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Do We Even Know How Most Outsiders View Our Jobs As Teachers?

656292_study_2This morning I allowed a guest post to go up on this blog that many readers felt was inappropriate for this blog. In it, the author listed three reasons mothers should become teachers:

  1. You’re assured of more than two months of vacation every year
  2. Your schedule is perfect when it comes to looking after your kids
  3. The stress level associated with the job is minimum

Now, anyone who has actually been a teacher (whether a mother or not) knows these reasons are ill-conceived at best, and mostly offensive. I am reminded of two years ago when a troll called J Frap came over and posted a comment wherein he asserted that one reason people should be a teachers is that it is a:

“part time job at full pay wages”. Thats a huge benefit, how about you take one year off from teaching and work in the real world, where you would make less money, only receive one week paid vacation, you wouldn’t be given ‘planning days’ every other week, and you would have to work on most holidays.

Obviously, many readers took offense to this comment, and rightly so. My response was that, while there are some perks, it is definitely not a part-time job in that sense. A month later, I wrote an article delineating why it’s really far from part-time — Teaching: Part Time Job At Full Pay Wages????

This article garnered some comments from the other extreme of the spectrum.

I’m not complaining, but we NEED that time to recover and prepare for the next year. Nobody works harder than teachers do, no matter what they do.


1. My “planning” time is filled with faculty meetings, department meetings, SST meetings, cirriculum meetings, grade level meetings, and any other professional development my administraion deems important. I do all of my planning on my own dime.
2. For the 08-09 school year, I will arrive at school at around 7 AM and leave at about 6:00PM every day. I will have a 25 minute lunch, but I will still be working as I will have lunch duty. When I get home from school (and on weekends) I will have papers to grade and materials to create for an upcoming unit. I don’t get paid overtime for that.
3. I do not recieve pay for my summer “vacation.” I get paid for 190 contractual days, but it is spread out over the 12 months.
4. My “vacation” is chock full of professional development workshops, cirriculum meetings, and planning for the next year (I get a $50 stipend for 2 workshops). The time that I do have to myself over the summer is spent reflecting on my previous preformance and coming up with ways to make the next year run more smoothly (again, I don’t get overtime for this).
5. This year, I will spend roughly $250-$300 out of my own pocket to furnish materials and supplies to my own classroom. I get a tax write-off, but not for the whole thing. I won’t get reimbursed for the money I spend. I don’t get a company car.
6. I will spend each day every day in front of 110 hormonal 12 year olds. I will be a counselor, mediator, entertainer, facilitator, coach, police officer, mother figure, and teacher over the course of every day. I will undoubtedly catch every form of the cold, flu, and stomach virus that floats the the halls of my school. I will break up fights, get yelled at by kids I don’t know, get threatend by parents, and sometimes be underminded by my employer. I won’t get hazard pay.

Some of the other eye-opening comments included:

I have to admit I used to have similar thoughts about teachers being part-time workers. Then I started homeschooling the kids. My hours doing that are much less then a teachers but I stated to see all the things that have to go on behind that bit of sit down time everyone sees. The planning, the research, the organization…Hats off to you!

Mister Teacher, who is the author of Learn Me Good (both the New York Times Bestselling book and the blog) and is also getting married this week, wrote in his article Teaching Mythstakes!:

The person who wrote this on a blog I read seems to think that we work with our children Monday through Thursday, and every Friday we sequester ourselves at a back table at Chili’s and plan out the next week around nachos and margaritas.

The truth is that we have a 45-minute “planning period” every day while our kids are at PE or art or music. Aside from our lunch break, this is the only time that we are not with our students. However, this planning period is not always a true break, as it is frequently used for parent conferences or impromptu meetings with the principal, the test coordinator, or other members of the faculty.

Oh yeah, the book isn’t really a New York Times Bestseller, but it’s good.

See also  How to Make the Most of Your Summer Vacation: 7 Simple Tips

Another comment that came in that discussion was this one:

Most outsiders think teachers “have got it made,” because of the schedule they have, but to them I say trade places with a teacher for a day and see how it works out for you. Those people have no idea what it’s like to spend countless hours preparing engaging and intriguing lessons for apathetic kids, some of whose parents send them to school and ‘hope that everything works out for the best,’ expecting teachers to raise the kids or otherwise make corrections and teach lessons that should have come from home. Despite this however, I do love teaching though aware of these glaring realities. I hope you read this article in full and grasped the dualities that were given in the discussion. Naturally, no one should attempt to judge another’s situation if they haven’t been through it, and there are clearly some jobs that I would never want to do–but to anyone who talks about teachers and their complaints, I BEG you to sub a day or two in my classroom.

