I remember being in elementary school and viewing my teachers as these other-worldly beings; almost super-human like creatures who didn’t really exist outside of school hours. Back then, in my inexperienced mind, my teachers simply didn’t have a life outside of school. Plus, they were never wrong, they were always fair, honest, and all-around saint-like individuals. I assumed all of that was basically a requirement to become a teacher, right? HA!
Now that I am a teacher, I know just how many things that students (and parents) have absolutely no idea about us as educators. And they probably never will due to the incredible amount of self-control that most teachers possess.
Somedays, though (usually during one of the many excruciatingly boring and unnecessary faculty meetings), I like to daydream about all of the ‘teacher truths’ that would likely shock and amaze my students and their parents…not that I would ever tell them!
By Margot Carmichael from Carmichael’s Class
- Being a teacher is HARD.
“Being a teacher must be so fun! You get to color all day and play with kids!”
NO teacher likes hearing this. But almost every teacher has heard this at some point during their teaching career.
Yes, it’s true, the majority of my ‘colleagues’ are children. And as a teacher, I don’t wake up and go to the office in the same way that many other professionals do. But coloring all day? I think not.
Don’t get me wrong, being a teacher is absolutely one of the most rewarding, and often incredibly fun, careers out there. But it is also an incredibly difficult and all-consuming profession that requires a very special and multi-talented individual. Teachers are never just teachers. They wear multiple hats all day long.
For the students in their classroom, on a daily basis teachers are parents, doctors, counselors, maids, data analysts, tutors, cheerleaders, event planners, detectives, mediators, and the list goes on and on. Successfully wearing all these hats AND making sure that the students are actually learning something involves a lot more than coloring and watching movies all day.
- That’s a nice mug but…
…I really don’t need another mug. That may sound harsh but let’s be honest, over the years I have received enough ‘teacher’ gifts to fill an entire school. I could open up a gift shop re-selling all of the scented lotions, mini-candles, stuffed animals, and other random knick knacks that I have collected while teaching.
And while it’s truly the thought that counts, after the thirtieth ‘Best Teacher Ever’ mug, the gift kind of counts too. A teacher will never come right out and say it, but what we could really use is…money! (Or a higher salary, perfectly-behaved students, and the elimination of any and all meetings-but money just seems more feasible.)
And no, we don’t expect cold hard cash-a gift card will do just fine, thank you! All joking aside though, we as teachers really do know that any gift given by a student comes right from the heart. And that fact alone is a gift in itself.
- Movies and quiet work days are more for teachers than students.
Sticking with the trend that teachers are indeed human, it goes without saying that we have bad days too. Days when we are just too tired to think straight and the idea of leading lesson after lesson while correcting inappropriate behavior, or even speaking at all, is simply unimaginable.
I can honestly say that Bill Nye is my personal hero, having saved me on many a day that I was going on only a few hours of sleep or just couldn’t get my head in the teaching game.
It’s not to say that certain movies can’t be super educational and often express academic concepts better than I could myself, they certainly can! But I always silently chuckle when my students start cheering upon finding out that we’re watching a movie…because little do they know, I am secretly cheering as well.
- We dread running into students outside of school.
If I know that I’m going to a public place where there is any possibility of running into a current or former student, I full on become a master of disguise. There’s a particular Walmart near my house that all of my students shop at on a regular basis. I legitimately avoid this Walmart like the plague. But on the off chance that I absolutely must get something from there and I don’t have time to make the trek to a more distant Walmart, I will go to every and any extreme to make sure that I’m unrecognizable.
As a teacher, there’s nothing worse than that awkward encounter when we are out doing life and see a student in the distance. Immediately, there’s a quick internal debate that occurs-do I go say hello, do I stare at the ground and quickly find a nearby aisle to hide in, or do I drop my future purchases on the spot and make a run for the car?
I get the chills just thinking about this dreadful situation. However, regardless of how uncomfortable this encounter is, you better believe that if my student sees me first and runs up, arms open wide, I will paste on my best teacher smile and embrace them while trying not to cringe too visibly.
- We care what our students think of us.
When I started teaching, veteran teachers at my school told me that I absolutely had to act like I didn’t care if my students liked me or not. They instructed me that for the first few months, I needed to be as mean as possible, and to not ease up until the holidays.
Oh, if only I had listened. The whole point of putting up a strict front is to avoid being walked all over by students. Students have an innate sixth sense that allows them to sniff out weak or ‘easy’ teachers within the first days or even hours of a new school year.
As a new teacher, I cared SO much about what my students thought of me. And I still do. Sure, I try to play it cool and occasionally throw out the irreverent, “I am NOT your friend, I am your teacher!”, whenever someone really gets out of line. But deep down, I want them to like me. Really like me.
If I turn my back and my students start snickering behind me, you better believe that my face flushes red and I’m praying that they aren’t laughing at me. Or if I notice a student who literally has drool dribbling out the side of their mouth from boredom, I take that personally. That makes me feel as if I have failed at my job of creating engaging and interesting lessons.
I think it’s human nature to have a desire to be accepted and well-liked. Even if it is by eleven-year olds. And back when I started teaching, I did not hide this desire well—those kids smelled my vulnerability and walked all over me.
Nowadays, I would NEVER let my students see this internal desire to be accepted by them…that would be like handing them that power all over again. (cue scary music)
- We hate standardized tests probably more than the students.
Aside from effortlessly hitting my step goal on my FitBit every day, there is virtually nothing positive about standardized testing – for teachers or students. Teachers spend their days aimlessly walking around the room for hours on end, watching their students being pushed to edge of their concentration capacity.
