Dear Future Teachers,
Unfortunately the teaching profession is beyond under-appreciated. Teachers are underpaid, overworked, and don't often get credited with all the incredible and impactful work they do all year long! I decided to compile this list of things I've actually heard said to or about teachers, but definitely should be eliminated from the discourse around educators. We should be mindful of how we treat the people who choose to dedicate their lives to teaching. Here are 10 things never to say to or about teachers!
"Why are you complaining? I wish I was paid to play with kids all day." Honestly, speaking as a former K-12 student, teachers have every right to complain. Between unruly students, difficult parents, and ridiculous policies, teachers can get overwhelmed! Many love their jobs, but that doesn't mean every moment is fun. Plus, it's tiring to hear people describe teaching as "playing with kids all day." Teachers have to create lesson plans, administer assignments, facilitate learning activities, manage classroom behavior, meet with parents and administrators, help develop social-emotional skills, AND make sure their students are understanding content in the first place. It's far from easy, and madly respectable!
"It must be nice to have so many vacations, you don't even have to work summers!" Teachers who don't work in year-round schools do get breaks from the classroom for summer, winter, and spring breaks, HOWEVER that doesn't always entail a vacation. Those "breaks" do consist of creating lesson plans, organizing classrooms, attending professional development, and preparing for the next school session. Additionally, many teachers have to work a secondary job during those "breaks" as well. I knew several teachers in my high school who worked a second and even third job to stay on top of bills.
"It shouldn't really be about the money, it's about your passion for the kids!" It may seem like a wild concept, but teachers can be passionate about their jobs AND want to earn a fair wage. Those things aren't mutually exclusive. Teachers should earn more, and they should not shoulder the burden of buying their own classroom supplies. Schools should receive more funding to stock classrooms appropriately. If they did, then I guarantee that it would be a lot easier to bring that passion for teaching into the classroom.
"Teaching really doesn't seem that hard." As a student studying Education, I hear this one a lot. Many people have told me that my college courses must not be that hard, because teaching doesn't "seem" like it would be a difficult profession. Teaching is more than just the content students learn. Educators need to understand the material, find ways to convey the required content to students, evaluate student understanding of the material, and ensure students develop critical thinking skills along with performing well on tests. Try doing that with a classroom filled with 30 kids who are all at different levels of learning and teaching will definitely feel a lot harder than some would believe.
"If you don't produce good test scores, you must not be an effective teacher." I strongly dislike the reliance on standardized test scores to determine a teachers' effectiveness. Not only do I think standardized tests are an inaccurate and ineffective way to gauge a child's academic ability, but it's unfair to punish teachers for test scores that aren't reflective of their classroom environment. Teachers are told "don't teach to the test", and then students go from a discussion-focused or project-based learning environment to a multiple choice, 3-hour long test where they may not be able to show how much they truly learned. In short, test scores don't showcase teaching ability.
"My child has never struggled in school before your class, what are you doing wrong?" It's perfectly okay to have concerns about unusual academic performance from your child, but it's not okay to place the blame completely on a teacher. If your child isn't succeeding, it isn't necessarily because their teacher is doing something 'wrong', rather it could be attributed to a variety of other outside factors that can influence performance. The right way to go about this is to meet with your child's teacher with your child and work out an action plan addressing your concerns and focused on helping the student succeed. Try to find the root of the problem together, and come up with a solution in an amicable way that does not belittle the teacher.
"My taxes pay your paycheck, so you need to listen to me." This phrase is extremely condescending and rude to say to teachers. I was appalled the first time I had ever heard it myself. Yes, taxes do go towards education, but paying taxes does not make one an expert on education policy or practice. Our taxes also go to roadwork, but I've never heard this argument used for building or fixing local roads. Seeing that our tax money does somewhat go towards education, that should be an even bigger reason to speak to teachers with respect and kindness!
"Teaching is my backup plan." I dislike this phrase because it paints teaching as an easy career that people can use to fall back on if things don't work out for them. It takes away credibility and respect for the profession because it does not view teaching as an acceptable "first-choice." Not everyone can be an effective teacher; there are a lot of skills and traits a person must possess to succeed as an educator. If you go into teaching, you have to have the knowledge and skills to lead a classroom, you can't dive in blindly.
"You're done with work at 3pm, why are you so tired?" While the school day may end before 5pm, that does not mean teachers don't have work they need to do after the students have been dismissed. Grading, lesson planning, organizing the classroom, hosting conferences with parents and administrators are all tasks that educators have to complete outside of actually teaching. Even with a planning period built into the day, it's just not possible to have everything done by 3pm. After a long day of work, teachers can feel drained and need to recharge, just like in any other job.
COVID-19 Edition: "Why is your class online/in-person? That doesn't work for me." There is a lot of frustration about how schools are choosing to operate this year. I've heard parents, teachers, and students complain about every suggested solution so far. At the end of the day, there is no plan that will satisfy ALL people, but it's not the fault of the teachers! Teachers have very little influence over the decision to re-open schools or teach remotely. They are expected to show up and teach, regardless of how instruction is expected to look at their school. I've seen too many posts attacking teachers for something that is out of their control.
If you are a teacher, or an education major, chances are you've heard some or all of these sentiments expressed at some point. Remember not to let these words get you down! At the end of the day, you're working in an admirable position, and you should receive the respect and recognition you deserve. There are always going to be people who are stuck on tearing teachers down, but no matter what they say, it cannot invalidate the impact you have in the classroom. One day I hope teacher pay can reflect the hard work teachers put in, too. If you're a current teacher, or future teacher, I send all my love and support to you! We appreciate you!