06 May 2014

4 Things You Already Know About Teachers

I've been in this business for over four years now, and I think I've experienced most of the gamut of experiences, so I'm here to tell you that all those praiseworthy and derogatory things you hear about are true.


When I meet new people and tell them what I do, the response varies from high praise to sincere sympathy to condescending curiosity. Every teacher is worthy of at least one of these, depending on the teacher and depending on the time of year.

1. Those who can't do, teach.

Let's get this one out of the way immediately. I'm not saying it's true for all teachers, but it is for most. Why? Because you get paid a lot more in private industry than you do as a teacher. Few people will stick with a job if they could get a better one somewhere else.

This is extremely unfortunate, because real teachers actually have to be twice the expert as doers. They have to be experts in the subject, and experts in pedagogy (that's a fancy word for 'the art of teaching'). I admit, most probably aren't, because if they're true experts in a subject, they're probably out there doing that instead of teaching. Those who are subject matter experts as well as pedagogical geniuses AND they're still teachers who figured out the right witchcraft to make a living off of low wages? They're the ones they make movies about to make all the other teachers feel bad about themselves.

They're also the ones that burn out.

2. Teachers are lazy.

Teachers re-use the same lesson plans they created 20 years ago, they create strict late policies to avoid having to grade extra work, they use multiple choice tests because they're the easiest to score. You can probably blame this on class size and prep time. (Too much of the former, too little of the latter.) The amount of work a teacher has to do rises exponentially. The amount of time it takes to grade a multiple choice quiz versus an essay is drastic. Essays are better for learning, but as a teacher you have to ask yourself, how much better? Of all the things I could assign to my students, what will give them maximum learning with minimum grading time?

Unfortunately, that's an oxymoron.

3. Teachers aren't professionals.

All too often, teachers simply don't carry themselves as professionals. I give two excuses: (1) What do you expect from someone who is around kids all day? (2) They're not treated like professionals.

And then of course there's the possibility that they aren't professionals, that they aren't subject-matter experts or pedagogical savants. It's disappointing to have a conversation with someone who doesn't know much about their own profession, but don't lose respect for the profession, lose respect for the person.

4. Teachers are a bunch of whiners.

Holy cow, aren't we? Maybe it's because we spend most of our days with kids, it rubs off. Then again, stay-at-home parents spend all their time with kids, too, and they don't complain nearly as much (at least the ones I know).

Let's make a deal: you stop complaining about how terrible teachers are, we'll stop complaining about how terrible students, laws, standards, regulations, and salaries are.

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