How hard is teaching?

blackboard

How hard is teaching?

Here are some answers to the question:

“Giving a presentation to NASA about how the thermal protection system of a spacecraft is connected to its primary structure is a cakewalk compared to getting 30 teenagers excited about logarithms.” – Ryan Fuller, a former aerospace engineer who now teaches high school in Colorado Springs, wrote in a piece on Slate.

“Teaching is hard. Not only because of the curriculum, not only because of the new tests, new rules, new measures. Not only because there are tests, tests, and more tests. But because it so often feels like an insurmountable, thankless, stressful endeavor.  The rules are always changing. The tests are always changing. And the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong usually falls squarely on our shoulders.”  – Neyda Borges, teacher at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Florida, from this piece on the website of StateImpact Florida, a project of NPR.

“In the primary grades, we deal with gross bathroom-related issues. – Even a high school teacher could never understand some of the crises related to bodily functions that a typical K-3 teacher has to deal with on a regular basis. Potty accidents (and more instances too disgusting to reiterate here) are something that we can’t shy away from. I’ve had third grade students who still wear diapers and let me tell you – it’s stinky. Is there any amount of money or vacation time worth cleaning up vomit from the classroom floor with your own two hands?” – Beth Lewisfrom About.Com

“American teachers deal with a lot: low pay, growing class sizes and escalating teacher-bashing from politicians and pundits. Federal testing and accountability mandates under No Child Left Behind and, more recently, Race to the Top, have added layers of bureaucracy while eliminating much of the creativity and authentic learning that makes teaching enjoyable. Tack on the recession’s massive teacher layoffs and other school cuts, plus the challenges of trying to compensate for increasing child poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity, and you get a trifecta of disincentives to become, or remain, a teacher.” – Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammondin this piece on Huffington Post.

“Teaching is a hard job with long hours (with no overtime). It’s no way a 9-5 job (nor a 7-3 job). My job starts way before the students enter the classroom, and it starts again when the students leave the classroom. I work after school and I work at home at night. Most of the work has to do with preparing lessons, contacting parents, grading papers, going to numerous meetings, extra help for students, dealing with tons of administrative paperwork, etc. etc. etc. I feel like the time I spend in the classroom with students is like the end result… you’ll have a good lesson and good rapport with the students because you did all your ‘homework’.

“Just know that you will not sleep much the first few years (at least). You will have to deal with difficult students, and even more difficult parents. You will have to deal with stupid administrative crap, You will be forced to follow curriculum and adopt teaching styles designed by people who probably have not taught in decades. You will not get much support from the administration. You will be pretty much on your own to figure things out. YOU WILL BE OVERWHELMED. And everyone around you will think that you have an easy job because your work is done at 3 pm (yeah, right) and you have the summers off (yeah, we don’t get PAID either).” — Ms. K on Yahoo. 

“We’re not just teachers. – The word ‘teacher’ just doesn’t cover it. We’re also nurses, psychologists, recess monitors, social workers, parental counselors, secretaries, copy machine mechanics, and almost literally parents, in some instances, to our students. If you’re in a corporate setting, you can say, ‘That’s not in my job description.’ When you’re a teacher, you have to be ready for everything and anything to be thrown at you on a given day. And there’s no turning it down.” – Beth Lewisfrom About.Com

“You know, this is precisely why I loathed being a teacher! Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything.” – Professor Phineas Nigellus Black, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

“Teachers must take on a large agenda: to help students abandon the safety of rote learning; to instruct them in framing and testing hypotheses; and to build a climate of tolerance for others’ ideas, and curiosity about unusual answers, among other things. Teachers who take this path must work harder, concentrate more, and embrace larger pedagogical responsibilities than if they only assigned text chapters and seatwork. They also must have unusual knowledge and skills. They require,for instance, a deep understanding of the material and modes of discourse about it. They must be able to comprehend students’ thinking, their interpretations of problems, their mistakes, and their puzzles. And, when students cannot comprehend, teachers must have the capacity to probe thoughtfully and tactfully. These and other capacities would not be needed if teachers relied on texts and worksheets. In addition, teachers who seek to make instruction more adventurous must take unusual risks, even if none of their students resist. For if they offer academic subjects as fields of inquiry, they must support their actions and decisions as intellectuals, not merely as functionaries or voices for a text.” – University of Michigan Professor David K. Cohen in this paper, “Teaching Practice: Plus Ça Change…”

 

Add some more in the comments and I’ll do another post with the best ones.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · December 26, 2013