What People Think About the Teaching Profession vs. Reality

There are two types of people in this world: those that teach and those that don’t. Bizarrely though, teaching seems to be the one profession that people can’t understand or relate to. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from telling us how to do our jobs and what we do wrong.

We all know that surgeons have a very difficult job that requires a special set of skills, but you don’t see us offering suggestions when we need our gallbladder removed. Car mechanics know the ins and outs of every part of our vehicles, but you don’t see us telling them which wrench to use or how to rebuild the engine.

Teachers on the other hand? We get “advice” from just about everybody we come in contact with, and the funny part is education is the one profession people understand the least. If you ask the average adult to describe teachers they generally mention summer vacation, short hours and the joys of working with adorable children all day long. I would imagine any teacher reading that last sentence laughed so hard that chardonnay flew out their nose.

So I’m here to give non-teachers a quick lesson to get you up to speed on what you might not be aware of.

1. Our days are long. Very, very long.

school clock - teachers want non-teachers to know

While it’s true that most school days are 6-7 hours long, this couldn’t be further from the truth for teachers. Did you ever notice when you drop your child off at school in the morning, all the teachers are already there? Same goes for the afternoon when school is over. Most schools require teachers to arrive 30-45 minutes before the first bell and stay another 30-45 minutes after the last kid leaves. Oh, and then there are staff meetings, papers to grade, and lessons to plan. You can either stay extra late to get all of that done, or bring it home with you and work on it there. Plus, because teachers are paid far below what other professionals get paid, we need to work extra jobs to make ends meet. Short days are non-existent in the life of a teacher.

2. Yes, we get summer vacation… but!

Yes it’s true we do get several weeks of vacation, but it’s not as relaxing as it may seem. For starters, teachers put in more work hours per year than the average American:

The  Average American: (40 hours a week x 50 weeks a year) – 10 holidays ≈ 1900 hours/year

The Average Teacher: (8 hours x 200 school days a year) + (2 hours of grading/lesson planning x 200 school days a year) ≈ 2000 hours/year

Oh, and remember that little caveat I mentioned earlier about teachers routinely working extra jobs to make ends meet? A lot of us work those extra jobs over the summer. Kinda takes the shine out of that summer vacation, doesn’t it?

3. Dealing with children that are not yours is hard.

tired teacher

Many of us gravitate toward education because we enjoy being around children on some level. Children are great. They are awesome. Every teacher truly believes this. However, not all children are created equal. In the melting pot that is your classroom, students come from all different backgrounds, home situations and upbringings. And each of those situations came with its own set of beliefs and rules. So when 25 kids are behaving 25 different ways at the same time, it can be quite the challenge. Teachers need nerves of steel and the patience of a saint to manage all of that in a way that allows them to still maintain sanity.

4. This is the best job in the world.

A lot of people refer to teaching as a “fall back profession”, as if none of us actually want to be here. Sure you may hear us complain from time to time, but don’t let that confuse you. Teaching is rewarding in ways that go far beyond a paycheck… which is good considering it doesn’t pay much to begin with. Seriously though, we get to fundamentally mold and direct the minds and futures of hundreds of children. The adults they blossom into will depend, partly, on how we educate them. That is an awesome responsibility, but it’s a responsibility we wouldn’t give up for the world.


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David Rode

I'm currently a Middle School Math Teacher which means I'm also a glutton for punishment. Honestly though, I am keenly aware that Middle School is basically the worst 3 years in the life of a child, so it's my mission to make it suck less. I'm also a musician, a community theater, Dad to two amazing children, and I don't get a lot of sleep.

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