It’s interesting to me when I consider that most people have absolutely no clue what I do in my job. I know there are many second-career-teachers (my dad is a retired fire marshal who now teaches 6th grade), but most of us who teach have never been out of the school systems. We tend to forget that the average adult graduates from high school or college and goes directly into a world where they work 5-6 days a week every week of the year. No spring break, no summer vacation, no Christmas or Thanksgiving holidays. Bank holidays if they’re lucky.

So the next time someone comes up to you and tells you that they wish they could have a low-stress job where scheduling is as “easy as pie,” try to see things from their perspective before you respond. Odds are, they really aren’t trying to be offensive…

Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

7 thoughts on “Do We Even Know How Most Outsiders View Our Jobs As Teachers?

  1. As someone who has worked as a teacher (after going to college to pursue education), then transition to the world of corporate technology, and then BACK to teaching, I have a unique view. There is no doubt that the view of non-educators is that being a teacher isn't really a worthwhile occupation. When i left to come back to teaching, people thought I was off my rocker.
    For me it is a personal choice. I like education because I sleep well at night, knowing the work I have done has been for the benefit of others. I can't say that my other jobs were like that (especially when working for deregulated energy companies and petro-chemical companies (big time polluters).

  2. I just wanted to say that this blog has been an absolute Godsend. I decided finally getting out of the dead end job I've been at since I graduated last year and am going to start teaching in the fall, but was worried. I stumbled upon this blog, and it (among other things) made me completely trust my decision. Thank you for giving me hope and inspiration!! :o)

    – Becky

  3. Wow – my grammar was atrocious in that last post… It should read:

    "I decided to finally get out of the dead end job I’ve been at since I graduated last year and start teaching this fall, but was worried."

  4. There seems to be another thing that I get a lot of. I live in the poorest county in NY state, so my starting pay of $34,000 with a masters (a masters degree is required in NYS within 5 years of starting teaching) is one of the better paying jobs in my community. I get reminded of it regularly. One thing that people seem not to realize is that the ability to get my job came with $70,000 in student loans to pay for my education. I worked either a full time job or a couple of part time jobs at a time in the private sector to pay for everything the loans would not cover. Working outside teaching makes me appreciate many things like knowing that I will be available for holidays, given opportunities for professional development, and having some job security. However, I spend much more time, effort, and stress than any private sector job.

  5. I forgot to add, any private sector job that I have worked. I live in a rural area with many people who work in slate quarries and farms. I would probably be quite thankful to go back to teaching after a day at the slate quarry. The parents of my students work quite hard. These people do not get two weeks of paid vacation, sick days, and often lack health insurance. It strikes me that the people who have posted about the ease of teaching probably have white collar professions. I would take the criticism of a parent who just spent the day hauling tons of slate for eight hours or started work at 5am and finally got to sit down and rest for dinner after caring for cattle all day over folks who have health insurance and have the opportunity to take a week of vacation. All of us who have a white collar profession should be thankful that we have health insurance, get vacation, and sick time.

  6. I laughed at the notion of stress free….

    Anyone going into teaching for the reasons given in that post will certainly want their money back at the end of the day!

  7. I like that someone brought up that we are not actually paid for the days of summer vacation. We are paid for the days we work; it just so happens that most school systems divide that yearly salary into 12 months of pay.

    I don't like the tone with which this article was written; it made it sound as though teaching was easy and you only had work during contract hours, both of which are completely untrue- but the author does have a point. There is a reason that schools are FULL of teacher moms. You will usually get similar holidays off with your kids (especially if they are in the same school system), and you have a lot more free time during the summer (even though there is still work to do). For working parents that want to spend time with their kids when their kids are not in school, teachers are probably in the best position.

    Teachers' schedules align better with the schedule of children. I COULD take a child to a doctors' appointment in the afternoon if I needed to without leaving work early, even though I'd have to make up some work later. It WOULD be easier to plan a vacation during the summer, even though I still have work to do then. It's plentiful, but most of my summer work has a flexible time frame.

    The third reason is completely off-base, though. Teaching is far from minimally stressful, especially in this era of high-stakes testing and low education budgets. A better third reason would have been the benefits like insurance, which are generally strong (at least in my area).

    Even if the first two ARE true, I don't believe these are reasons someone should go into teaching, of course. No one should teach unless they truly want to teach (and not just to get holidays off with their kids). I do think, however, that someone has to consider their priorities when choosing a job, and the traditional schedule of teaching can be a perk for someone who enjoys teaching and also highly prioritizes spending time with their family.

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