Being a teacher is so easy. They go home every day at 4 and get their summers off. They just show up when the bell rings and wing it.
Even though we are under contract nine months a year and have hours from 8 to 4, being a dedicated teacher means putting in many long nights, weekends and, yes, even summers. Many of my nights are filled attending or facilitating meetings with parents, students and/or colleagues, along with frequenting conferences, open houses, and after-school programs. These events often allow kids additional academic assistance or opportunities to gain skills of interest to them. Through these activities, I get to know my students and their families better; helping to build better rapport and the positive relationships so vital to classroom success. In addition, many of us take work home with us. Yet, we are not compensated for the many hours per night we spend reading student papers, grading student homework, and making individualized lesson plans for students. With the above in mind, I teach three different classes for three different grade levels and yet am only given one prep period a day. In order to be the teacher I want to be, I must take home work on both weeknights, as well as weekends.
We may work at a school nine months out of the year, but during the summer it is not a simple vacation. Last summer, I attended several professional development opportunities to improve my teaching skills. Many of these conferences required me to take money out of my pocket, including the costs of travel, lodging, registration, and food. For example, I drove to Cody, Wyoming for a Google conference for three days. I attended a week long PBIS/MBI Conference in Bozeman, MT. I flew to Philadelphia for a week to attend the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference. In addition, I cleaned my old room and moved to a new room, preparing it with educational materials and items that help engage and spark interest in learning disabled middle schoolers.
I read five educational books and participated in a book study, in an attempt to prepare myself to be a better teacher. Two of these books were required assignments from my school administration.
Additionally, I participated in education Twitter chats at least twice a week, sometimes more. These Twitter chats help me make connections with my PLN (professional learning network), who supports me as I work to improve my practice.
My summer agenda illustrates that a teacher's job entails much more than an 8-4 work week and a free summer. As modern educators, we do not simply do the old readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic. We are active learners and facilitators, always in search of the latest teaching strategies and newest educational technology. My daily activities as an educator remind me of a poem by Stacy Bonino. She writes:
I am so much more than just a teacher. I am a counselor and psychologist to a problem-filled child, I am a police officer that controls a child gone wild. I am a travel agent scheduling our trips for the year, I am a confidante that wipes a crying child’s tear. I am a banker collecting money for a ton of different things, I am a librarian showing adventures that a storybook brings. I am a custodian that has to clean certain little messes, I am a psychic that learns to know all that everybody only guesses. I am a photographer keeping pictures of a child’s yearly growth, when mother and father are gone for the day, I become both. I am a doctor that detects when a child is feeling sick, I am a politician that must know the laws and recognize a trick. I am a party planner for holidays to celebrate with all, I am a decorator of a room, filling every wall. I am a news reporter updating on our nation’s current events, I am a detective solving small mysteries and ending all suspense. I am a clown and comedian that makes the children laugh, I am a dietitian assuring they have lunch or from mine I give them half. We we seem to stray from values, I become a preacher, but I’m proud to have to be these people because I’m proud to say, “I AM A TEACHER.”
Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. The sacrifices, training, and hard work dedicated teachers make to our professional future is simply quite amazing! So, the next time you hear someone say, “being a teacher is so easy. They go home every day at 4 and get their summers off. They just show up when the bell rings and wing it,” please beg to differ. Instead, take a moment to admire and respect them deeply; for without dedicated teachers our children would suffer!