I won’t even get into the absurdity of trying to measure the intelligence of millions of diverse children with essentially one basic test…if I start, this quippy article will quickly turn into a lengthy dissertation. And don’t even get me going on the ridiculous notion that a teacher’s worth and value is dependent on how their students perform on these outrageously one-dimensional assessments. Can you feel my blood boiling? Deep breaths, deep breaths.
Unfortunately, for most public schools, standardized test score do matter, so many teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test’; at least to a certain degree. (Basically, this means countless boring lessons filled with repetitive test practice.) As much as I hate to admit it, I have shamefully found myself saying, “You better pay attention because this will definitely be on the Milestones Test!” Ugh. Not my proudest moment.
Standardized testing causes unnecessary stress and anxiety for students, no question about it. But what most kids don’t realize is that it causes the same unpleasant emotions for teachers too.
- We love snow days (and breaks) too.
Come to think of it, I can recall multiple occasions when I have literally danced around my classroom audibly counting down the minutes until any given holiday break or while waiting for the loud speaker announcement that school will be closed the next day. Not terribly subtle.
I’m fairly certain that there’s no sweeter sound in the world than that automated message all students and teachers get when schools closes, “We regret to inform you that all (insert county name) county schools will be closed tomorrow due to inclement weather.” I can’t exactly explain why, but for teachers, there’s just something so magical about an unexpected day off.
Maybe it’s that I haven’t had time to make a 10-page list of all the chores and errands that I need to catch up on. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I will be able to pee whenever I want and spend more than 3.5 minutes eating my lunch. These are both common daily struggles for teachers.
Bottom line – even though students may enjoy snow days and breaks, no one enjoys them more than the teachers.
- Students will never need to know a lot of what we teach in ‘real life’.
Ask me how many times I’ve used area model multiplication to solve a math problem in my adult life and the answer is a definitive NONE.
Or how many times I’ve needed to know the specific foods that each Native American Tribe harvested and ate? A firm zero on that one.
Yet both of these things are prominent in the curriculum we teach.
If you’re an avid trivia player or hope to one day come face to face with Alex Trebek and compete on Jeopardy, then maybe this type of knowledge is pertinent. But for the rest of the world, much of what is taught in elementary school is pretty irrelevant to every day adult life.
But do I tell my students that? Noooooooo.
Don’t get me wrong-there’s definitely material in the curriculum that is quite relevant, depending on what career path students may take. But more importantly than understanding which explorer sailed for which country, I’m trying to teach my students life skills. How to get along with others, be kind, be honest, stay accountable, stay motivated…things like that. There just doesn’t happen to be a Common Core standard for ‘how to be a well-rounded and well-adjusted individual.’
When a student recently asked me, “When’s the last time that you multiplied fractions in your life?” I wanted to say, “Um, two nights ago when I was re-teaching myself how to do it so that I could teach it to you. Prior to that—never!”
But instead, I said, “Well, I’m not a mathematician, so I guess I don’t often multiply fractions. But you’re so good at it, maybe you’ll be a mathematician one day and then multiplying fractions will be really important!” Yeah…it was tough to keep a straight face with that one.
- Sometimes we give the grades that we think students deserve.
For the most part, the grades that I give are based on actual work-quizzes, tests, projects, papers-things like that. But I would be lying if I said that occasionally I didn’t base a student’s grade on their attitude or effort.
Now, I would never fail a kid just because I didn’t like them or because their behavior was less than ideal-not that it hasn’t been tempting. But if a student is really trying hard and has a great attitude and happens to make me smile on a daily basis? Well, they might get a B instead of a C.
And along the same lines, if a student is just a complete pain in my rear end (I know we aren’t supposed to say that, but COME ON, there are some students that are a constant challenge), then they may get a few points knocked off their grade for ‘not being a team player’ or some other ambiguous title like that.
Basically, at least in elementary school, a student’s grade is based on their work, OF COURSE…but… if I really want you to get a B, you’re getting a B.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that my students have said to me with an incredulous look on their face, “You have a husband?” or “You know what it means to dab?”
“Well, yes. I’m an actual person with a TV and the internet and a love life and emotions and all kinds of other human-like qualities. Amazing, right?” (I usually follow that response with a dramatic eye roll.)
Okay, in reality, I try to curb the sarcasm a little bit more than that when I respond. But it’s truly amazing how many students sincerely believe that their teachers have no life outside of school.
Now, depending on what grade or school a teacher works at, they may not have much of a life outside of the classroom. To be fair, many teachers spend 90% of their life in their classroom! But, most of us find at least a little bit of time to do more than just ponder differentiation strategies or ways to include rigor in tomorrow’s lesson plan.
And if you know a teacher who really is spending their night’s pondering differentiation and rigor (two prominent learning strategies teachers must use)…help them STOP. Seriously. Tell them to close their laptop, put away their lesson plan binder, and go get a drink. Take a walk. Relax in a bath. Teacher burnout is real. Don’t let the assumptions of that teacher’s students that they have no life outside of being a teacher become a reality!
Guest post by Margot Carmichael from Carmichael’s Class
“Teaching 4th grade for four years has helped shape me as a teacher who is passionate about creating a classroom that engages and inspires my students, integrates technology-driven learning, offers real-world experiences, and breeds creativity. I have taught highly diverse classes with high populations of ESL learners, Special Ed learners, and behavior challenges–granting me a deep understanding on the importance of personalizing learning for each and every student. As a teacher, I am constantly learning and evolving, but the one constant is always putting my students first!”